In “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue,” Dylan tells us to take what we have gathered from coincidence, and sometimes I do.  One of my favorite short stories is “Powder” by Tobias Wolff.  It’s about a hopeless romantic, impulsive, “never plans ahead” father who takes his “anxious about everything,” “always thinks ahead” son out skiing on Christmas Eve during a snowstorm.  In one part of the story, the father starts humming, “Stars Fell on Alabama.”  It’s a poignant moment, the father driving his son in a blinding snowstorm, “breaking virgin snow between a line of tall trees” while humming this romantic ballad.

One night after sharing the story with my students, I drove home and popped in a Bob Dylan’s theme-time radio show CD that my brother-in-law had recorded for me.  On the CD, (I forget what the theme was–I’m thinking it was “stars”), Bob played that very song sung by Jack Teagarden.  Because of that coincidence, I will always associate Dylan and Wolff’s story with this song.  Here are the lyrics:

We lived our little drama
We kissed in a field of white
And stars fell on Alabama last night
I can’t forget the glamour
Your eyes held a tender light
And stars fell on Alabama last night

I never planned in my imagination
A situation so heavenly
A fairy land where no one else could enter
And in the center just you and me
My heart beat like a hammer
My arms wound around you tight
And stars fell on Alabama last night

And here’s Jack  Teagarden and the Chicagoans performing it live in Los Angeles in 1952:

This blog page will is dedicated to Dylan’s own use of the word “star.”  Starting with “Beyond Here Lies Nothin,” Dylan uses it as a rhyming word with “car”–just another thing I can gather from coincidence since for me this song, this story, stars, and cars all combine in meaningful ways.

I’m movin’ after midnight
Down boulevards of broken cars
Don’t know what to do without it
Without this love that we call ours
Beyond here lies nothin’
Nothin’ but the moon and stars


Daniel Mark Epstein calls “If You Ever Go to Houston,” his personal favorite” off of Together Through Life.  He sees it as “a hip lecture on how to handle yourself in the hot towns of the Lone Star State.  The lone “star” in the song is not in the sky but worn by a man:

If you’re ever down there
On Bagby and Lamar
You better watch out for
The man with the shining star
Better know where you’re going
Or stay where you are
If you’re ever down there
On Bagby and Lamar

Dylan has always done imaginative rhyming with names of places and people.  One that comes immediately to my mind is from “Meet Me in the Morning“:

Meet me in the morning, 56th and Wabasha
Meet me in the morning, 56th and Wabasha
Honey, we could be in Kansas
By time the snow begins to thaw

Does rhyming get better than “Wabasha” and “thaw”?

In “Houston,” “Lamar” is one of the two words (“are” the other) rhyming with “star.”  Apparently, you don’t want to be a shooting star on Bagby and Lamar (leave any shooting to the man with the shining star–by the way, the star is not shiny but shining–a notch brighter?); it’s better to stay there unless you know where you’re going?  Better to stay there because the man with the shining star is often there–an authority figure for protection?  Or is it better to be on the lookout for him if you’re “ever down there,” in a duck and cover sort of way?  I guess that depends on who you are on Bagby and Lamar.

What’s on the corner of Bagby and Lamar?  Houston’s Heritage Society Museum.

Things fleeting, things here and then not there, dominate “This Dream of You,” and maybe nothing captures that more in the song than in its last verse,
From a cheerless room in a curtained gloom
I saw a star from heaven fall
I turned and looked again but it was gone
All I have and all I know
Is this dream of you
Which keeps me living on

where a star has no rhyming value, but can last forever as if always there like Keats’ “Bright Star“:
Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art–
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors–
No–yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever–or else swoon to death.
Wooing often results in promises we can’t keep, many including promises of possessing celestial entities.  In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Baily promises Mary the moon:
What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That’s a pretty good idea. I’ll give you the moon, Mary.
In “Tin Angel,” after his first threat doesn’t work, “the Boss” goes further in his efforts to get the wife who abandoned him to return
“Get up, stand up, you greedy-lipped wench
And cover your face or suffer the consequence
You are making my heart feel sick
Put your clothes back on, double-quick” (The Boss)”Silly boy, you think me a saint
I’ll listen no more to your words of complaint
You’ve given me nothing but the sweetest lies
Now hold your tongue and feed your eyes” (The Wife)”I’d have given you the stars and the planets, too
But what good would these things do you?
Bow the heart if not the knee
Or never again this world you’ll see” (The Boss)
Ah, but he undercuts the promise well–no romantic notion in this husband’s mind.  He knows they (the stars and the planets) would not do her any good.  “stars” does no rhyme good either in these lines, but the rhyming is in couplets, quite romantic even in this most unromantic Dylan tale.
Mississippi” is one of my favorite Dylan songs.  I love the tone of his voice and the atmosphere it creates.  I somewhat playfully imagine that the speaker is Odysseus.  I think the song can be interpreted that way with a little stretching.  Odysseus has a knack for staying too long in places in The Odyssey, namely with Calypso and Circe:
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long

The verse with the “star“/”are” rhyme works with The Odyssey as well if you want to let it.  Though Odysseus crosses the “wine-dark sea” to wind up with Nausicaa, a river is impressive enough to get to where you want to be with someone:
Well I got here followin’ the southern star
I crossed that river just to be where you are

That southern star also could be someone like Charlie Patton or Jimmie Rodgers, but if it’s a celestial one it could be the one over Ithaca, south of many of the places Odysseus stayed too long.
Under “car(s)” I gave attention to the “star” rhymes in “Summer Days” and “Po Boy,” but here they are again to be thorough:
Well I’m drivin’ in the flats in a Cadillac car
The girls all say, “You’re a worn-out star

Poor boy in a red hot town
Out beyond the twinklin’ stars
Ridin’ first-class trains—making the rounds
Tryin’ to keep from fallin’ between the cars

On Time Out of Mind‘s “Standing in the Doorway,” “stars” is not a rhyming word, but they are colored by the speaker’s state of mind:
The light in this place is so bad
Making me sick in the head
All the laughter is just making me sad
The stars have turned cherry red

Bad light, feeling sick, and laughter that makes you sad all can add up to make you see the stars with cherry red glasses.  Cherry?  Well maybe needed to keep the 7 syllable second line in each of these two rhyming couplets alive.  The speaker is sick, melancholy, yes?  But not enough to keep those cherry red producing eyes away from lines that rhyme and balance.
Don Weiss in”Echoes of Incense: A Pilgrimage in Japan” writes, “Everything born will someday die. Even stars. Even worlds. Even cherry blossoms,” which by the way kind of look like stars:
Cherry Blossoms
Time Out of Mind has that Keatsian quality of how fleeting all of life is–“a song cycle,” Daniel Mark Epstein says, “about aging, love, and loss, where the lyrics of one ballad of angst bleed into the lyrics of the next.” Perhaps  someone who can see sadness in laughter has a strenuous enough tongue to “burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine” or even turn stars cherry red.
Make You Feel My Love” uses “stars” not quite as a rhyme, but then again . . .:
When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love

