JUKEBOX | BOB DYLAN | SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK BLUES
Posted on August 4, 2015 by Trace
— T u e s d a y T u n e s —
SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK BLUES
B O B D Y L A N
was originally released in 1965.
It was Dylan’s first Top 40 hit in the U.S.
The first line is a reference to codeine distillation and politics of the time —
“Johnny’s in the basement mixing up the medicine / I’m on the pavement thinkin’ about the Government”…
The song also depicts some of the growing conflicts between “straight” or “square” (40-hour workers) and the emerging 1960s counterculture.
The widespread use of recreational drugs, and turmoil surrounding the Vietnam War were both starting to take hold of the nation, and Dylan’s hyperkinetic lyrics were dense with up-to-the-minute allusions to important emerging elements in the 1960s youth culture.
According to rock journalist Andy Gill “an entire generation recognized the zeitgeist in the verbal whirlwind of Subterranean Homesick Blues.”
In 2004 Dylan said “It’s from Chuck Berry, a bit of ‘Too Much Monkey Business’ and some of the scat songs of the ’40s.”
Dylan has also stated that when he reached the University of Minnesota in 1959, he fell under the influence of the Beat scene..
“It was Jack Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso and Ferlinghetti.”
Kerouac’s ‘The Subterraneans’ a novel published in 1958 about the Beats, has been suggested as a possible inspiration for the song’s title.
The song also references the struggles surrounding the American civil rights movement [“Better stay away from those / That carry around a fire hose”].
During the civil rights movement, peaceful protestors were beaten and sprayed with high pressure fire hoses. Despite the political nature of the lyrics, the song went on to become the first Top 40 hit for Dylan in the United States.
Image with gratitude ©Lisa Law from her Bob Dylan Collection
John Lennon was reported to find the song so captivating that he didn’t know how he’d be able to write a song that could compete with it.
In addition to the song’s influence on music, the song was used in what became one of the first “modern” promotional film clips, the forerunner of what later became known as the music video.
The original clip was actually the opening segment of D. A. Pennebaker’s film ‘Don’t Look Back’ a documentary on Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour of England.
In the film Dylan, who came up with the idea, holds up cue cards for the audience, with selected words and phrases from the lyrics.
The cue cards were written by Donovan, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Neuwirth and Dylan himself. While staring at the camera, he flips the cards as the song plays.
There are intentional misspellings and puns throughout the clip: for instance, when the song’s lyrics say “eleven dollar bills” the poster says “20 dollar bills”.
The clip was shot in an alley behind the Savoy Hotel in London where Ginsberg and Neuwirth make a cameo in the background.
Thanks to the back of the Savoy Hotel retaining much of the same exterior as in 1965, the alley used in the video sequence has been identified as the Savoy Steps.
Dylan’s early focus on rock and roll gave way to an interest in American folk music; in 1985, Dylan explained the attraction that folk music had exerted on him:
“The thing about rock’n’roll is that for me anyway it wasn’t enough … There were great catch-phrases and driving pulse rhythms … but the songs weren’t serious or didn’t reflect life in a realistic way. I knew that when I got into folk music, it was more of a serious type of thing. The songs are filled with more despair, more sadness, more triumph, more faith in the supernatural, much deeper feelings.” Source — diluted wiki and google images
Johny’s in the basement
Mixing up the medicine
I’m on the pavement
Thinking about the government
The man in the trench coat
Badge out, laid off
Says he’s got a bad cough
Wants to get it paid off
Look out kid
It’s somethin’ you did
God knows when
But you’re doin’ it again
You better duck down the alley way
Lookin’ for a new friend
The man in the coon-skip cap
In the big pen
Wants eleven dollar bills
You only got ten.
Maggie comes fleet foot
Face full of black soot
Talkin’ that the heat put
Plants in the bed but
The phone’s tapped anyway
Maggie says that many say
They must bust in early May
Orders from the DA
Look out kid
Don’t matter what you did
Walk on your tip toes
Don’t try, ‘No Doz’
Better stay away from those
That carry around a fire hose
Keep a clean nose
Watch the plain clothes
You don’t need a weather man
To know which way the wind blows.
Get sick, get well
Hang around an ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin’ to sell
Try hard, get barred
Get back, write Braille
Get jailed, jump bail Join the army, if you failed
Look out kid
You’re gonna get hit
But losers, cheaters
Hang around the theaters
Girl by the whirlpool
Lookin’ for a new fool
Don’t follow leaders
Watch the parkin’ meters.
Ah get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don’t steal, don’t lift
Twenty years of schoolin’
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid
They keep it all hid
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don’t wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals
Don’t wanna be a bum
You better chew gum
The pump don’t work
‘Cause the vandals took the handles.
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