Living Out Loud

Bringing It All back Home

dylan (2)

Fifty-nine years ago John Kennedy was less than two years dead. Fifty-eight thousand Americans were alive who later died in Vietnam. The social consciousness that arose from the folk music of the decades early years was transitioning to an electric sound. Someone, certainly not himself, had anointed a funny-haired guy from the upper mid-west as the spokesman for a generation. In the year 2024, when music is about money and marketing contacts, it’s hard to imagine that once there really were artists releasing recordings of poetry set to music.


Last year, Bob Dylan turned 80. Purposefully cryptic, he seems content to march to the beat of no one’s drummer. Go to a Bob Dylan concert and you will get your money’s worth of entertainment, but you won’t get a glimpse of the man’s soul. Once upon a time, Bob Dylan had a sense of humor. Really. Once upon a time, Bob Dylan could change the face of popular music just by changing his own style. In 1965, when music still came on vinyl, Dylan released a schizophrenic album, half acoustic, and half electric. Bringing It All Back Home ushered in the folk-rock era. Dylan laughed for perhaps the last time.


1. Subterranean Homesick Blues (Dylan) - 2:21


Johnny's in the basement

Mixing up the medicine

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government

The man in the trench coat

Badge out, laid off

Says he's got a bad cough

Wants to get it paid off

Look out kid

It's somethin' you did

God knows when

But you're doin' it again

You better duck down the alley way

Lookin' for a new friend

The man in the coon-skin cap

In the big pen

Wants eleven dollar bills

You only got ten


 I’m not even going to pretend that I know what in the hell Dylan was thinking when he wrote every line in this one. I do know that somewhere within he attacks pop culture, militarism, mammon, the establishment (whatever that is), education, and just about everything else that mattered in the 60’s.


2. She Belongs to Me (Dylan) - 2:47


She's got everything she needs,

She's an artist, she don't look back.

She's got everything she needs,

She's an artist, she don't look back.

She can take the dark out of the nighttime

And paint the daytime black.


 If I wrote my wife a love song like this one, she’d probably ask me if I’ve been taking my medicine. Dylan, however, paints an evocative picture of a woman whose aloofness suggests mystery and an impossible perfection. She has a touch of Helen of Troy, Eve, and Cleopatra. Remember, Dylan’s girlfriend while he was writing the songs for this album was Joan Baez.


3. Maggie's Farm (Dylan) - 3:54 


I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.

No, I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.

Well, I try my best

To be just like I am,

But everybody wants you

To be just like them.

They sing while you slave and I just get bored.

I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more


When I’m feeling my oats, I’m like Man, sometimes I get the feeling that everyone in the world wants to tell me what to do. Even in silence, the demands of a suburban home, a workaday job, family, and my own expectations make me a slave to something that I don’t want to be a slave to. The cruel world exists just to cramp my style. One day I’ll tell the world, “I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’ farm no more.”


4. Love Minus Zero/No Limit (Dylan) - 2:51 


In the dime stores and bus stations,

People talk of situations,

Read books, repeat quotations,

Draw conclusions on the wall.

Some speak of the future,

My love she speaks softly,

She knows there's no success like failure

And that failure's no success at all.


I think that Dylan included a few internal rhymes here just to show the other poets that he could cook. While writing this review, I spent some time just reading the lyrics to the songs. Take away the music and you have poetry that reminds you of Rimbaud and Keats. Perhaps one day Rimbaud and Keats will remind folks of Dylan.


5. Outlaw Blues (Dylan) - 3:05 


I got a woman in Jackson,

I ain't gonna say her name.

I got a woman in Jackson,

I ain't gonna say her name.

She's a brown-skin woman,

But I Love her just the same.


Yeah, Bob Dylan used to get in your face. Here he is in 1965, a white Jew singing about loving a black woman in Mississippi. The slayers of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney were getting ready to go to trial. If I had been their jailer, I would have played this album 24/7.


6. On the Road Again (Dylan) - 2:35 


Your grandpa's cane

It turns into a sword

Your grandma prays to pictures

That are pasted on a board

Everything inside my pockets

Your uncle steals

Then you ask why I don't live here

Honey, I can't believe that you're for real.


Don’t get confused. This is not a cover of a Willie Nelson song from some confused time warp. It’s a wailing harmonica, attitude, and lyrics that cut to the bone. This song asks more questions than it answers. Most of it is still as applicable to 2024 as it was to 1965. The human condition doesn’t change much does it?




7. Bob Dylan's 115th Dream (Dylan) - 6:30 


 I went into a restaurant

Lookin' for the cook

I told them I was the editor

Of a famous etiquette book

The waitress he was handsome

He wore a powder blue cape

I ordered some suzette, I said

"Could you please make that crepe"

Just then the whole kitchen exploded

From boilin' fat

Food was flying everywhere

And I left without my hat



Ok, the band is in the studio and the bard starts to sing. Suddenly he realizes that he’s just muffed the lyrics. He starts to laugh hysterically. The producer laughs with him. They leave the whole sequence on the album so that all the Dylan fans would have verifiable proof that man laughed at least once in his life. This is an electric ballad like no other.



8. Mr. Tambourine Man (Dylan) - 5:30 


 Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,

I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to.

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,

In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you


Archeologists believe that this may be the first folk-rock song. Just as Dylan made himself famous by giving “Blowing In the Wind” to Peter, Paul and Mary, he gave this one to the Byrds. Boom a new genre was born and it ran from the beginning.



9. Gates of Eden (Dylan) - 5:40 


The motorcycle black madonna

Two-wheeled gypsy queen

And her silver-studded phantom cause

The gray flannel dwarf to scream

As he weeps to wicked birds of prey

Who pick up on his bread crumb sins

And there are no sins inside the Gates of Eden


Take your pick. “Gates of Eden” is either about religion, sex, or politics. It’s about all the things you aren’t supposed to talk about. Dylan doesn’t talk. He just sings.

10. It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) (Dylan) - 7:29 


 Old lady judges watch people in pairs

Limited in sex, they dare

To push fake morals, insult and stare

While money doesn't talk, it swears

Obscenity, who really cares

Propaganda, all is phony.

While them that defend what they cannot see

With a killer's pride, security

It blows the minds most bitterly

For them that think death's honesty

Won't fall upon them naturally

Life sometimes

Must get lonely.



The chances of a song like this being played on the radio in modern America used to be exactly zero. Then Bob Dylan made a Victoria’s Secret commercial. I don’t think if there is even a dialog between generations today. One is wrapped up in making money and the other is busy spending it.



11. It's All over Now, Baby Blue (Dylan) - 4:12 


You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last.

But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast.

Yonder stands your orphan with his gun,

Crying like a fire in the sun.

Look out the saints are comin' through

And it's all over now, Baby Blue



Ah, finally there is a song that the world seems to understand. Although Dylan never like officially announced it a news conference or anything, it’s universally accepted that this tune is kiss off to the hard-core folkies. He seems to be saying, “I’m going to do my own thing baby. All you nonconformists are the same.”


Some saw him as a Judas. Some saw a genius.