Something sneaky to the ear is going on here.  When I first heard that line I thought “shadows” was a verb, as if the evening shadows something, but “and” joins “shadows” to “the stars” making that impossible. “appears”/”tears”/years” are the rhyming words.  But “stars appear” with “your tears” does something else for the ear.  I think it’s the t in “stars” as well as the r that accompanies the r in “your” and the t in “tears” that gives it a sing-ability, a tonal unity good for the singer, good for the listener, and distant for the reader.  As Ricks says, “Every song, by definition, is realized only in performance.”  I think this can be said of this verse–listen closely to the way Dylan sings it and I think you’ll hear  the sounds from those letters mesh into words to create a tone that echoes throughout the song and perhaps the entire cd.
Stars are far, unbelievably so. This comes across in “Unbelievable” when “star” and “far” pair up for the rhyme in the first verse:
It’s unbelievable, it’s strange but true
It’s inconceivable it could happen to you
You go north and you go south
Just like bait in the fish’s mouth
Ya must be livin’ in the shadow of some kind of evil star
It’s unbelievable it would get this far

Unbelievable, too, is the notion that you could be living under an evil star, unless superstition is your thing.  But if it is, Dylan undercuts it beginning the next verse:
It’s undeniable what they’d have you to think
It’s indescribable, it can drive you to drink

If I start believing that I’m living under an evil star, I think I will have a drink, indeed it would mean I’ve taken bad things that happen to me a bit too far, maybe as is done when we think of those lovers in Romeo & Juliet as “star-crossed.”
Something masterfully pleasing to the ear is happening in “Shooting Star.” The song consists of four verses, four of which have a shooting star,  six because the verse with “star” appears at the beginning and end of each verse.  In each verse with a shooting star, “shooting star” shoots through each rhyme.  In the first verse, it breaks the “u” rhyme pattern: “you”/”knew”/”through”/”you,” breaking “into another world” in a sense; in the second, the “e” rhyme from “me”/”be”/”see”/”me”/; in the fourth, the “a” in “away/”day”/”say”/”away.”  In each, the first and last words of each rhyme are repeated.  What’s with the star-less third verse?  Well, in it the speaker asks us to “Listen.”  The only sight is of people praying.  Otherwise, it’s all about what can be heard:
Listen to the engine, listen to the bell
As the last fire truck from hell
Goes rolling by
All good people are praying
It’s the last temptation, the last account
The last time you might hear the sermon on the mount
The last radio is playing

an engine, bell, the sermon on the mount, a radio.  No sighting, just what can be heard.  In three out of four verses, a shooting star was seen (“Seen a shooting star tonight”), but in each verse with a shooting star, we are invited to hear the rhymes that “shooting star” frames.
If you’ve never seen a shooting star, which by the way you can’t hear, here’s a video of one with a full moon:
In “Brownsville Girl,” “stars” refers to celebrities. Dylan recalls Gregory Peck, playing a character in a movie,  shot in the back:
There was a movie I seen one time, I think I sat through it twice
I don’t remember who I was or where I was bound
All I remember about it was it starred Gregory Peck, he wore a gun
and he was shot in the back
Seems like a long time ago, long before the stars were torn down

Dylan had his share of being torn down by fans and the media, and the 80’s may very well have been his time to recover from feeling beat down.  But this verse,  not totally rhyme-less, “bound”/”down” keeping it from being all prose, comes only five years after John Lennon was killed in front of his apartment in NYC, shot in the back by Mark David Chapman.  The allusion to it gives the song a mournful feel or rather assists the mournful feel throughout.   The mourning continues; forgetting that day is impossible. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be his friend . . . can’t . . . Imagine . . .
Roll On, John.
Clean Cut Kid” says Robert Shelton “tells of the savaging of American youth by the Vietnam War.”  It’s also a story of what could have been:

He could’ve sold insurance, owned a restaurant or bar
Could’ve been an accountant or a tennis star

The songs pummels the listener with rhymes (my favorite is “choir”/”wire”), and with a hard c sound that underscores the k in kill in each chorus:

They took a clean-cut kid
And they made a killer out of him
That’s what they did

Yes, they did, but based on the lyrics the only one we know he killed for sure was himself:
He was wearing boxing gloves, took a dive one day
Off the Golden Gate Bridge into China Bay
Are the rhymes made to battle alliteration in this song?  Something’s at war.  But if the only killing in the song is a suicide then it’s a battle inside that’s raging.  Perhaps Dylan was telling us back then that a wall like this one would only grow and grow if we don’t stop sending our clear cut kids off to war:
Jokerman” houses what might very well be the most Romantic (with a capital r) scene in all of Dylan and “stars” plays a role in it:
In the smoke of the twilight on a milk-white steed
Michelangelo indeed could’ve carved out your features
Resting in the fields, far from the turbulent space
Half asleep near the stars with a small dog licking your face

