“Positively 4th Street” (1965)

“Positively 4th Street” is a searing indictment against someone. Who?  We really don’t know, but who cares.  The insults are so good, so harsh, they amuse.  Ricks calls it “a masterpiece of regulated hatred.”  What can get lost in the midst of all the great putdowns is some of Dylan’s best rhymes:  “grinning”/winning,” “my back”/”contact,” “surprised”/paralyzed,” “rob them”/”problem.”

“Shoes” appear in the last two stanzas, with the power to rhyme as far as repetition of a word allows.  But “shoes”  gets Dylan to stand something on its head with the request to have someone stand inside his shoes and that is the cliche of “standing inside one’s shoes.”  Ricks observes that normally such a request  “is a movement inviting sympathy.”  Come see how I feel and you’ll understand me better.  But not with this shoe flip-flop.   Instead the “stand inside my shoes” is a way to turn back attention to the target of Dylan’s anger–you’ll understand not me , but what “a drag it is to see you.”  Ha! Yes, whoever you are, just when you thought you’ve lost everything in this song you find out you can lose a little more. And “shoes” helps Dylan pull this off:

I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment
I could be you

Yes, I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
You’d know what a drag it is
To see you

Here’s a performance from 1966 with live footage before the concert in White Plains, NY.