This year I have been hearing a lot of music. I mean, literally, a hell lot of music. A lot of albums, many of them hazily in one go, some of them two-three a times, some of them are favorites, and one of them is printed perfectly in my memory. The last one is Blood on the Tracks, the third album of Bob Dylan I have heard. It is the only material of Bob Dylan I’ve been hearing since the start of the year, yet Bob Dylan tops my last.fm list of top artists.
I discovered Bob Dylan with Blonde on Blonde, in May, last year. It was my misfortune, in starting with a double-album, as I could not digest all the songs. But the first half, that I grabbed, enraptured, as I said to myself- this is the best damn songs Bob Dylan could have written. A presumptuous comment, and its fallacy was proved a few months later when I heard Highway 61 Revisited(excluding Like a Rolling Stone) properly. Then I changed my statement to – Highway 61 Revisited is the best damn album by BD. I could be more assured, it was the most famous of Dylan’s albums. And then came Blood on the Tracks.
Now I’ve learnt my lesson. I won’t say anything. Ever again. I’ll just listen.
Blood on the Tracks was written during a turbulent phase in the artist’s life: his divorce with his first wife. So, all songs carry the theme of broken love, heartbreak, disenchantment from love, falling out. Some are amazing, some are dispassionate accounts, some are just plain painful.
Tangled Up in Blue: It’s possibly the best song of the album (I said possibly because I’m equally in love with many of them). “Tangled Up in Blue” is one of the clearest examples of Dylan’s attempts to write “multi-dimensional” songs which defied a fixed notion of time and space. Frankly speaking, it gets very confusing in one read, you have to pick each line apart from one another sometimes. Very complex and brilliant lyrics. There is pain, but the upbeat music doesn’t let the mood fall, and in the end, it’s a very ‘hard’, dispassionate, shining and metallic (only I know what I’m trying to say here)song, numb and devoid of pain, rising over it. Loved so many lines of it, too many to write down here.
Simple Twist of Fate: Another song of separation. This song has a moody, misty ambiance with the voice of the singer booming in a glowing silence. The part just before the final line of each stanza where the voice suddenly rises to boom in the silence, is my favorite part. It’s quite touching, your heart twitches a little, as if the singer’s gloomy heart cried one final wail.
People tell me it’s a sin
To know and feel too much within
You’re a big girl now: Now this song, is just painful. It has pain written all over it. The lyrics are very plain, and distinctive in their symbolism. Also, I’m addicted to two lines of this song: And I’m back in the rain, oh, oh…And you are on dry land & Love is so simple, to quote a phrase. The last lines are the limit to which the singer extends the pain and himself:
I’m going out of my mind, oh, oh
With a pain that stops and starts
Like a corkscrew to my heart
Ever since we’ve been apart
Idiot Wind: This was the first song that blew me away on the first serious listening of the album, because of its sheer energy and intensity of Dylan’s voice. It looks like as if Dylan is pushing the song himself, as if through a cylinder, controlling the speed. But lately, I’ve come to like this song a bit less, because the lyrics are simply attacking the second person, often ridiculing violently. It’s a song of differences and tensions, confrontations and quarrels.
You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go & Meet me in the morning: These two songs are not sad, finally. Songs of love, they’re also less brilliant than other ones, but make for a pleasant hearing.
Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts: This 8 minutes, beast of a song is very difficult to bear, unless you’re interested in playing complex games of inferring, reading between the lines, and making assumptions upon your particular understanding of a bewildering bevy of lines, which apparently are telling a story, but you soon spiral off into confusion by seemingly contradictory lines, and lines that don’t mean anything at all. This is a complete (or in a way, incomplete) story in itself. Two screenplays have been made, out of this song. Weird, long, and not everyone’s piece of cake.
If you see her, say hello: This one is again about separation, separation of the singer with an anonymous lost love. However he still loves her, he’s made up with the fact that she’s fallen out of love with him and gone his way. Nice one.
Shelter from the storm: One of my personal favorites from the album. To me, its lyrics are, combined with the ambient, dreamy music, like that in Simple Twist of Fate, hair-raising. They have this biblical quality, prophetic announcement in the line, ‘“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give ya, shelter from the storm,”’ that just blows me away. Awesome lyrics, coming in just the right sound. Along with “Tangled Up in Blue,” it was one of two songs from Blood on the Tracks to be re-released on the compilation The Essential Bob Dylan.
Buckets of Rain: Final song of the album, this one is a short, sweet song about love. But it’s difficult to say whether it’s about pain or happiness. Probably a mixture of the two. He sings with a pained affection, emphasizing the message that after all the storm and deluge and turbulence and pain that he described throughout the album,
All ya can do is do what you must
You do what you must do and ya do it well
I’ll do it for you, honey baby
Can’t you tell?
He ends without a decision, without a judgment, as love, pain, and everything goes hand in hand. And nothing will ever permanently stop.