The role is also a rhyming one, hidden, embedded, internally so with “carved” and “far.”
At the moment that the line with “stars” is sung by Dylan on the official video of the song, an image of Chief Joseph, Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt, appears.  Below is his story:
In “Neighborhood Bully” the word “bully” bullies the rhyming couplets that proceed the ending line of each verse.  The last verse, with the rhyme of “stars” with “scars” is no exception:
What has he done to wear so many scars?
Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?
Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill
Running out the clock, time standing still
Neighborhood bully
So the obvious answer to these questions is a resounding NO!  But “bully” is in the neighborhood in this song, ruining the sounds of rhymes, 14 times to be exact, 6 in the first 3 stanzas.   If he would just go away, right?, and leave the harmony of rhyming alone?  Stop polluting words that just want to be left alone in their own little rhyming world?  Well, as Christopher Ricks reminds us, words rhyme only by coincidence and “bully” is only discordant in this song because Dylan, not by coincidence, wants it to stand out even more from its lack of rhyming power.  All this choice of words is behind Dylan’s efforts to play with structure to enhance the neighborhood bully metaphor.  In this song, “bully” is the star with the scars.
So it was bound to happen that Dylan would refer to the North Star during his Christianizing phase.  Here it is in the last stanza of “Man of Peace“:
Somewhere Mama’s weeping for her blue-eyed boy
She’s holding them little white shoes and that little broken toy
And he’s following a star
The same one them three men followed from the East
I hear that sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace
star” shines in the middle of the verse, unrhymed at the end of the middle line, like many end of middle line words in this song.  Perhaps it shines that much brighter being unrhymed where rhyming is expected.  According to EarthSky it, the North Star aka Polaris, is only about the 50th brightest star in the sky, but the organization admits, it “has gladdened the heart of many a lost traveler,”
the traveler in this song being the blued-eyed boy.  Dylan, by the way, has blue eyes:
Johnny Cash’s were brown:
In 2003, when Cash died, Dylan called him the North Star, “you could guide your ship by him–the greatest of the greats then and now.”
Michael Gray says that “Covenant Woman” may be “an address of private gratitude to Mary Alice Artes.”  If this is the case, she then would be the one who is like a “morning  star” in the opening verse:
Covenant woman got a contract with the Lord
Way up yonder, great will be her reward
Covenant woman, shining like a morning star
I know I can trust you to stay where you are
Interestingly enough, if you play around with the arrangement of the letters in Artes you’ll find a star in it.
Gray sees a “fusing of spiritual and earthly passion” in the song.  I think the reference to “morning star” supports this view.  The morning star is Venus who represents love, a love beyond platonic, an erotic love even, tied to fertility and beauty.  Artes as the target of gratitude in the song is a figure of love of a different kind, a kind perhaps associated with a passion for “the Lord.”  The “Lord”/reward” rhyme is followed by the “star“/”are” one.  But all four of those words are linked by the r sound accentuated, too, by the surrounding words “contract,” “her,” “morning,” and “where.”  Gray’s word “fusion” is perfect here as these words are fused together by the r sound enhancing a fusion of different kinds of passion.
Venus de Milo at the Louvre.
“A pathway that leads up to the stars” is suggestive of a stairway to heaven, yet “Where Are You Tonight,” which includes that reference to stars offers no easy ticket to paradise, reach for the stars but expect scars:
There’s a white diamond gloom on the dark side of this room
And a pathway that leads up to the stars
If you don’t believe there’s a price for this sweet paradise
Remind me to show you the scars
By rhyming “stars” with “scars,” Dylan conveys that one cannot be achieved without the other.  The song goes like that.  The forbidden fruit that results in the erotic juice running down his leg is paid for by meeting her boss.  Beauty fades while he watches her undrape.  A woman he longs for drifts like a satellite.  Doubling, the this but that, the at what cost that ties to every pleasure, captured with a rhyme, “stars“/”scars.”  There may be no other rhyme in Dylan so riveted to the theme of a song than this one.
The first verse of “One More Cup of Coffee” always has reminded me of James Joyce’s “The Dead,” and “stars” has a helping hand in it.  When someone has to compete for someone’s affection life is hard–it’s worse when that competition involves  stars:
Your breath is sweet
Your eyes are like two jewels in the sky
Your back is straight, your hair is smooth
On the pillow where you lie
But I don’t sense affection
No gratitude or love
Your loyalty is not to me
But to the stars above
In Joyce’s story, Gabriel Conroy has to compete with the likes of his wife’s dead paramour, Michael Furey.  “It was a person I used to know in Galway,” . . . “He died when he was only seventeen,” . . . “I think he died for me.”  With all that revealed,
“a vague terror seizes” Gabriel, and by the end of the story “[h]is soul swooned slowly,” with “both the living and the dead” united by the falling snow.
By the end of “One More Cup,” the speaker feels the same distance from his lover:
And your pleasure knows no limits
Your voice is like a meadowlark
But your heart is like an ocean
Mysterious and dark
As “mysterious and dark” as the “evocation of [a] figure from the dead,” who is as permanent in his lover’s eyes as stars in the sky.
Here’s the moment when Michael Furey returns to Gretta’ memory when she is at the top of a staircase listening to “The Lass of Aughrim,” from John Huston’s film version of “The Dead”:
In his chapter called “The White Goddess, Desire,” from No Direction Home, Robert Shelton sees “Black Diamond Bay” as a song that deals with the myth of “life as a movie,” that asks of us the questions, “Are we all global village idiots whom television has reduced to voyeurism, and are we “so deadened . . . to catastrophe that we can’t tell a real crisis from a fictional one”?
In “Black Diamond Bay” the catastrophe happens in the fifth of seven verses:
Then the volcano erupted
And the lava flowed down from the mountain high above
The soldier and the tiny man were crouched in the corner
Thinking of forbidden love
But the desk clerk said, “It happens every day”
As the stars fell down and the fields burned away
On Black Diamond Bay
stars” has no say in the rhyming matter, but they do seem to be part of the fallout from the catastrophic volcano eruption, no a romantic falling on Alabama this time.
In the last verse, the significance of this event is minimized when it is made to fit into the size of a T.V. screen:
I was sittin’ home alone one night in L.A.
Watchin’ old Cronkite on the seven o’clock news
It seems there was an earthquake that
Left nothin’ but a Panama hat
And a pair of old Greek shoes
Didn’t seem like much was happenin’,
So I turned it off and went to grab another beer
Seems like every time you turn around
There’s another hard-luck story that you’re gonna hear
And there’s really nothin’ anyone can say
And I never did plan to go anyway
To Black Diamond Bay
Deadened we are, too, to the fall of stars of the celebrity kind, that also seems to happen every day.  We forget though that such a fall is the fall of a man or women, a human being (“O, what a fall was there, my countrymen!).  When we become dead to each other we are no longer human, Dylan seems to say in many songs.  Maybe Shelton caught on quick to how Dylan keeps us human when are open to the questions his songs ask of us.  Why then were we so obsessed with asking questions of the celebrity falling kind when he was always the one with the good questions of the uplifting, humanity elevating kind (“How many road . . .”).  Dylan is master at asking questions or rather getting his songs to.  His songs read us, his songs listen to us; sometimes we are too busy reading and listening to his songs that we miss how much they ask of us.
Christopher Ricks, in Dylan’s Visions of Sin, comments on Dylan’s love for rhyme– “he loves to play with it, and he loves the complication of it.”  Not to be missed is the comedy of it.  Ricks’ examples of Dylan’s most amusing rhymes includes one from “Goin’ to Acapulco,” “what the hell/Taj Mahal,” a rhyme that mutters itself, Ricks says, what the hell.
“stars” is found in the verse that includes this “what the hell” rhyme:
It’s a wicked life but what the hell
The stars ain’t falling down
I’m standing outside the Taj Mahal
I don’t see no one around
It’s a verse that captures the purpose of The Basement Tapes.  The whole album smacks of , “What the hell?”   Yeah, life sucks, but it could be worse–the stars are still where we want them to be–up in the sky, not falling down.  So go have some fun:
Goin’ down to see fat gut–goin’ to have some fun
Yeah–goin’ to have some fun
Put on this song, or any of them, “What the hell?” And what the hell–here it is to listen to to have some fun:
I like Carrie Brownstein’s observation that Dylan’s voice in “Idiot Wind” grows “stronger and more dangerous with each line.”  “stars” is used twice in the song, at the midway point and late, and this increasing danger is present in the lines with “stars”–the danger being the speaker’s increasingly damning finger pointing that paints him as the victim. The first time it appears is in the fourth verse:
I woke up on the roadside, daydreamin’ ’bout the way things sometimes are
Visions of your chestnut mare shoot through my head and are makin’ me see stars
You hurt the ones that I love best and cover up the truth with lies
One day you’ll be in the ditch, flies buzzin’ around your eyes
Blood on your saddle
Here “stars” is a rhymed word with “are.”  Stars are not shooting here, the visions are, and they are sexual (chestnut mare, bare chest, or lower . . .  chestnut hair?).  These physical visions are tough to escape, but later in the song what hounds him is more abstract, more profound, harder to overcome:
Down the highway, down the tracks, down the road to ecstasy
I followed you beneath the stars, hounded by your memory
And all your ragin’ glory
It’s her memory, all of her, not just the attraction of her body, that he follows, and the stars are comprehensive–blanketing the world above him and around him, not relegated to his head, making him see stars.  In this verse the stars are real. Real, too, was how he “came pretty close” to revealing his “personal life, he admitted to Bill Flanagan.
Dylan sang this song in a memorable performance at Colorado State University with Sara Dylan in the audience.  The song becoming that much more dangerous:
Dylan wrote “Forever Young” in Tucson, AR around the time he was working with Sam Peckinpah on Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.  He hoped to avoid sentimentality in the song, admitting he was, “thinking of one of [his] boys (Jakob?) and not wanting to be too sentimental.  Christopher Ricks feels Dylan gets his wish since the song can’t avoid”sensing something dark that is in the air.”  In the first verse, one such line with that sensing includes “stars”:
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young
Ricks argues that the William Blake poem “For Children” (which may or may not have been familiar to Dylan) contains the “dark sensing” that Dylan’s song alludes to.  In the Blake poem, “A tiny man mounts a ladder propped against a quarter moon,” and in the background are seven stars, the caption under the illustration at this moment in the poem reads, “I want, I want.”
Better to build ladders directly to the stars, yes?  And do it with some humility–Dylan’s song after all is about granting, not wanting (no “I want you” or any one or thing for that matter in this song).  It’s about wishes, may you, may you, may you over and over again, and you will never want, in the sense of lack, for nothing.
An epithalamion is a wedding poem, and Dylan’s “Wedding Song” is no exception.  More specifically it is a poem written for a bride on her wedding day.  It can be written by someone else for a bride and groom on their wedding day or by a groom for his betrothed as is Edmund Spencer’s “Epithalamion.”  The speaker will use hyperbole to praise his bride above all other things on earth and urge the time to pass so that bride and groom can consummate their love.  Dylan’s song is for Sara, though they had been married for some time when he wrote it.  Still what he pledges sounds like vows, freshly cut ones even, as if a page has been turned and the marriage will start anew.
stars” assists that exaggerated language of praise in the song, though not in a rhyming role:
I love you more than ever, more than time and more than love
I love you more than money and more than the stars above
Love you more than madness, more than waves upon the sea
Love you more than life itself, you mean that much to me
Likewise, Spencer uses stars to exaggerate his lover’s eyes:
My love is now awake out of her dreames,
And her fayre eyes like stars that dimmed were
With darksome cloud, now shew theyr goodly beames
More bright then Hesperus his head doth rere.
Brighter than the evening star (Hesperus) her eyes are.  In Dylan’s song, his love for Sara is greater than than the stars, more than love and even life itself.
This photograph captures the kind of doting needed to write “Wedding Song”:
In No Direction Home, Robert Shelton informs us that “Time Passes Slowly” was written by Dylan for Archibald MacLeish’s play, The Devil and Daniel Webster, which Dylan later backed out of.  Ricks says it’s a song whose “rhymes refuse to stay right.”  This may be true, but “stars” has no part of any such refusal.  The word appears away from any rhyming action in the second verse:
Once I had a sweetheart, she was fine and good-lookin’
We sat in her kitchen while her mama was cookin’
Stared out the window to the stars high above
Time passes slowly when you’re searchin’ for love
Ricks gives the example of the rhyme “daylight/”stay right as one with tension:
Time passes slowly up here in the daylight
We stare straight ahead and try so hard to stay right
Ricks made me stare so much–or rather strain to here it that I noticed starring and star-ing have something going with the sounds in the song.  “Stared” begins the line with “starts” in it.  “stare is the second word in the line Ricks aims at.  But look!  Stare even . . . “stars” rhymes with “hard” and “high” rhymes with “right.”  What happens when those lines become neighbors?
Stared out the window to the stars high above
We stare straight ahead and try so hard to stay right
Not much in the rhyming vein, but the s-sounds become more prominent.  s . s . s . s . s . s . s . s .  Something’s ticking in this song, namely the s alliteration–time passing slowly.  I should have been a pair or ragged claws/ Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.  Yes, Eliot . . . time passes slowly and we fade away.
What Dylan does with the “not right” rhymes and alliteration is worth a listen:
Robert Shelton says “One More Night” from Nashville Skyline has the feel of an old Bill Monroe song which turned out to be Elvis’s first recording.   “Stars” appears in the first line of Dylan’s song,
One more night, the stars are in sight
But tonight I’m as lonesome as can be
Oh, the moon is shinin’ bright
Lighting ev’rything in sight
But tonight no light will shine on me
In Bill Monroe’s tune it “stars” appears in the bridge:
It was on a moonlight night,
The stars were shining bright.
And they whispered from on high,
Your love has said goodbye.
Neither has a rhyming role, but in both the brightness of stars are in opposition to the darkness the singer feels inside.  The real light of their lives is missing or has gone away.  They yearn for the return of the light in their lives that has gone out.   In both, too, stars take a backseat to the moon.  In Dylan’s song, the light in it won’t shine on him–or at least it won’t affect him, or worse, he’s resolved that he won’t feel the light of his lover, at least for one more night (but you know tomorrow can be a long time).  In Monroe, there’s more hope, the light may be able to shine on his lover and bring her back.  Listen to the quickening pace Monroe uses in this live version to inspire that hope.
The third verse in “Desolation Row” begins with the moon and stars:
Now the moon is almost hidden
The stars are beginning to hide

