“Standing In The Doorway” (1997)

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.

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 the word is 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.

There’s also a lot of “he said” and “she did” in “Standing in the Doorway.”  She (is it a she, is the speaker a he?) done left him in the doorway crying, but when it comes down to it (literally down the end of the song), the rhyme with “said” says it all:

_______________________________________________________________________________________

I see nothing to be gained by any explanation
There are no words that need to be said
You left me standing in the doorway crying
Blues wrapped around my head

Yes, nothing to say, just tears and blues.  And an excellent blues tune it is ending with nothing to say, but plenty to sing, not to say, but a need to sing the blues.

Michael Gray calls “Standing In The Doorway” one of four major songs on Time Out Of Mind.  David Yaffe puts it on his top 70 list in Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown.  If you’ve ever been left alone, abandoned, tossed aside, rejected, well, this song resonates, finds its way into your heart, your broken one.

Dylan also uses “head” twice in the song, once in the second verse rhyming with “bad” and “sad”:

_______________________________________________________________________________________

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
I’m strumming on my gay guitar
Smoking a cheap cigar
The ghost of our old love has not gone away
Don’t look like it will anytime soon
You left me standing in the doorway crying
Under the midnight moon

This is a wrenched rhyme, the way Dylan delivers the “ea” sound forces it to rhyme with “bad”/”sad.”  The whole song is wrenching, the sadness is especially–captured so well with the tone of his voice, the highlight being the way he stretches out the word “head,” the last word on the song:

There are no words that need to be said
You left me standing in the doorway crying
Blues wrapped around my head

The “said”/”head” rhyme ends the song.  But it’s not the sound of that rhyme that lingers; it’s the way he stretches out the words that end the last two lines, ” crying” and “head.”  The singer is not the only one the blues wrap around by the end of the song, the listener is, too.  This is a blues song, and the lingering instrumental after the word “head” leaves the you with nothing to say and maybe even tearing up if you let the song have its desired effect on you.  The tone of voice and the atmosphere created by it may  be unmatched in any other Dylan song.

Here’s the version from Masked and Anonymous:

 

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: