“Hazel” (1973)

Waiting for someone, especially someone you love or want to make love to can be torturous. Time seems to stand still when you’re waiting on a friend.  On the cover of Street Legal Dylan looks like he’s waiting for someone or perhaps to go meet someone himself.  But for being up on a hill, that cover is a good visualization for the waiting going on in “Hazel.”  He is still waiting by the end of the song, but in the third verse of four, he complains not about waiting but about his lover still not being where he is:

Oh no, I don’t need any reminder
To know how much I really care
But it’s just making me blinder and blinder
Because I’m up on a hill and still you’re not there

 

The long i has it in this verse, but that dominance just makes the presence of the short i internal rhyme of “hill”/”still” stand out more.  How much longer?  How long has this waiting been going on?  Well, long enough to feel like he’s going blind from looking for Hazel from the top of the hill she’s not on . . . yet.  Does she get there?  We never know . . . we are left with him playing the waiting game, forever still waiting:
Hazel, you called and I came
Now don’t make me play this waiting game
You’ve got something I want plenty of
Ooh, a little touch of your love
I love how Dylan sings, “Ooh, a little touch of your love . . . an outtake of “Hazel” from the 1994 MTV rehearsals:
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“Buckets Of Rain” (1974)

This five verse tight finger picking acoustic song goes along with a six line rhyme scheme of a/b/b/c/d/c, with one exception.  Its lightness and sway have a sound quality that makes the structure seem to disappear or at least not be noticeable perhaps the way all good verse works.

The fourth line of four of the five verses end with “baby.”  The exception is the third verse, which also departs from a/b/b/c/d/c for a/b/b/c/c/c,

Like your smile
And your fingertips
Like the way that you move your lips
I like the cool way you look at me
Everything about you is bringing me
Misery

which replaces the word but not the “e” sound in “baby” with the echo rhyme me/me with “Misery,” perhaps giving attention to how the word “misery” has the word “me” in it.

The last verse has an echo rhyme as well (must/must), but it is an internal rhyme with the rhyme at the end of the previous line:

Life is sad
Life is a bust
All ya can do is do what you must
You do what you must do and ya do it well
I’ll do it for you, honey baby
Can’t you tell?

I’m not an expert on instrumental sounds, but this song’s acoustic guitar brings out so well the rhyme sounds; I can hear something from each guitar solo that follow and set up the lyrics that align so well with the rhythm and pattern the rhymes create.

The song was performed live just once on November 18, 1990. Here is the audio of it.

 

“Born In Time” (1990)

Smack dab in the middle of “Born in Time” is a leonine rhyme with the word “will.”  A leonine rhyme is an internal rhyme that occurs when the word in the middle of the line rhymes with the last word in the line.  Here’s the verse it’s in:

 

Not one more night, not one more kiss
Not this time baby, no more of this
Takes too much skill, takes too much will
It’s revealing
You came, you saw, just like the law
You married young, just like your ma
You tried and tried, you made me slide
You left me reelin’ with this feelin’

 

This is one of Dylan’s many, many longing for/hurting over/pining for love songs.  There’s  a struggle within the speaker in the song.  Here he wants “no more of this.”  But by the end of the song, he says, “You can have what’s left of me.”  The pause in the line with the leonine rhyme is fitting then, thematic even; he pauses over the skill and will this kind of love requires, perhaps saying something he doesn’t mean, or at least we find he doesn’t mean it by the end.
It’s a terrific song.  The whole album, Under the Red Sky, gets lost in the fallout of Oh Mercy‘s quality and rave reviews.  I almost wish Under came out before Oh.
I love how Dylan sings it:

“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

 

All Over You (1963)

Anyone familiar with the Rolling Stones’ lyrics to “Let It Bleed,” will see connection to the eroticism in a title like “All Over You.” But to push that sexually aggressive voice more, Dylan adds a stalking predator voice to the lyrics, not present in “Let It Bleed,” as in the last four lines of the next to last and last verses:

Well, if I’m ever standin’ steady
A-doin’ what I want to do
Well, I tell you little lover that you better run for cover
’Cause babe, I’ll do it all over you

Well, after I do some of these things
I’m gonna do what I have to do
And I tell you on the side, that you better run and hide
’Cause babe, I’ll do it all over you

At the end of a performance of the song on July 25, 1963, Dylan says, “That’s kind of a mad song.”  Mad?  Angry mad? Mad as in a madness? Either way, the humor in the song is underscored during the whole performance and from the audience’s response during and after.

For me, the crucial word for a less on the surface interpretation is found in the word “over.”  The singer in this song is not mad at the target of his obsession but at himself for not doing all he could do over her, as in because of her, as in being head over heels in love with someone, or not being able to get over someone. If I had another chance to do it all over, and watch out, I will, is threatened all over the song, I would do it all because of  you (her).  The singer is promising that he will do it right if he gets a next time, and that next time will involve him being totally focused on her; everything he does will be for her.

