The Tarantula Files parts 4 and 5

Previously in this series

By Larry Fyffe

Part 4: Everybody loves a critic

The writer of the ‘novelette’ “Tarantula” mentions a number of interesting characters whom he meets along the road to New York Town.

Robert Burn’s there

Luther begins to whistle
Coming thru the Rye
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

Martin Luther, who’s also on the pilgrimage, apparently doesn’t realize it’s a dirty ditty:

O, Jenny's a-wet, poor body
Jenny's seldom dry
She dirtied her petticoat
Coming through the rye
(Robert Burns: Coming Through The Rye)

Author JD Salinger tells his ‘growing-up’ story; Burns’ title he deliberately quotes incorrectly:

The genre's gets a good scolding:

(Y)ou could start with a telephone book
- wonder woman - or perhaps catcher in the rye
they're all the same
& everybody has their hat on backwards
thru the stories
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

Below, on the journey, a Christian meets a Jew. “I come in peace”, the Christian claims.

Apparently, falsely accuses the Hebrew of sacrificing Christian children ~ like the little Simon of Trent

The Christian’s words mocked beneath:

(T)rip into the light here Abraham
What about this boss of yours ...
we can learn from each other
just don't try to touch my kid
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

The boss, the Almighty Himself, not left unscathed either; albeit humorously, in the song below:

Oh, God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son"
Abe said, "Man, you must be putting me on"
(Bob Dylan: Highway Sixty-One)

Riding along with the troupe, Clayton Moore from the TV series “The Lone Ranger” and  Richard Boone from “Have Gun Will Travel” get theirs too:

The good-guy-gunmen from the Old West both be silent on the issue of segregation; they’re sure TV comedy shows will come along, and fix up such social problems in no time:

(W)hile kemosabe & mr paladin
spend their off hours remaining separate but equal
& anyway why not wait for laughter to
straighten the works out meantime
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

In the following song lyrics, on a subject not considered that serious, humour abounds:

Well, the Lone Ranger and Tonto
Were riding down the line
Fixing up everybody's troubles 'cept mine
Somebody musta told'em
That I was doing fine
(Bob Dylan: Bob Dylan Blues)

But hold your horses, Huddie Ledbetter’s back, and he’s black:

(He) pulls a train
& makes love to Miss Julie Anne Johnson
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

Compares a gal to an axe (ie, “Miss Julie Anne Johnson”); as he does another to a slave driver’s whip lash (ie, Black Betty):

Good-bye Julie Ann Johnson, ahhh, oh Lord, ahhh
Good-bye Julie Ann Johnson, ahhh, oh Lord, ahhh
Gonna leave you, ahhh, oh Lord, ahhh
Gonna leave you, ahhh, oh Lord, ahhh
(Lead Belly: Miss Julie Ann Johnson ~  (Ledbetter/traditional)


Part 5: Hopalong Bob

William Boyd and Andy Clyde star in the western movie “Hoppy Serves A Writ”.

Milk-drinking black-clad, white-horsed, hard-riding lawman Bill “Hopalong” Cassidy, and his slapstick-sidekick “California” Carlson ride into Bob Dylan’s kaleidoscopic montage of movie stars acting as though they’re in the unfenced Old West – here supposedly located in Texas and Oklahoma.

The times they are a-changing.

“Talkies” take over. Silent movies are dead.

Nor do printed words talk:

(T)he audio repairman stumbles
thru the door with "sound is sacred
so come in and talk to us"
written on the back of his shirt
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

Louis L’Amour grabs the opportunity to make money by writing noveletts about Hopalong’s adventures:

Into the Valley of Burlesque the cowboy angels ride.

Mocked be that any sexual activity is pretty well outlawed in those Hoppy Days whether in stories, at the movies, or on tv:

(O)ut of his past appears Insanely Hoppy
screaming and dancing
(Bob Dylan; Tarantula)

He holds up a stagecoach, and takes the strongbox that contains a nursery rhyme:

Little Jack Horner
Sat in the corner
Eating his Christmas pie
He put in his thumb
And pulled other a plum
And said, " What a good boy am I"

Exchanges the nursery rhyme for a night of sex:

Listen to the fiddler play
When he's playing 'til the break of day
Oh me, oh my
Love that country pie
(Bob Dylan: Country Pie)

Sometimes things don’t go that well:

(E)xcept that I can't do anything with with my finger
& it's already beginning to smell
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

Onward, onward rides Hoppy, with his sidekick, into New Babylon.

In pursuit of the Golden Calf:

(T)he american flag turned green
& andy clyde kept pestering about a back paycheck
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

They’re not alone, don’t forget:

& all the rest of these people
that would make leadbelly a pet
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

The series continues…


  1. *(H)e pulls a train
    Dylan often avoids capital letters, ie, “he pulls …”

    **anything with my finger

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