Every one of them words rang true, and glowed like burning coal
November 15, 2013 4:43 PM   Subscribe

Shelter From The Storm – the inside story of Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks

Bob Dylan begins his UK tour on November 18 in Glasgow – but here, in an archive piece taken from Uncut’s January 2005 issue (Take 92), we look back at Dylan in 1975, when he turned the crisis of a deteriorating relationship into one of rock’s most compelling dramas. This is the story of Blood On The Tracks, the album that marked the demise of Dylan’s marriage – and his artistic rebirth.

To compare the new album to Blonde on Blonde at all is to imply that people will treasure it as deeply and for as long. They won't. - Jon Landau
posted by KokuRyu (28 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
The nominal Shelter is an incredible, underrated, gorgeous song.
posted by Apropos of Something at 4:56 PM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think Blood on the Tracks is clearly the better of the two. Most would disagree.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:19 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Tangled Up In Blue" beats nearly every other Bob Dylan song for me. Deciphering it (is it about one couple? several couples? does it just switch points of view for a single couple? etc) has been a regular mental exercise for me for decades. I still can't quite come up with a coherent explanation for it that I like - and I hope I never do. Part of its power is its mystery.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:36 PM on November 15, 2013 [11 favorites]

I tend to think each verse or stanza in Tangled Up In Blue tells a different story. This piece on Dylan by Alex Ross more than a decade ago (15 years ago, sob!) is probably the best writing I have read on Dylan. Ross uses the song to examine Dylan's relationship with his fans. Well worth tracking down in the stacks of your local library.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:44 PM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

This was the album that got me into Dylan. I was a Deadhead, and loved their cover of Desolation Row, Van's cover of Just Like a Woman, the Band's cover of When I Paint My Masterpiece; but only Dylan can sing Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts.
thanks for the post, I know what i'm gonna listen to for the next while.
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:56 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Blood on the tracks, specifically Tangled up in blue, can never be bettered for me, in terms of sheer clarity about how stuff just gets f*cked up. And I say this from a south-bound cab having been ejected from the London Savoy at 2am, every one of those words rang true and glows like burning coals.....
posted by freya_lamb at 6:00 PM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

"Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts" came on as I drove home from work the other day. I got home before it ended, but I sat there until it was over.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:02 PM on November 15, 2013 [7 favorites]

I always thought that seeing Dylan I had a 50/50 shot of the particular tour/show blowing chunks. Maybe me, maybe him. Maybe the stars and moons just don't line up right some nights....

But I could go see the Grateful Dead or preferably Jerry Garcia and be assured a better than 8 in 10 chance of being satisfied. Best Dylan Cover Band Ever.
posted by mikelieman at 6:08 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

When I was young, I thought "Tangled Up In Blue" was a simple story that contained another story. Then I thought that it was a complicated story and I started thinking of it as a novel. That really got it into my head. "She" became real to me. Her red hair, her promise to meet again someday. As real to me as she was to The Narrator..(let's call him Bob or God or whatever).
Then that novel became a world. A world with slaves and women who froze up inside when the bottom fell out, and I was from the South and I've known these women and the men who've started in to dealin' with slaves (or however we're justifying slavery these days) and god damn it it just breaks your heart how cruel people can be to one another, and then you hear a song that encapsulates the Narrator's unshakeable quest for whatever the fuck. Another joint, I guess. I could just cry sometimes.
posted by Optamystic at 6:30 PM on November 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

Idiot Wind; hands down. PS, kick ass videos from the Rolling Thunder Review tour are up on the YouTubes as we speak.

for me its this and 'Desire' for hunkering down inside adulthood and letting it rip.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 8:28 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't go to concerts much anymore, but if Bob Dylan's in town, I'm happier just knowing for a little while, I'm in the same city as Bob Dylan.
posted by marxchivist at 8:36 PM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

God, I remember the first time I heard Tangled Up In Blue. I was 18. Got my first car. It didn't have a tape deck, so I had to listen to the radio for once. No Metallica. No Anthrax, or Ratt or Dokken. I found a station that wasn't playing country, and it was 94.9 KQDS playing Tangled Up in Blue and I rolled out of my parent's driveway in my new (to me) 14 year old Malibu Classic.

I had never had much respect for Dylan. I didn't even know that was Dylan until the end when the DJ announced who it was. Anyway, I bought this cassette at the Last Place On Earth (along with the Guess Who and Iron Butterfly on recommendations from the guy behind the counter). And that began my long love affair with "classic rock".

To me then, it was a song of adventure and heartache and loss and love. It was exciting. To me know..... Much the same, but, with my grey hairs, I know the price of all those things.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:41 PM on November 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

Van's cover of Just Like a Woman,

Gotta disagree with you on that. His changing of "I was hungry and it was your world" to "I was hungry and it was anybody's world" changes the meaning of the song completely and, imo, for the worse. In fact, to a degree that makes me think he doesn't understand the song. At least not in the way I understand it.
posted by dobbs at 8:46 PM on November 15, 2013

Rolling Thunder Review tour

I was familiar with Bob Dylan, but the first album of his I ever bought was the Bootleg Series 5 "Rolling Thunder Review" 2 CD and 1 DVD set when it came out in 2002. Amazing stuff!
posted by Jahaza at 8:51 PM on November 15, 2013

When I arrived in Japan in 1994 I found a cassette tape (dubbed from CD) of Greatest Hits Vol 2. The imagery was so amazingly weird. I would have to say I love Vol 4: 1966 the best, especially when the Band starts playing. Sublime.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:08 PM on November 15, 2013

Oh thank you for this! I remember the first time I heard this in the early 80s, when I was in junior high school. Back then, music and films were the only bridges I had over which I could connect with my estranged father, and while the relationship itself eventually disintegrated, this album stayed like a tattoo. I wore the LP out, then the cassette... because you have to listen to the entire album from beginning to end, to really get how cinematic it is. How all the mystery ties together in a way that doesn't even need to make sense. I'm listening to it right now, and my boyfriend (who I briefly dated 23 years ago in college, and who remembers me playing this for him) and I are singing along to "Idiot Wind."