The rhymes are alternating; in each of the 12 line verses, lines 2 and 4, 6 and 8, and 10 and 12 rhyme.  There’s internal rhyming starting with verse 2 found in lines 1 and 3, and that pattern continues in verses 3 and 4.  The internal rhymes are clever and arguably the most amusing, as in,

I’d jump up in the wind, do a somersault and spin.

And I grab me a pint, you know that I’m a giant

The terminal rhymes consist of do/you at the end of three of the four verses.  That’s  a rhyme often repeated in “All I Really Want To Do” as well.  I see the the meaning of this song similarly.  In “All I Really Want To Do,” all he really wants to do is not mistreat her; though in “All Over You,” he might seem to threaten mistreatment, it all depends on how “over” is interpreted.  To appreciate the double-meaning in this song, as in, say a song like “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” we may need to get over what doing something all over someone might mean.

Here’s that 7/12/63 performance:

 

Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat) (1978)

“A pathway that leads up to the stars” is suggestive of a stairway to heaven, yet “Where Are You Tonight,” which includes a 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 magnificent internal rhyming in this song is up there with the shake your head admiration of it in songs like “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Like A Rolling Stone.”  Listening intently for it is so worth the while.

Below is Dylan live singing it in 1978 in Charlotte, NC, the very year Street Legal was released, and the last year he sang it (33 times from July to December):

 

 

When I Paint My Masterpiece (1971)

Though the title of this song points towards the future, everything else in it is about the here and now, with a singer busy hurrying, dating, dodging and wasting time, and that’s just in the first ten lines.  The action is on display with the words that rhyme with “masterpiece,” those being “niece” (Levon sings”pretty little girl from Greece,” not “Botticelli’s niece” as the bobdylan.com lyrics state), “geese,” and “police.”  The content of the song hinges on the date with this girl, and being outdoors, running, sailing, flying with and through nature, and rebellion mixed with danger what with the need to dodge lions, cope with a frightening plane ride, and avoid police who hold down a newspaperman eating candy” (for eating candy?).

The song uses an alternate rhyming pattern with some delightful rhymes “Coliseum” with “see’em,” “memory” with”rhapsody,” and “gondola with “Coca-Cola.” However, there are exceptions to the pattern in the 5th and 7th lines of verses 1 and 3.  Also, the song consists of 4 verses of 8 lines each, with the third verse as the exception at only 2 lines containing the memorable “gondola”/Coca-Cola” rhyming couplet.

So it’s not a perfectly symmetrical rhyming or consistently structured  masterpiece. What of it?  This is a song about making claim to creating a future masterpiece, but for now there’s a whole lot of living to do, filled with some fears and memories, but mostly fun and anticipation, and little yearning: “Oh, to be back in the land of Coca-Cola.”

Masterful, however, is how Levon sings it. The song seems made for him, and probably was.  Below is a live version with Dylan singing it, and the studio with Levon at the helm singing it in his own way of singing a rhapsody.

 

Unbelievable (1990)

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.” Maybe not such an unbelievable literary reference what with the rhyming “sonnet” like couplets taking up all the end of line terminal rhymes.  When Romeo and Juliet first meet, their first words to each other form a sonnet.
Here’s DiCaprio and Danes pulling off that trick:
Yes, unbelievable, strange but true, inconceivable even . . . love and fate, that is.
Dylan’s official video of “Unbelievable,” with a much different kind of romance and Juliet, and fate, maybe even with a name . . . Jack?

“Soon After Midnight” (2012)

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.

 

Here’s panama hat adorning Bob on piano and singing it live in Chicago, 2014.

Shooting Star (1989)

Dylan opens “Shooting Star” at a concert in Rome during a 1991 tour saying that this is a song about “watching people pass you by.  They seem to come out of nowhere and pass you right by. ”  In Chronicles, he writes about how writing the song involved a coming out of nowhere: He calls it [t]he kind of song you hear when you’re wide awake in your head and see and feel things, but all the rest of you is asleep.” I take both of these comments as meaning that anything can be a shooting star, people, lyrics, melody, sound, etc; anything can enter your world, the world, shoot into you and then out, but trigger thoughts you weren’t planning to have, thoughts about a you, a me, and regrets, about some you and me:

Guess it’s too late to say the things to you
That you needed to hear me say

The rhyming in verses 1, 2, and 4, comprising three fourths of the song, have a strict pattern of a/b/c/b/d/b/a/b.  The b sounds in verse one are triggered by “you,” in 2, by “me,” and in 4 by “away,” the slipping away of the star, like how rhymes slip in and of a song that has rhymes.

The third verse is remarkable for what it shoots into the song, namely the last fire truck from hell (what a peculiar image that is), and things heard for the last time, the sermon on the mount, the last radio.  The rhyme pattern in it is a/a/b/c/d/d/c; it’s a pattern that breaks a pattern, both with the rhymes and the number of lines, 8 for the others, 7 for this one.  It is a verse that within the song comes from nowhere, and then passes right by.  It has a shooting star effect within a song about a shooting star, or all that jolts us into some recognition, memory, self-reflection.

The June 6, 1991, performance in Rome is below.  It’s a lovely one.