“hidden” and “hide” don’t rhyme though they look like they want to.  “moon” and “stars” seem to always want to do something together in song and poetry, but the moon is always closer to the poet; stars are far away.  So distance matters.  In these two lines, “stars” is closer to the rhyme and gets bragging rights over the moon for being in the line that forces the first rhyme:
The fortune-telling lady
Has even taken all her things inside

The rhyme jumps over the moon.  “stars” has the inside track with the rhyme “hide”/inside” (Hide inside Desolation Row?)  Not a rhyming starring role for “stars” but it shares the line with “hide.”
Both the moon and stars will be hidden soon (by clouds?, dawn?), but the moon is acted upon–“hidden”–“stars” get to hide of their own volition–they “are beginning to hide.”
Thematically, this fits with “Desolation Row.”  Dylan refers to people throughout the song whose ultimate fate is a result of being acted upon (Ophelia) or an action taken (Einstein, Cinderella).  I love things hidden by Dylan; I love when Dylan lets things hide.
What is Bob Dylan’s finest love song?  Christopher Ricks, under the category of “Faith” (one of the “The Heavenly Graces”) in his book Dylan’s Vision of Sin, thinks it’s “Boots of Spanish Leather.”  So I assume he’d give it four stars.  The song though has only one:
Oh, but if I had the stars from the darkest night
And the diamonds from the deepest ocean
I’d forsake them all for your sweet kiss
For that’s all I’m wishin’ to be ownin’
It’s the fourth verse, one of the four that begin with “Oh,” and it may be the most heartfelt expression from the, shall I say, male lover who does not want his beloved to depart.  Ricks is right that this song is doesn’t ask for anything, and in this verse, the lover would even give up great possessions like stars and diamonds if he had them for just one of her sweet kisses.  They’d also be the shiniest stars since they’d be from the darkest night–perhaps the one coming once the Dear John letter arrives in verse seven:
I got a letter on a lonesome day
It was from her ship a-sailin’
Saying I don’t know when I’ll be comin’ back again
It depends on how I’m a-feelin’

It’s Dylan’s voice that captures just the right tone that makes this a legitimate pick for his finest love song.  Always worth a listen:


When it comes to cars, where is your Dylan?  In the backseat smoking a cigarette?

