Claudette and Peoria: The Tarantula Files (continued)

by Larry Fyffe

38: Claudette

The Travelling Tarantula Show carries biblical allusions and allegories, often dark humorous ones, on its ink-stained back.

Claudette, the sandman's pupil
wounded in her fifth year in the business
& she's only fifteen
& go and ask her what she thinks of married men
& governors & shriner conventions ...
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

Biblically speaking, with the benefit of far-stretching hindsight, Claudette’s easily conflated with Aholibah, a female symbol for Judah, historically the southern region of mighty Israel.

Informed are its inhabitants (the sons of man) that, though the country is at the time like a two-horned stick, the southern part will get re-united with the northern region of Samaria (symbolized by sister Aholah):

Moreover, thou son of man
Take one stick, and write upon it
"For Judah, and the children of Israel ..."
(Ezekiel 37:16)

Both Aholibah and Aholah are accused of being guilty of idolatry; that is, they are unfaithful to Yahweh ~ the Hebrew God – construed as the aforementioned ‘Sandman’:

Don't know what I can say about Claudette
That wouldn't come back to haunt me
Finally had to give her up
About the time she began to want me
(Bob Dylan: The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar)

Supposedly, in those days of old, Aholah consorts with Assyrians, and “Claudette”, she’s a worse sinner – Aholibah also has sex with the Babylonians; and she’s rather fond of Egyptian soldiers with penises as large as those of donkeys.

Needless to say, Claudette’s not like the innocent, loyal, and faithful Ruth, the youthful gleaner-of-grain mentioned in the Bible.

She’s alluded to below:

(N)ow Ruthy - she was different
- she always wanted to see a cock fight
& went to Mexico City when she was 17
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

Also alluded to beneath, but Ruth’s less worldly in the Romantic Transcendentalist’s poem:

No nightingale did ever chant
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt
Among Arabian sands
(William Wordsworth: The Solitary Reaper)

Meanwhile, the always-patient groom Yahweh waits for Claudette at the altar … wondering what the hell the little whore is up to:

What can I say about Claudette
Ain't seen her since January
(She could be in the mountains or the prairies)
She could be respectfully married
Or running a whorehouse in Buenos Aires 
(Bob Dylan: The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar)

Anyway, not to worry ~ Christianized apostle Paul’s a-gonna see to it that all them naughty boys and girls receive their just punishments:

Now the works of the flesh are manifest
Which are these -
Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness
Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations
Wrath, strife, seditions, heresies
Envyings,  murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like 
(Galatians 5: 19,20, 21)

39: Peoria, Illinois

George Custer IV, third bachelor, weary from trying to
chew up a stork, takes out his harmonica
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

In ‘Tarantula’, singer/writer/musician Bob Dylan tosses out some fishy tails behind his travelling salvation medicine show to throw bloodhounds off the trail.

Likely, it’s George Hamilton IV, an American guitar-picker to whom Dylan refers above; a rockabilly singer who becomes popular in Canada.

Sings ‘Abilene’, a song based on a Randolph Scott western film; therein lawman Dan convinces the folks of a small town in Kansas to stand up to rough and rowdy cattlemen; Scott shoots the boss of the cattle drivers

Says the TS Eliot-influenced marshal at the end of the movie, “This is how a tough street dies, not with a roar but with a whine”:

Prettiest town I've ever seen
Women there don't treat you mean
In Abilene, my Abilene
(George Hamilton IV: Abilene -  Gibson,

Apparently, George IV is able to sidestep a shootout with a notorious gunslinger from Illinois – known as the Peoria Kid:

& men going outside with Maurice
Who ain't the Peoria Kid
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

Also avoids a fight against Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, a battle that takes place along the banks of the Little Bighorn River in Montana Territory:

Offers up the following ditty:

May your heart always be righteous
May your heart always be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you ...
May you stay forever young
(George Hamilton IV: Forever Young ~ Dylan)

In the lyrics beneath, the li’l Illinois town of Peoria gets burlesqued:

Oh how I wish I was in Peoria, Peoria tonight
Oh how I miss those gals in Peoria, Peoria tonight
Why did I ever roam with those sailor boys
I should-a stayed back home in Illinois
(Smothers Brothers: I Wish I Was In Peoria ~ Rose/Dixon/Woods)

The song harks back to the Zulu War in South Africa:

& the fellow next door
- he must be a Zulu
- the doctors cant stand him
& he gets no visitors
((Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

Thus go the song lyrics:

We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Pretoria
We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, hoorah ...
Dance with me, I'll dance with you
And so we will dance together
(The Weavers: We Are Marching To Pretoria ~ traditional)

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