It’s Not Just The Sound (Part IV)

by Larry Fyffe

In their examination of Dylan lyrics, the members of the Sound School of Dylanology turn to the left rather than to the right once they enter the portals of Hades – there they find that everything is broken.

Those who seek one level of certain meaning in the song lyrics written by Bob Dylan search in vain – his words often take on a meaning of their own.

For example, time comes when the singer/songwriter/musician demands an improved business relationship with the recording establishment; he leaves “Columbia Records” which then issues an album of ‘outtakes’ from previous recording sessions – the album called simply “Dylan” does alright in the charts.

With the benefit of hindsight, one of its songs can be construed as an allegory – that is, the record company, of the West, of Columbia, is personified as Flora to whom the narrator returns after the relationship is all but straightened out:

Although she swore my life away
Deprived me of my rest
Still I love my faithless Flora
The Lily of the West
(Bob Dylan: Lily Of The West ~ Davies/Peterson)

Nevertheless, something’s gone amiss in the process; after the return, out spurts “Blood On The Tracks”, a confessional album that contains the allegorical “Lily, Rosemary, And The Jack Of Hearts”:

Now there's a wall between us, something there's been lost
I took too much for granted, I got my signals crossed
Just to think that it all began on an unevenful morn
"Come in", she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm"
(Bob Dylan: Shelter From The Storm)

What is considered good art, and what is considered bad art by the officials of the music industry has its day in court:

"In short is a Flower, Rosemary
Or Lily, dead or alive, worth
The excrement of one sea-bird?"
(Arthur Rimbaud: On The Subject Of Flowers ~ translated)

Decided by the jury of his peers is that good walls make good neighbours:

"Be careful not to touch the wall, there's a brand-new coat of paint
I'm glad to see that you're still alive, you're looking like a saint"
Down the hallway, footsteps were coming for the Jack of Hearts
(Bob Dylan: Lily, Rosemary, And The Jack Of Hearts)

The record company that Dylan temporarily rides gets personified a bit later on as Venus, the morning star:

I had a pony, her name was Lucifer
She broke her leg, and needed shooting
I swear it hurt me more than it could have hurted her
(Bob Dylan: New Pony)

 

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