Behind the wheel?

(Photo by Brad Elterman)

Outside near a car?

Or where he makes things happen inside cars?

Well, whatever one, buckle up and start your engines, because this blog is taking a ride down all the twisting turning roads in all of Bob’s songs where “car(s)” appear.


In Dylan’s most recent videos, cars play prominent roles.  In “When the Deal Goes Down,” the always double-barrel beautiful Scarlett Johansson is in a red convertible. A car is used by a woman as a weapon against her abusive mate in “Beyond Here Lies Nothin‘” (“cars” is used to rhyme with “ours” in that song).  And most recently, in “Duquesne Whistle” a van (okay, not a car) is a source of terrorism for the Charlie Chaplin-esque young lover.  Cars are vehicles for many things in Dylan.

Cop cars appear in the next to last verse of “It’s All Good“:

Cold-blooded killer, stalking the town
Cop cars blinking, something bad going down
Buildings are crumbling in the neighborhood
But there’s nothing to worry about, ’cause it’s all good
It’s all good
They say it’s all good

No rhyme with “cars,” but the alliteration in “cop cars” hooks up well with the “Cold” in “Cold-blooded.”  Daniel Mark Epstein quotes the same verse from the song to demonstrate how the song is “laugh-out-loud hilarious,” and how Dylan’s voice “was just the right voice for it.  Agreed.  Just right, too, is a cop car or two to hit home, if it hasn’t already, that “It’s all good” is exactly what it’s not.


According to Daniel Mark Epstein, Bob’s first car was a pink Ford Convertible given to him by his dad after his 16th birthday, “Abe sometimes spoiled his son with gifts.”
Maybe it looked something like this:

And then in 1961, Bob made his famous hitchhiking journey, with two college students, from Madison, WI to NYC, in a four-door Chevrolet Impala:

In 2001’s Love and Theft, Dylan puts Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum in a street car named desire:

Well, they’re going to the country, they’re gonna retire
They’re taking a street car named Desire

The rhyme “retire/Desire” that comes from this street car creates an interesting contrast in Dylan’s life.  Desire certainly drove him to NYC, becoming “the city that would come to shape my destiny,” Bob says.  His desire to see Woody Guthrie, especially fueled him more than anything else.  And Bob has never considered retirement it seems (motorcycle accident respite aside), the unending tour proof of his ardent-heartedness, desire countering any impulse to retire.  Dee and Dum are two identities in one, two impulses, two roles to play, neither real or only real together, like Robert Zimmerman and Bob Dylan, but both with “their noses to the grindstones.”


car” and “star” rhyme in “Summer Days.” The star, the celebrity kind that is, not the celestial type, is worn out, or at least called so:

Well I’m drivin’ in the flats in a Cadillac car
The girls all say, “You’re a worn-out star”

Later in the song, a car is getting worn out as well:

I got eight carburetors, boys I’m using ’em all
Well, I got eight carburetors and boys, I’m using ’em all
I’m short on gas, my motor’s starting to stall

Being on all cylinders will do that.  Summer’s wearing out in this song, too, but the song isn’t, too much jump and energy for that to happen.  And the speaker knows a place anyway “where there’s still something’s going on.”  Maybe it’s here, the perfect destination for anyone, even a worn out star, drivin’ in the flats in a Cadillac car”:

Nice rhyme that, “flats”/”Cadillac” . . . Cadillac Flats.
In “Po’ Boy,” “cars” and stars” rhyme again, but this time “stars” are the ones in the sky and “cars” makes a shift in meaning:
Poor boy in a red hot town
Out beyond the twinklin’ stars
Ridin’ first-class trains—making the rounds
Tryin’ to keep from fallin’ between the cars

These are train cars. The poor boy appears to be jumping from car to car giving the ticket takers and conductors the slip. Yes
Some trains don’t pull no gamblers
No midnight ramblers like they did before

But maybe some still do.  If David Mark Epstein is right and this is a ballad about wealth, then the Po’ Boy is the poster boy for poverty making the rounds, gambling, and rambling with the police at his back.  Stars shine again in this song, at the end with the Po’ Boy washing dishes and feeding swine, the epilogue to, or worse, the mere afterthought of a knock-knock joke.
Honest With Me” has “car” in it but it’s unrhymed:

I’m crashin’ my car, trunk first into the boards

The line is amusing though in the visual–intentional use of one’s trunk to crash into anything is worth a grin, chagrin for the recipient, boards it is in this song.

The 90’s is a “car“-less decade for Dylan.  Three times the word appears in 1986’s “Brownsville Girl.”  If I’m being honest (with me) I’d have to admit that when I first heard this song I thought knocked-out loaded was exactly the condition Dylan must have been in when he wrote it.  I thought that for awhile.  And then the likes of Michael Gray and Stephen Scobie set me straight, and I started to see why so many put this song on their list of his greatest.  Gray’s observation especially that “uncertain crossings of one sort of another are a recurrent motif in “‘Brownsville Girl‘” raised my awareness of its depth.

car” helps to make those “uncertain crossings” happen, geographically,

Well, we drove that car all night into San Anton’

with time,

Well, we’re drivin’ this car and the sun is comin’ up over the Rockies

and emotionally,

And she don’t want to remind me. She knows this car would go out of control

No rhyming with “car” but Dylan uses it well as a vehicle for those crossings Gray speaks of that make it a work of art.

Below is a terrific clip from Both Ends of the Rainbow with Ira Ingber discussing the making of it:


In “Union Sundown” off of Infidels, “car” is not in the rhyming headlights, but “Chevrolet” is with “day”:

And the car I drive is a Chevrolet
It was put together down in Argentina
By a guy makin’ thirty cents a day

The lines with the rhymes are ten syllables each, too–straight roads taken by Bob to make this rhyme.

Here’s an 83 Chevrolet I could picture Bob in, but I guess the license should say Argentina;


In 1983, Dylan once said about the song, “Shot of Love,” “It defines where I am at spiritually, musically, romantically and whatever else.  It shows where my sympathies lie . . . It’s all there in that one song.”

