Tag Archives: Understanding Bob Dylan

Opening chapter of “Understanding Bob Dylan”

This chapter will give readers a sense of what the book is and isn’t about. It’s hard to do justice to the themes covered in the book in short extracts, so I’m planning to put up more entries focusing on particular songs soon. Continue reading

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Understanding Bob Dylan out now

Available only online at Amazon:


Understanding Bob Dylan out now

An innovative new book brings a dramatically different perspective to Bob Dylan’s lyrics

Understanding Bob Dylan: making sense of the songs that changed modern music by Tony Beck

Tony Beck’s insights reveal a dramatically new perspective on the legendary poet singer Bob Dylan. Understanding Bob Dylan: making sense of the songs that changed modern music is now available from Amazon.com.

A comprehensive analysis of Dylan’s songs, Understanding Bob Dylan includes analysis based on access to Dylan’s archive, his hand-written notebooks for Blood on the Tracks, and lyrics he wrote but which have never been recorded by Dylan or anyone else.

Understanding Bob Dylan explores the themes Dylan has used since his early days to the present to shape an extraordinary body of work. The book assesses the ways in which Dylan adapts and echoes some of the most powerful themes in modern western literature: his songs about love, sex and money; his attitude towards creativity and writing; his lyrics on the highway and boundaries; and his thoughts on time and memory.

Understanding Bob Dylan explains why Dylan’s songs have the power and grace to move us.  It’s the book that makes sense of the songs that changed modern music.

All proceeds from Understanding Bob Dylan will be donated to a society in India fighting against poverty and injustice.

Wandering and wondering in Don’t think twice, it’s alright

Few symbols are closer to American hearts and desires than the highway. Without the highway, those lines crisscrossing the continent, there would be no modern cities, no suburbs, and no American dream. Travelling is a poetic common denominator which draws its power as an image from the way we have imbibed from an early age its uses in stories, songs and poems. Which is why the highway is so important to the songs of an American writer like Dylan. Continue reading

Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands

Here’s a post from the beginning of chapter two of “Understanding Bob Dylan”. which starts with an analysis of “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”, the beautiful but puzzling song that ends “Blonde on Blonde”. The chapter looks at how Dylan writes about those subjects that have been an endless preoccupation of modern western writers: love, sex and money, focusing on “Sad-Eyed Lady” and the rest of “Blonde on Blonde”, “Love minus zero”, “Simple Twist of Fate” (see the post below) and a few other Dylan favorites.

With your mercury mouth in the missionary times,
And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes,
And your silver cross, and your voice like chimes,
Oh, who among them do they think could bury you?

So begins the puzzling, evocative, mesmeric “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”, the last track of “Blonde on Blonde” which Dylan released in 1966, a song that has caught many Dylanists in its headlights. “Puzzling” –  some would say meaningless –  because this song contains weirdly complex imagery. “With your mercury mouth in the missionary times” – good luck working that one out. It’s a song that has elicited fundamentally different views from admirers and critics – and sometimes the same person. Dylan encyclopaedist, and author of “Song and Dance Man” Michael Gray, hated the song, then loved it. First he wrote a damning two page criticism which concluded: Continue reading

Dylan, once upon a time

Because time is money, and because time is a jet plane, and because time is an ocean which lies at the shore, and because most of the time Dylan writes about time, the last chapter of “Understanding Bob Dylan” covers our best enemy and worst friend, and what more fitting way to close a book than to end on time?

Dylan writes about time in many ways – the poetic endeavour to go beyond time into the fury of the moment; time and aging; and time and sleep. Here’s a short excerpt from the book that deals with time, sleep and insomnia: Continue reading