The Whistle is Blowing: Bob Dylan’s last NBT composition

By Tony Attwood

Here is the recorded version of this slow traditional blues

Obviously the lyrics are those from Dylan’s 1967 notebook, while the music is composed by Marcus Mumford.  The song appears as one of the extra tracks on the complete album, but not on the shorter album.

Here are Dylan’s lines…

The whistle is blowing, and the train is going
Just what’s gonna happen next, well, I’m not one to say
I’m sitting here yearning while those wheels keep turning
“I’ll be gone by tonight,” she told me today

And next door to the cornstalk, by the side of this sheet rock
I will wait for the morning like a dog in the moon

Blow, blow on
Blow, blow on

Oh the minutes go slow now, and I hope it don’t snow now
‘cause it’s quiet and still and that train’s out of sight
All we need is a fat storm to blow by the platform
Oh dear me, that woman, that woman’s always right

Blow, blow on
Blow, blow on

Blow, blow on
Blow, blow on

The whistle is blowing, and the train is going
Just what’s gonna happen next, well, I’m not the one to say


I can’t imagine anyone but Dylan writing

All we need is a fat storm to blow by the platform

or indeed the lines

The whistle is blowing, and the train is going
Just what’s gonna happen next, well, I’m not the one to say

but for me these lines are not enough to sustain the whole piece – which ends up sounding a bit like an album filler – the song a band would put onto the CD just to make it look like you got your full hour’s worth.

And who knows, if Dylan had returned to the song a little later he might well have decided to keep just those stand out fun lines and build the whole song around them.  Then we could have had something completely different.

As it is Marcus Mumford didn’t have that much to work from, which is why the chord sequence is by and large one that every musician will at once know from other songs.

The band of course are excellent, as you would expect from names like…

Marcus Mumford – Lead Vocal, Acoustic Guitar
Elvis Costello – Electric Mandocaster, Vocal
Taylor Goldsmith – Electric Guitar, Organ, Piano, Vocal
Jim James – Bass, Vocal
Jay Bellerose – Drums
Alana Haim – Background Vocal
Danielle Haim – Background Vocal
Este Haim – Background Vocal
Binki Shapiro – Background Vocal

And a live version

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1 Response to The Whistle is Blowing: Bob Dylan’s last NBT composition

  1. LarryFyffe says:

    From ‘Steamboat Man’:

    I heard the steamboat whistle blowin’
    And she blowed like she never blowed before ….
    I’m afraid my lover’s on that boat
    And it will take her to the Lord’s knows where

    In ‘Moonlight’, Dylan sings:

    The seasons they are turnin’ and my sad heart is yearnin’

    And there’s ‘Duquesne Whistle’.

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