I always take what Dylan says with a grain of salt (every grain even, salt and sand), but If I  pretend he meant this, “car“‘s place in this song ramps up a bit:

What makes the wind wanna blow tonight?
Don’t even feel like crossing the street and my car ain’t actin’ right
Called home, everybody seemed to have moved away
My conscience is beginning to bother me today

car” is parked away from the rhyme, “”away”/”today” but it adds to the sense of being stuck and in need of a shot of love. The speaker can’t move while everyone else  seems to be, away that is.  Spiritually, this song smacks of an existential angst, a parting from the absolutes from Slow Train and Saved.  Everything’s not broken, but they “ain’t actin’ right, that’s for sure.  Musically and romantically? I get–the reggae/gospel sound he liked during this period, and who hasn’t been in need of a shot of love.  Spiritually speaking though, this song and this verse are an indictment of a religion with all the answers or rather of religion that makes questions unnecessary.  What makes the wind want to blow tonight?  Maybe  to keep those answers just far enough away from our mortal grasp.
Dylan live singing “Shot of Love” with his gospel gang:

In “Hurricane,” the car plays a major role as evidence against the defendant, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter:
Alfred Bello had a partner and he had a rap for the cops
Him and Arthur Dexter Bradley were just out prowlin’ around
He said, “I saw two men runnin’ out, they looked like middleweights
They jumped into a white car with out-of-state plates”
And the cops are puttin’ the screws to him, lookin’ for somebody to blame“Remember that murder that happened in a bar?”“Remember you said you saw the getaway car?”
“You think you’d like to play ball with the law?”“Think it might-a been that fighter that you saw runnin’ that night?”
“Don’t forget that you are white.”

In the second verse, “car” rhymes with “bar,” linking arguably the two most important settings in this “movie” song together.  “car” drives through the song as well what with the presence of it in the first three letters in Carter’s name.

Dylan knew the power words have.  So did Carter.  I’m going to let him have the final words here:

Words are about the most powerful drugs knows to men.”

Carter’s Car: “a white car with out-of-state plates”


In “Tangled Up in Blue” a car is abandoned:

We drove that car as far as we could
Abandoned it out West
Split up on a dark sad night
Both agreeing it was best
She turned around to look at me
As I was walkin’ away
I heard her say over my shoulder
“We’ll meet again someday on the avenue”
Tangled up in blue

The abandoned car sets up the splitting up between lovers that affects the pursuit throughout the song.  As Carrie Brownstein says of “Tangled,” It is an American story of humble beginnings, with far-reaching hopes and colossal disappointments.  At the start, the loves and the narrator himself occupy a cohesive space. But the context begins to shift and unravel . . . The song sets up the album [Blood on the Tracks] as a series of fractures . . .”

Michael Gray noticed the “rhyming spill-over towards the end of each verse.”  He adds, “As we listen to the song, these short spill-overs become more and more stabbing in their emotional effect as they as they become at the same time more and more agile and clever as rhymes. “

In the above verse, I think “it”/”split” and “say”/”away are examples of what Gray means.  “car” is not involved, but it does assist the theme of spilling over, or the inevitability of it when something is driven as far as it can go, over the line, right into the next.

When I hear “Idiot Wind,” the line, “Smoke pourin’ out of a boxcar door” won’t leave my head for hours.  It’s just the way Dylan sings it or maybe the image or the words arranged for blunt impact:
There’s a lone soldier on the cross, smoke pourin’ out of a boxcardoor.

I’m singing it in my head now . . . and will the rest of the day, with no rhyme needed to keep it there.  Here’s a boxcar:
In #Rainy Day Women” #12 & 35,” a car is just another place to get stoned:
Well, they’ll stone you and say that it’s the end
Then they’ll stone you and then they’ll come back again
They’ll stone you when you’re riding in your car
They’ll stone you when you’re playing your guitar
Yes, but I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned

Michael Coyle and Debra Rae Cohen remind us though that the “‘Getting stoned’ here is a public stoning, tied to musical performance.” “car” rhyming with “guitar” in this verse aims the stoning at Dylan.  Dylan tells us that “Sometimes the ‘you’ in my songs is me talking to me.”  That said, having performed this song often as the last of his encores, Dylan unites both the audience (those about to get in their cars and maybe come back again, with him saying it’s the end with his encore and playing his guitar while doing so–rhymes uniting words creating fiction that is life.
Here’s Dylan with The Grateful Dead playing it at MSG in 1994:


In the first stanza of “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” “streetcar” pulls up again in the sixth line, not as a noun though, but as an adjective describing the lady’s kind of visions:

With your mercury mouth in the missionary times
And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes
And your silver cross, and your voice like chimes
Oh, who among them do they think could bury you?
With your pockets well protected at last
And your streetcar visions which you place on the grass
And your flesh like silk, and your face like glass
Who among them do they think could carry you?
Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes
My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums
Should I leave them by your gate

No hint of a rhyme, but if that streetcar is desire again, how beautiful to have visions of desire placed “on the grass.”  According to the Oxford Dictionary of World Histories, the word “car” was mainly poetic and conveyed splendour and solemnity, from Latin carrum, carrus meaning a wheeled vehicle.  I can only imagine with what splendour and solemnity this sad-eyed lady would place her desires on grass; with  “flesh like silk” and a “face like glass” what an image that would be.


The speaker in “Talkin World War III” steals a car, a Cadillac to be exact:

Well, I seen a Cadillac window uptown
And there was nobody aroun’
I got into the driver’s seat
And I drove down 42nd Street
In my Cadillac. Good car to drive after a war

We have the location, too, 42nd Street.  “car” and “war” don’t rhyme, but to the eye they appear to internally in the last line.  Good car to drive after a war?  But “car” comes before “war” in this verse.  Let’s turn it around:  Good “war” to drive after a “car.”  Just havin’ some fun, like Dylan did with this song.
Dylan live at Newport Folk Festival introduced by Peter Yarrow in 1963 (he sings “car” twice in this verse):
Walking is what Bob’s doing with Suze on the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan with cars parked on the streets of NYC in the background.  On “Bob Dylan’s Blues,” he doesn’t even want a car–he prefers walking:
Lord, I ain’t goin’ down to no race track
See no sports car run
I don’t have no sports car
And I don’t even care to have one
I can walk anytime around the block

World War III changes things–he’s alone stealing a car in NYC in that song, where
Everybody sees themselves
Walkin’ around with no one else

In Bob Dylan’s Blues” “car” is unrhymed, “run” rhymes with “one,” but “one” refers to a car.  On the cover he doesn’t seem to want to be “one,” “walkin around with no one else that is,” but together, smiling, walking with Suze.
In “Talking New York,” “car” rhymes with “guitar” again as in “Rainy Day Women“:
I swung onto my old guitar
Grabbed hold of a subway car
And after a rocking, reeling, rolling ride
I landed up on the downtown side
Greenwich Village

Robert Shelton sees the song modeled after Woody Guthrie’s “Talkin’ Subway.” What I like about that is the connection between the two songs having subway cars prompting movement.  Dylan grabs hold of one, Guthrie follows people running down to catch one:
I blowed into New York town,
I looked up and I looked down.
Everybody I seen on the streets,
Was all a-running down in a hole in the ground.
I followed ’em. See where they’s a going.
Nothing more New York than its underground subways.  I just really love that Dylan and Guthrie are united in making them a part of their NYC experience.
Below is a photo inside a NYC subway in the 60’s by Bernard Safran. Follow the link beneath it to see more photos from Safron of the NYC Dylan saw from 62-72.
Subway Riders


“Midnight” is the next rhyming word from “Beyond Here Lies Nothin.'” I could see Dylan doing a theme-time radio show on it.  Several like Maria Muldaur’s “Midnight at the Oasis,” Clapton’s “After Midnight,” The Rolling Stones’ “Midnight Rambler,” Lionel Hampton’s “Midnight Sun,” and maybe my favorite midnight tune, “Midnight Special” by Credence come immediately to my mind. (Dylan’s first professional recording experience was playing harmonica on the title track of Harry Belfonte’s album Midnight Special.)

