The festival was over, the boys were all plannin’ for a fall
The cabaret was quiet except for the drillin’ in the wall
The curfew had been lifted and the gamblin’ wheel shut down
Anyone with any sense had already left town
He was standin’ in the doorway lookin’ like the Jack of Hearts
~Bob Dylan (Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts)
The uses of a ballad have changed to such a degree. When they were singing years ago, it would be as entertainment . . . A fellow could sit down and sing a song for a half hour, and everybody could listen, and you could form opinions. You’d be waiting to see how it ended, what happened to this person or that person. It would be like going to a movie … Now we have movies, so why does someone want to sit around for a half hour listening to a ballad? Unless the story was of such a nature that you couldn’t find it in a movie.
-Bob Dylan (to John Cohen, June 1968)
This epic ballad appears to have been wholly inspired by Dylan’s experience of making the movie Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid in a genre which suited both ballad and b-movies: The Western.
~Clinton Heylin (Still on the Road: The Songs of Bob Dylan Vol. 2, . 1974-2008)