Sorry to ramble. This album does that to me. It's like that old friend you run into in Grand Central, and you both decide to miss your trains so you can grab a cup of coffee and catch up under the dome of backwards stars.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 9:37 PM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

This site has a good essay about the open tuning that inspired most of the songs on Blood on the Tracks originally:

posted by colie at 1:11 AM on November 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was talking music with some younger friends at the bar the other night, and quoted a lyric, "Like a corkscrew to my heart," apropos of something to do with blasted love, and someone said, Oh, did you make that phrase up right here!? and I said God, no, that's from You're A Big Girl Now, Blood on the Tracks, and there were four utterly blank faces.

Talk about a corkscrew to my heart, I can hardly believe it's possible! Anyway, thanks for restoring my faith and the great read.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:31 AM on November 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Optamystic: The Narrator..(let's call him Bob or God or whatever).

You sure can write a terse biography.

In fact, someone ought to write a longer biography, just of quotes from and about him, and title it The Narrator.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:36 PM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Idiot Wind has the funniest short story in modern pop music:
"They say I shot a man named Grey and took his wife to Italy, She inherited a million bucks and when she died, it came to me... I can't help it if I'm LUCKY!"
posted by storybored at 9:19 PM on November 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

If the music thing doesn't work out Dylan can always fall back on his other job as a welder.
posted by scalefree at 8:44 AM on November 17, 2013

Idiot Wind has the funniest short story in modern pop music:

And one of the most brutal lines:

One day you’ll be in the ditch, flies buzzin’ around your eyes
posted by KokuRyu at 1:43 PM on November 17, 2013

I have a fond memory of singing "Tangled Up in Blue" loudly with two friends after just having had a white knuckle drive over the Conor Pass in Ireland.

To the displeasure of my then wife, who hated Dylan.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:58 PM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Blood On The Tracks is the one I listen to, and remember, much more than Blonde On Blonde.

One day you’ll be in the ditch, flies buzzin’ around your eyes

For me it's the line "I can't even touch the books you've read". So cold.

Also, for all its brutal cruelty, Idiot Wind has a turnaround in the last two verses, in which the mood changes from anger to acceptance and regret. Now it's not just "you" that's an idiot, babe, it's "we":
I been double-crossed now for the very last time and now I’m finally free
I kissed goodbye the howling beast on the borderline which separated you from me
You’ll never know the hurt I suffered nor the pain I rise above
And I’ll never know the same about you, your holiness or your kind of love
And it makes me feel so sorry

Idiot wind, blowing through the buttons of our coats
Blowing through the letters that we wrote
Idiot wind, blowing through the dust upon our shelves
We’re idiots, babe
It’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:52 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

That article was eye opening to me re Dylan's affairs and open parading of his inconstancy in front of Sara while all the time he expected her to stand by him. And the two anecdotes about singing "You're a Big Girl Now" and "If you See Her, Say Hello" in front of his kids, and then singing "Sara" straight at her in the recording session, are kind of mind-boggling personal.

Moreover, I want someone to find the lost, post-Blood-on-the-Tracks songs they talk about here: "Dylan and Sara were never close again. But her part in his music carried on. In 1977, while visiting Rolling Thunder tour-mates Steven Soles and T-Bone Burnett, he played a set of songs too frightening to ever be heard again: like Blood On The Tracks 2, with the love torn out. 'They were all very, very, very tough, dark, dark, dark songs,' Soles told Howard Sounes. 'None of them saw the light of day. They got discarded because I think they were too strong. They were the continuation of the Bob and Sara tale, on the angry side of that conflict.' One of these blackest of tracks, 'I’m Cold', scared Soles. 'It was scathing and tough and venomous. A song that would bring a chill to your bones. That’s what it did to me. T-Bone and I, when he left, our mouths were just wide open. We couldn’t even believe what we’d heard.'” Whoa.

Thanks for the article!
posted by onlyconnect at 8:02 AM on November 20, 2013

I'm seeing Bob next week at the Albert Hall and apparently he does Tangled up in Blue on his current dates... anyone seen him recently? I just want to be in the room with the dude so not bothered if it's bad news (frankly I have seen some pretty meh Dylan gigs).
posted by colie at 10:38 AM on November 20, 2013

His voice was almost totally blown out about ten years ago when I last saw him. I mean, he's over 70, I wouldn't bet that his voice has actually improved -- a recent review describes it as "mumbly" and "croaky." That said, his band (Tony Garnier, Charlie Sexton) was extremely solid and I hear still continues to be so. Enjoy!
posted by onlyconnect at 1:28 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think his voice is actually better and stronger than ten or fifteen years ago, and his band is righteous. In contrast to ten or fifteen years ago, it's easy to recognize songs right away. Imho.
posted by Occula at 1:28 PM on November 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

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