I think Dylan would have a special place in his mind with “midnight” what with the liminal status associated with it from Cinderella.  It was the time after all, when she  returned to her former identity–perhaps a nightmarish thought for Dylan (midnight as death) who has spent his life stripping himself of one mask after another: “mask-erading.”

In “Beyond Here,” midnight comes across as the time that reveals more Cormac McCarthy-like desolation to what lies out there, out of reach.  It’s rhyming partner is “without it,” or rather the “mid” in midnight is “without it”‘s rhyming partner, with the “t” sound like a bell tolling at the end of each line (a sneaky non-rhyme really), and at first it feels like he does not know what to do without midnight:

I’m movin’ after midnight
Down boulevards of broken cars
Don’t know what to do without it

An interesting fleeting thought–what would any of us do without midnight?–but it’s
“Without this love that we call ours” and all that that means (see the video) that would result in incomprehensible loss.
Tempest‘s “Soon After Midnight,” is the only Dylan song with “midnight” in its title.  It took him fifty years to get it in one.  It also is part of the chorus of the song, “It’s soon after midnight,” “It’s” added to force an internal rhyme.  Something else is going on with it though in terms of rhyme as the song progresses freeing it from just the internal repetitive rhyme.  “Midnight” is used four times in the song; the last three times, Dylan uses the words, “”eye,” “mink,” and “think,” to rhyme with both “i” sounds found in “midnight.” My favorite line in the song is “And I’ve got a date with a fairy queen.”  Now this could just be plans to read Spenser’s epic (though it’s not capitalized), but as far as real fairy queens go, Titania fits the bill.  In this song, she works, too, with an “i” sound that matches “midnight”‘s, the way an internal rhyme might.  But she’s not there or her name isn’t, so her name is a rhyme not there, but there if “fairy queen” lets her enter your mind.   The whole song for me is a bit dreamy, the ways things are in A Midsummer night’s Dream, where nothing is at it seems, especially Bottom’s Dream.
“When the Deal Goes Down” uses “midnight” as an adjective describing the kind of rain that follows the train:  “The midnight rain follows the train,” assisting, too, another internal rhyme.  This song that can’t get away from the “deal going down” (it ends every stanza)–death is the ultimate separation,
We live and we die, we know not why
But I’ll be with you when the deal goes down
Likewise, the train can’t stop a rain linked to at the very least to the ending of a day, but likely the end of our days.
Hard to avoid visions of paradise in “Beyond the Horizon.”  The way Dylan describes it who’d not want to go there right now.  There it’s easy to love, love waits forever for everyone, and people pray for your soul.  Get me a ticket–no slow train. . . . Duquesne Express, please.   “midnight” finds itself in the middle of a line again in this song, internally rhyming side by side with “side.”  Midnight is when something’s gonna happen–entities separated will be united:
Beyond the horizon across the divide
‘Round about midnight, we’ll be on the same side
Down in the valley the water runs cold
Beyond the horizon someone prayed for your soul

What can’t ‘scape my mind is the word “chime” is also in this song.  Shakespeare used “chimes” just once  in all his plays and it’s linked up with “midnight” to form a memorable phrase from Falstaff:
We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master Shallow. (HIV.III.II.2067)
Can’t help but think that the phrase was on Dylan’s mind when he used both words in the same song.  Hearing those chimes at midnight with Falstaff meant some good, late night frolics.  But Hal must separate himself from his drinking buddy to become HenryV.  Beyond the horizon, maybe they hear those chimes together again.
Below is a link to the Orson Welles film on the Henry plays called Chimes at Midnight.  Within the first 1:15 the phrase above is spoken.  It’s worth a look just t see Welles, but note the nostalgia for good ole times–going back to them, dream-like . . . like a Bob Dylan dream where you’d hear
I wish, I wish, I wish in vain
That we could sit simply in that room again
Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat
I’d give it all gladly if our lives could be like that

“chimes” and “midnight” appear in “Chimes of Freedom,” too.  In this song the sound of the bell is broken or maybe it’s “like the fading sound of bells in the distance” or “more of a knell than a chime,” as Dalton says, but the flashing replaces the impact of sound, sound illuminating, a synesthesia effect on behalf of but maybe also to reveal “the warriors whose strength is not to fight,” “the refugees on the unarmed road of flight,” and “each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night”:

Far between sundown’s finish an’ midnight’s broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An’ for each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Broken, too, is any end of line rhyming in those first four lines, but not the chiming of the short vowel sounds in “finish”/”midnight’s,” “ducked”/”thunder,” “Seeming”/”freedom.”  . . . “bewilderment in the highest degree”?  Sure, but in a good way.


midnight” modifies the moon and a train on “Standing in the Doorway,” but  (mid)–night train/my veins” may be the best damn rhyme on the whole Time Out of Mind  album:

Trying to Get to Heaven” is on my list of top ten Dylan songs.  It’s tone is carried through so perfect and Dylan’s voice soothes while it aches from the “air is getting hotter” right to Sugartown.  Fittingly, “midnight” appears in the last of five stanzas. Death may not the end but midnight is and for a person trying to get anywhere, let alone heaven, before the door is closed, midnight might just be the deadline. But “midnight” is not a specific time in this song; it just describes a rambler and it’s not involved in any rhyme:
Some trains don’t pull no gamblers
No midnightramblers like they did before

A rambler is an individual on a peaceful walk.  A Middle Dutch derivation of the word though refers it to as animal wandering about in heat”–an interesting link to a song that begins, “The air is getting hotter.”
In his chapter on ‘Hope” in Dylan’s Visions of Sin, Ricks refers to “Can’t Wait” as one of Bob’s”how much longer” songs.  From the title, how much longer he can’t wait clashes with the ending of just about every stanza when he either says “And” or “But” “I don’t know how much longer I can wait.”  Can/Can’t what’s the difference, right?  Well, when you say you can’t wait for something eager anticipation is involved, saying you can wait implies a kind of take or leave it, leaning on the leave it.

midnight” appears in the first stanza where can’t and can waiting are both present, the first at the beginning (repeating the title) and the latter at the end:

