Pass it Around
"If I made records for my own pleasure, I would only record Charley Patton songs." - Bob Dylan
Does Bob Dylan have Blood in his Eyes? Seeing the Real You at Last for the very Last Time? Anal Ocular Lyric Analysis
Does Bob Dylan have blood in his eyes? He covered the MIssissippi Sheiks version of the song back on 1993 on World Gone Wrong, which was far from his first ocular reference, but the first to give pause. Just how good is Bob's vision these days?
True, his eyes looked a bit fuzzy on the cover of Blonde on Blonde and he was clearly squinting into the sun on the cover of John Wesley Harding…but let's "peer" behind his eyes in his lyrics!
Sad Eyed Lady of the LowLands. Dark Eyes. "Close your eyes, shut the door" and "You stare into the vacuum of my eyes" are lovely phrases which indicate only an affection for our most valuable sense…but the worrisome songs came later, as Dylan reached what can only be called an age when macular degeneration and torn retinas begin to occur. Not to mention laser surgery…when is the last time you saw a picture of Dylan wearing specs other than shades?
Bob started using the splendid "eye symbol" backdrop on stage during what is despairingly called "The never ending tour" as though that is something a musician isn't supposed to do. Was Bill Monroe on a "never ending tour?" B.B King? Willie Nelson? What the hell is a musician supposed to do? Sit at home and noodle on his piano like Brian Wilson did for ten years? But pardon my digression.
Since what was generally regarded as the latest of the many creative highlights of his career, Time out of Mind, an increasingly concerning use of vision references in his songs worry me. The first was "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there" from Not Dark Yet. Sure, it could be the fall of night…but then it could as well be the terrifying foreboding of a man needing night vision goggles!
On the same album, not only does a waitress complain "I'm right here in front of you, or haven't you looked" but later Dylan writes "Everything looks far away!" Oh oh. Trying to Get to Heaven has "With the heat rising in my eyes" and I can assure you, having had laser surgery of my own, they do indeed get hot during the procedure. In fact my eye surgeon stopped periodically to let them cool off as I imagined steam rising into the contraption above me.
Love and Theft was the kicker. A song titled "Floater" which we've all had but never knew what the the diggy-damn they were! You know…those little squiggly things in your eyes which bug the crap out of ya? They are mere gelatinous blobs of vitreous particles, but still…will they EVER leave? In the song, the greatest songwriter of my generation struggles with "dazzling sunlit rays" and I worry. He complains both of "light too intense" AND "Darktown" In the same lovely song Sugar Baby.
Modern Times follows, a masterpiece which pleasingly mentions my old neighborhood Hell's Kitchen. Dylan seems to be practicing for the inevitable. "I don't need any guide, I know the way" in Thunder on the Mountain and he is "blinded by the colors I see" in Spirit on the Water. Even worse, in Nettie More, not only has bright light "dimmed his sights" but "The world has gone black before my eyes" so there can be little doubt.
Get out your Tempest, folks. Play it loud, sit under a bright reading lamp and listen until you go blind.