The Bush of Goats

Marc Williams, writer & designer: 'Life's too short for empty slog ans'

day 08 – a song that you know all the words to – Subterranean Homesick Blues – Bob Dylan

I was tempted to insert a modern ‘hit’ into this gap, as I’m struggling to find somewhere to fit something by current faves Metronomy, Jo Mount is truly a genius songwriter (not to mention arranger and composer) but I’ve managed to fit them in elsewhere (stay tuned, song fans!) Seeing however as this entire endeavour is mostly an exercise in showing off, I thought I’d choose my party piece (I don’t get invited to many parties these days. Go figure!). Haven’t done it in a few years, so some of the lines might be out of order – and there is obviously no point me checking, because I’ll then be tempted to change it.
It’s an interesting song this one; I’ve heard Bob Dylan lambasted recently for (amongst other things) writing lyrics that only work when sung; that when written down, hold no value as ‘just’ poetry.
That might be true in some instances, but there’s some brilliantly fleet imagery and great one liners in here:

Johnny’s in the Basement,
mixing up the medicine
I’m on the pavement
thinkin’ ’bout the government
A man in trenchcoat
badge out straight off
says he’s got a bad cough
wants to get paid off
look out kid,
it’s somethin’ you did
God knows when
but you’re doin’ it again
Better duck down the alleyway
Get yourself a new friend
man in a coon skin cap
and a pig pen
wants 11 dollar bills
but you only got ten

Maggie comes a fleet foot
face full of black soot
talking bout the heat puttin’
plants in the bed but
her phone’s tapped anyway
many come and many says
they must bust in early May
orders from the DA
Look out kid
don’t matter what you did
you better walk on tiptoes
don’t tie no bows
and keep away from those that hang around the fire hose
keep a clean nose
and watch the plain clothes
you don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows

aww, get sick get well
hang around the ink well
ring bell hard tail (?)
If anything it’s gonna sail
try hard, get barred
get back, write braille
get jail, jump bail,
join the army if you fail.
look out kid
your’e gonna get hit
by users, cheaters
six-time losers
girl by the whirlpool
is looking for a new fool
don’t follow leaders
and watch the parkin’ meters

Get born, keep warm
learn to dance, short pants romance
get dressed get blessed
try to be a success
please her, please him
twenty years of schoolin’ and they put you on the dayshift
ah look out kid,
they keep it all hid
you better jump down a manhole,
light yourself a candle
don’t wear sandals- you can’t afford the scandal
don’t wanna be a bum
you better chew gum
the pump don’t work ‘cos the vandals took the handle.

go on, test me:

Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues


Filed under: 30 days of music

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June 2011


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