I can’t wait, wait for you to change your mind
It’s late, I’m trying to walk the line
Well, it’s way past midnight and there are people all around
Some on their way up, some on their way down
The air burns and I’m trying to think straight
And I don’t know how much longer I can wait

The “can’t wait” seems more literal–he literally can’t wait–there’s an urgency, but not one tied to anticipation.  Something’s about to happen.  It’s way past midnight–and people going up or down suggest a waiting for judgment that’s a result of the tolling of the midnight bell.  The burning air is ominous, portending a descent rather than an airlift.  “midnight“‘s not involved with any rhymes, but each end of the line is, and this song seems about being at the end of the line or one’s line, or rope, though if the line’s long enough maybe he’ll just have to wait, or we will; it’s a long song, can’t wait for it to end . . . how much longer . . . or can’t wait for the end, can’t wait, can wait.  Gotta go, can’t wait.
On Empire Burlesque, “midnight” appears twice, once in “Something’s Burning, Baby” and in “Dark Eyes.,” the last two songs of the album, the midnight of it, if you will.  In “Something’s Burning,” “midnight” modifying”train” is not included in the rhyme, but “train” is:
Got to start someplace, baby, can you explain?
Please don’t fade away on me, baby, like the midnighttrain

In “Dark Eyes, a song Shelton calls “an affirmation of love’s transcendence in a painful world,” “midnight” describes the moon:
Oh, the gentlemen are talking and the midnight moon is on the riverside
They’re drinking up and walking and it is time for me to slide

midnight”  helps perspective in both songs.  A midnight train does fade for someone on the platform watching it disappear into the night.  A midnight moon shines bright off the water when one sees it in the distance perhaps from a concert stage (Ricks makes much ado about the last line of the song referring to the eyes Dylan sees at every performance) near a, river (riverside) lake or park.  And the singer is about to slide, slide out?, the crowd is thinning out, and he’s just about to do the same?  On stage, removed, from another world (where one stands seems to matter in this song: “They tell me revenge is sweet and from where they stand, I’m sure it is.), the world he sings to is separate from his:
I live in another world where life and death are memorized
Where the earth is strung with lovers’ pearls and all I see are dark eyes

In 1997, Dylan said, “When I’m up there, I just see faces. A face is a face, they are all the same” (Ricks 490). Singing about life and death every night, which truth be told he does, better sometimes to lift those eyes to that unique midnight moon above/beyond the sameness of dark eyes.
(Midnight Moon by B. Wilson)
In “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest,” “creep” rhymes with “leap,” two nicely juxtaposed contrasting movements.  It’s “creep” that finds “midnight” in front of it though, not leap, which would make the lines with that rhyme less open to interpretation:
Well, up the stairs ran Frankie Lee
With a soulful, bounding leap
And, foaming at the mouth
He began to make his midnight creep
For sixteen nights and days he raved
But on the seventeenth he burst
Into the arms of Judas Priest
Which is where he died of thirst

Really, it’s the word “make” that causes interesting problems.   A person can make a low to the ground movement, because  he would rather not be noticed.  So “midnight” describes the time of the creeping.  And this makes sense in the song, being that this is no home but a brothel Frankie Lee goes to (creeps) for sixteen nights . . . days, too.  But Frankie may have turned those days into nights (“moral desert,” Shelton calls it), succumbing to temptations of the flesh.  So Frankie Lee may have made his midnight go slower, move gradually, to the tune of 16 days worth of midnight.
Not sure if anything is revealed by this; even the little creep who carries Frank Lee’s body to its grave concealing his guilt while doing, says, “‘Nothing is revealed,'” just what someone who creeps or a creep would want, perhaps especially around midnight.
Here’s the audio of Bob singing it live in London in 2000 sometime within 24 hours of midnight:
I have listened to “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” many a time; as an undergraduate, I even recall writing about it in a T.S. Eliot class with Christopher Ricks, so when I recently listened to it and then saw “midnight rug,” I think I just chalked it up as just one of those far-reaching psychedelia Blonde on Blonde moments that would evade me. Maybe it didn’t help that rug rhymed with drugs (“midnight” playing bridesmaid again to the rhyming word):
With your childhood flames on your midnight rug
And your Spanish manners and your mother’s drugs

But then I googled “midnight rug” just to see what would happen.  I was surprised to find that I could buy a midnight rug if I wanted to–midnight is a color.  Now, who knows what Dylan meant by the phrase, but in any event for me he advanced the range of midnight‘s meanings–and I kind of like the color, it’s, wouldn’t you know it, dark, black, and look what it does for a rug:
Hand-hooked Midnight Garden Black Wool Rug (5'3 x 8'3)
Daniel Mark Epstein, in The Ballad of Bob Dylan reports that on the night Allen Ginsberg died Dylan, on stage at the time, sang “Desolation Row” on his behalf.  He told his audience that it was one of Ginsberg’s favorite songs–perhaps especially for what it said to him in its eighth stanza about the education system , as Michael Gray puts it, “organized to enforce and perpetuate ignorance, a nightmarish machinery . . .”
I can’t find a video or recording of that moment (if anyone can, please let me know or feel free to post it in a comment) and I would someday love to hear it.  I wonder for instance how Bob sounded that night when he sang that eighth verse,
Now at midnight all the agents
And the superhuman crew
Come out and round up everyone
That knows more than they do
Then they bring them to the factory
Where the heart-attack machine
Is strapped across their shoulders
And then the kerosene
Is brought down from the castles
By insurance men who go
Check to see that nobody is escaping
To Desolation Row

It’s got “midnight” in it, no rhyme involved, just the word perhaps tolling a bell this time, for his friend, rounded up that night, brought to the eternal factory, etc., etc. I just wonder what Bob’s own words meant to him when he sang them for his friend that night, probably not too far from midnight.
Christopher Ricks sees the darker side of “Love Minus Zero, No Limit” coming out in the last verse that begins with the image of that midnight bridge trembling:
The bridge at midnight trembles
The country doctor rambles
Bankers’ nieces seek perfection
Expecting all the gifts that wise men bring
The wind howls like a hammer
The night blows cold and rainy
My love she’s like some raven
At my window with a broken wing

Ricks asks, “[W]ho (it may be wondered with a slight tremble ) can be out there at this time of night?” Yes, there’s something deeply dark about the song’s ending,” and it is “midnight” that helps kick it off.  Ricks aims at the un-rhyming of “perfection” and “hammer” as indicative of a feeling in the song that moves from admiration of the woman’s aloofness to “a need that she not be so strong.”
Though “midnight” is an un-rhymed word as well, short and long “i” sounds permeate almost every line in the verse, creating a dark blanket of midnight from beginning to end.  Shelton doesn’t think the “ominous images . . . mar the tranquility that the love object exudes,” but Jean Tamarin observes how it “expresses a yearning that’s always disappointed.” “midnight,” real “midnight”–time of almost night “midnight” and Dylan seem to like going to the dark side together.
Here’s Bob singing it live from the Rolling Thunder Review: