Standing In The Doorway (1997) part 2 All these songs are connected



Standing In The Doorway (1997) part 2 (final)

by Jochen Markhorst

II          All these songs are connected

“I had to scramble around to find the right types of lyrics and basically moved lyrics around and put together the puzzle.” Dylan gives three interviews in the week of 21 September 1997, all in an ocean-view hotel suite in Santa Monica, to John Pareles, Edna Gundersen and David Gates respectively. The above quote is from the interview with Gundersen and relates to “Highlands” – but, as we have seen especially thanks to the outtakes on Tell-Tale Signs, is equally applicable to more songs from Time Out Of Mind.

Certainly to “Standing In The Doorway” too; of the 357 words, 83 were first in the outtake “Dreamin’ Of You”; about a quarter of them, therefore, fall into the category,“I basically moved lyrics around and put together the puzzle”. And most of them are the “right type of lyrics” anyway, lyrics that Dylan found elsewhere, “by scrambling around”. Without being too secretive about it by the way; like the insertion of a well-known line like I’ll eat when I’m hungry, drink when I’m dry from the well-known “Moonshiner Blues”, for example. After all, most people who buy Time Out Of Mind have been singing those words for decades, at the latest since the success of The Bootleg Series 1, which features Dylan’s recording of it from the early 60s.

Not all borrowings are so well known, of course. A Rollins quote like The light in this place is so bad is only exposed by Scott Warmuth many years later. The heartbreaking outcry “Don’t know if I saw you, if I would kiss you or kill you / It probably wouldn’t matter to you anyhow” is suspiciously similar to the text of a lobby card from the 1940s film with Humphrey Bogart, Dead Reckoning; “To kiss her or kill her… he’s never quite sure!”. A film noir, by the way, which is of course mainly carried by Bogart, but even more so by his co-star, the irresistible Lizabeth Scott – who, for her performance of “Either It’s Love Or It Isn’t” alone, should at least have received an Oscar nomination.

A line like “The last rays of daylight” is of course not unique, but maybe Dylan just had R. L. Stevenson on his bedside table (“As the last rays of daylight dwindled and disappeared, absolute blackness settled down on Treasure Island”), and underlined this line. And a somewhat alienating interjection like “Buddy, you’ll roll no more” may have been picked up by Dylan from the deeper shelves of his inner jukebox, from Bill Monroe’s “Roll On Buddy, Roll On”;

Roll on, buddy, roll on
Roll on, buddy, roll on
Wouldn't roll so slow

… although it is more likely that he lovingly steals it from The Rambling Boys, the 1957 album by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Derroll Adams, the album Dylan mentions in his autobiography Chronicles. “Roll On, Buddy” is the last song on that album, and in their version the men sing the verse

Well I never liked no railroad man
I never liked no railroad man
Cause the railroad man will kill you if he can
Drink up your blood like wine

… the words Dylan will sing in “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again” (on a side note: in the verse before that, Elliott and Adams sing “I slept in the pen with the rough and rowdy men”). The rest of the track list does suggest that Dylan has played the album more than once: “Buffalo Skinners”, “Danville Girl”, “East Virginia Blues”… all songs whose echoes descend in Dylan’s work over the years.

Both Bill Monroe and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott sing I got a home in Tennessee, and Gillian Welch seems to notice that too.

In 2011, Gillian Welch releases her masterpiece The Harrow And The Harvest, an album that, very dylanesque, is bursting with borrowings, paraphrases and quotes. It becomes even more Dylan-like when Gillian steals most of her borrowings, paraphrases and quotes from Dylan. As in the moving “The Way The Whole Thing Ends”, in which verse fragments such as standing in the doorway crying and once you had a motorcycle but you couldn’t ride it right are explicit enough already, and the verse:

Momma's in the beauty parlor
And Daddy's in the baseball pool
Sister's in the drive-in movie
Brother's in the old high school

… which is winking pleasantly, unobtrusively at both “Tombstone Blues” and “Desolation Row”. And just as charming Gillian incorporates a playful nod to “Sweetheart Like You” and to “Highway 61 Revisited”:

Now what's a little sweetheart like you
Doing with a bloody nose?

But she hides the subtlest of “Standing In The Doorway” decompositions in the song that, in the spirit of “Standing In The Doorway” contributor “Roll On, Buddy”, she titles “Tennessee”:

Back to Tennessee
It's beef steak when I'm working
Whiskey when I'm dry
Sweet heaven when I die
Now some will come confessing of transgressions
Some will come confessing of their love
You were there strumming on your gay guitar
You were trying to tell me something with your thumb

… the unobtrusive nod “gay guitar” (a somewhat unfortunate brand name, but it just so happens that its maker is called Frank Gay), and the witty reworking of “I’ll eat when I’m hungry, drink when I’m dry”, the quote Dylan in turn had stolen from “Moonshiner Blues”, to “It’s beef steak when I’m working, whiskey when I’m dry”.

“All these songs are connected,” Dylan says in one of his most beautiful and honest speeches, in the MusiCares speech, February 2015. He will have appreciated that Gillian Welch is incorporating his songs into the next link in the chain. Which is suggested by the tracklist of Tempest, which appears a year after Welch’s The Harrow And The Harvest. Dylan seems to return the compliment. Track 6 is called “Scarlet Town”… exactly the same title as the opening song of Gillian’s album. All these songs are connected.


Jochen is a regular reviewer of Dylan’s work on Untold. His books, in English, Dutch and German, are available via Amazon both in paperback and on Kindle:




  1. “Don’t know if I saw you, if I would kiss you or kill you” Weberman, if we ran into each other again I would have to admit that I have mixed feelings about you. On the one hand you went through my garbage, brought all those people around my house and made it difficult for me to shoot up. But on the other hand it was my addictive personality that caused me to contract the HIV virus so in retrospect who knows what phenomenon you really represented? “It probably wouldn’t matter to you anyhow” anyway, you wouldn’t care if I punched you or showed affection to you; when Dylan waylaid me during Elizabeth Street Massacre I turned around and realized it was Bob Dylan that had grabbed me in a choke hold from behind! Cool. I was happy to see him under ANY circumstances and asked him, ‘How you doin’ man?’ “You left me standing in the doorway, crying” you left me in a continuing state where I was predisposed to addiction that would be a gateway to HIV “I got nothing to go back to now” there is no way I can reverse things. Additionally, as stated, the last time I saw Dylan he was standing in the doorway of One Legged Terry’s apartment.

  2. Alan Jules Weberman, I am not quite sure to what you are referring in this comment, but just in case it is directed at myself as owner of the Untold Dylan site I should explain that where a message comes in from an address not previously registered on the site it is held in moderation until I have a moment to get to it – which I normally do several times a day. This message came in four minutes after the first message which even on a good day would not be enough time for me to see it, read it and clear it. But today is not a good day for the simple reason we have had 500+ spam messages today and I have been going through them to approve actual comments, delete the rest, and put in place some instructions that would automatically delete this new breed of spam.
    If however your message does not relate to your not being published in the first four minutes but something else, I regret from the ten word commentary I can’t be sure what it does mean.

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