“Black Diamond Bay” (1975)

Image result for desire dylan

On May 25, 1976, the day after Dylan’s 35th birthday, Dylan performed this song at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the first encore (see the playlist below from setlist.com) and would never perform it again (at least not up until the time I am writing this).  I wish I was there; I would have been 16, still reeling from Blood On The Tracks, which was the album that started my passion for Bob. I would have loved every minute of it.  I wonder if he changed any of the lyrics, how it was received by the audience, and if it told the same story.

It is co-written with Jacques Levy, who was a dominant influence on Desire, perhaps not the least of which was to thread that whole album with the theme of desire, objects of desire, being desirable, and thwarted desires–dreams deferred and such.

The imagery and descriptions are remarkable.  The girl we are introduced to with her necktie and Panama hat (a surviving artifact of the volcano we are told in the last verse) is certainly desirable, and she is so we know to at least two men in the tragic tale.  It is tragedy though seen as inconsequential, despite the onrush of events and the increasing alarming pace at which they unfold, and the deaths more than just implied, it’s just best to get another beer, say nothing, and conclude that if it doesn’t affect me directly it’s not of any importance:

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

It’s the fallout of distant TV news reporting, the inundation of stories like these that just don’t stop; people live, love, flirt, gamble, talk, do business, laugh, seek help and affection, and experience death.  We, not yet characters in some hard-luck story, just move on.

The rhyming impressively is as structured as it gets and this doesn’t get lost when hearing the song and it sounds so inviting to the ear that none of it seems stilted. Dylan’s consistent voice moves the tale and song along with a pace as smooth as a moon fading or cranes flying away, a voice calling us ” to come on in,” and an accompanying violin played by Scarlet Rivera that makes the voice and instrument experience like hearing crickets talking back and forth in rhyme.   The rhyme pattern consistent through seven verses of twelve lines each is a/b/c/c/b/d/e/f/e/g/g/g with the “e” rhymes stealing the show and the “g” rhymes building to the end of each verse awaiting Dylan’s resounding melisma, “Baaaaaaaay,” each time.

March 25, 1976 Salt Palace, Salt Lake City, Utah, Setlist

 
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