Bob Dylan’s best songs – Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again #5

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“Now!… Well for one thing, the music, the rhyming and rhythm, what I call the mathematics of a song, are more second-nature to me. I used to have to go after a song, seek it out. But now, instead of going to it I stay where I am and let everything disappear and the song rushes to me. Not just the music, the words, too.
~Bob Dylan (to Margaret Steen, Nov 1965)

[SIoMWTMBA].. goes beyond being an exciting rock-music performance. It shares with those slower Blonde on Blonde songs ‘Visions of Johanna’ and ‘Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ a greater-than-average duration and a general high seriousness of intention.
~Michael Gray (BD Encyclopedia)

bob dylan stuck inside of mobile

@ #5 on my list of Dylan’s 200 best songs.. the second best song on Blonde On Blonde.

The master version (Blonde On Blonde version) was recorded @ Columbia Music Row Studios – Nashville, Tennessee –17 February 1966 (47 years ago).

This was the the 8th Blonde On Blonde session, produced by Bob Johnston.. and after 20 attempts Dylan was satisfied … with take 20. No other songs were tried @ this session.

….and those lovely drums….

…I know it sounds silly, but I love that song and how it pulls me in, but once I’m in there I always focus on the drummer. It’s a song with so much soul, but the more I listen, I always go back to those killer drums.
~Frank Black (Pixies, etc) (to MOJO’s “Dylan 100 best songs edition” )

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Master version (Blonde On Blonde):

Spotify:

Musicians:

  • Bob Dylan (guitar, harmonica, vocal)
  • Charlie McCoy (guitar)
  • Wayne Moss (guitar)
  • Mac Gayden (guitar)
  • Joe South (guitar, bass)
  • Al Kooper (organ)
  • Hargus “Pig” Robbins (piano)
  • Henry Strzelecki (bass)
  • Kenneth Buttrey (drums)

Lyrics

Oh, the ragman draws circles
Up and down the block
I’d ask him what the matter was
But I know that he don’t talk
And the ladies treat me kindly
And furnish me with tape
But deep inside my heart
I know I can’t escape
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

Well, Shakespeare, he’s in the alley
With his pointed shoes and his bells
Speaking to some French girl
Who says she knows me well
And I would send a message
To find out if she’s talked
But the post office has been stolen
And the mailbox is locked
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

Mona tried to tell me
To stay away from the train line
She said that all the railroad men
Just drink up your blood like wine
An’ I said, “Oh, I didn’t know that
But then again, there’s only one I’ve met
An’ he just smoked my eyelids
An’ punched my cigarette”
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

Grandpa died last week
And now he’s buried in the rocks
But everybody still talks about
How badly they were shocked
But me, I expected it to happen
I knew he’d lost control
When he built a fire on Main Street
And shot it full of holes
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

Now the senator came down here
Showing ev’ryone his gun
Handing out free tickets
To the wedding of his son
An’ me, I nearly got busted
An’ wouldn’t it be my luck
To get caught without a ticket
And be discovered beneath a truck
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

Now the preacher looked so baffled
When I asked him why he dressed
With twenty pounds of headlines
Stapled to his chest
But he cursed me when I proved it to him
Then I whispered, “Not even you can hide
You see, you’re just like me
I hope you’re satisfied”
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

Now the rainman gave me two cures
Then he said, “Jump right in”
The one was Texas medicine
The other was just railroad gin
An’ like a fool I mixed them
An’ it strangled up my mind
An’ now people just get uglier
An’ I have no sense of time
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

When Ruthie says come see her
In her honky-tonk lagoon
Where I can watch her waltz for free
’Neath her Panamanian moon
An’ I say, “Aw come on now
You must know about my debutante”
An’ she says, “Your debutante just knows what you need
But I know what you want”
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

Now the bricks lay on Grand Street
Where the neon madmen climb
They all fall there so perfectly
It all seems so well timed
An’ here I sit so patiently
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get out of
Going through all these things twice
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again

bob dylan blonde on blonde photshoot

“Stuck Inside of Mobile” is the one song recorded in Nashville that suggested Dylan might still go further exploring both his own psyche and the form he’d made a habit of reinventing. A masterpiece of the first order, it was proof positive, were it needed, that his claim he’d given up any attempt at perfection (on the rear sleeve of Bringing It . . .) hadn’t stopped him pursuing it.
~Clinton Heylin (Revolution in the air)

Wikipedia:

Released May 16, 1966
Recorded February 17, 1966,
Columbia Row Music Studios, Nashville, Tennessee
Genre Rock, folk rock
Length 7:07 (album version)
3:35 (single version)
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Bob Dylan
Producer Bob Johnston

Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” is a song written by Bob Dylan that appears on his 1966 album Blonde on Blonde.  The album version also appears on 1971’s Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II. A live version of this song appears on the 1976 album Hard Rain; and was also released as a single with “Rita May” as the B-side. An early studio take, done in a faster cut-time, was released on The Bootleg Series Vol. 7: No Direction Home: The Soundtrack. As the recording indicates, Dylan had difficulty fitting the words to the tempo, and evidently this led to its rearrangement, as heard on the official album, in a more “rock” oriented 4/4 time.

The Bootleg Series 7 version (take 5 @ the session):

 

Some live versions

The Warehouse – New Orleans, Louisiana – 3 May 1976 – Afternoon:

Jones Beach State Park – Wantagh, New York – 30 June 1988

Waikiki Shell – Waikiki, Hawaii – 24 April 1992:

Labatts Apollo – Manchester, England – 3 April 1995:

The Odeum Stage – Double JJ Ranch, Rothbury, Michigan – 5 July 2009:

Check out:  Bob Dylan’s 200 best songs

Check Out: Bob Dylan recording sessions

References:

-Egil

11 thoughts on “Bob Dylan’s best songs – Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again #5”

  1. It’s such a perfect song all the verses WORK so well. It’s abstract and yet makes so much sense. It reminds me why I love Dylan’s music so much. Thanks for this and all your posts. I look forward to them. Barry

  2. Yes, perfection, I even like the way he hums along the unfinished lyrics about 5 minutes on in the No Direction Home version. Great choice.

  3. I love everything about this song. I would like to hear the other takes if this is #20. There is one mistake by B Dylan in the following…

    I knew he’d lost control
    When (I) he built a fire on Main Street

    The message there is that sometimes you need to be satisfied and move on.

    I also like the following…
    You must know about my debutante”
    An’ she says, “Your debutante just knows what you need
    But I know what you want”

    I know what you want kills me.

  4. For some reason I always categorized this song as part of a trinity that included “I Want You” and “Just Like A Woman”. I love them all so much it is hard to distinguish one as the best of the three. Of course they all have different reasons for that love, but the arrangements and feel just glue them together, at least for me. The opening bars of “I Want You” were magical, and when I heard them for the first time it was as though the “Tambourine Man” was welcoming me back into his life.

    Thanks for the post Egil.

  5. Thanks for your – as always – informative blog; Whilst planning a trip to New Orleans from the UK, I came across an old photo of a “Ragman” dancing in circles up and down the block. This is a traditional American folk figure similar to the British Morris Men. In my ignorance I spent 45 years thinking this to be a figment of Dylan’s ever visual imagination.
    My feeling is that everyone else will say “doh, fancy not knowing that”!!!!

    1. Thanks for your comment David,

      I think most people reading this post… will actually appreciate this information 🙂
      I know I did.

      -Egil

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