My top 20 Bob Dylan songs. Today: 4 through 1 – (Dylan turns 70)

On May 24, 2011, Bob Dylan turns 70. Between May 20 and today, May 24, I am posting my top 20 songs composed by Dylan. Here are the previous installments: 20 through 17 (May 20)16 through 13 (May 21), 12 through 9 (May 22) and 8 through 5 (May 23)

By limiting myself to only 20 Dylan songs, I have, of course, left off many classics including “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” “Just Like a Woman,” “The Lonesome Death of Poor Hattie Carroll,” “Gotta Serve Somebody,” “Masters of War,” “Love Minus Zero/No Limit,” “She Belongs to Me,” “I Shall Be Released,” “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” “I Believe in You,” “Political World,” “Hurricane,” “Lay Lady Lay,” “Changing of the Guards,” “Song to Woody,” “Tombstone Blues,” “Talkin’ John Birch Society Paranoid Blues,” “Things Have Changed,” “Ring Them Bells,” “Oxford Town,” “Shooting Star,” “I Want You,” “Girl From the North Country,” “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” “With God On Our Side,” “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine,” “All I Really Want to Do,” “Dignity,” “All Along the Watchtower,” “If Not for You,” “Pawn In the Game,” “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Shelter From the Storm,” “Dark Eyes,” “Tomorrow is a Long Time,” “Silvio,” “Rainy Day Women 12 & 35,” “Highway 61,” “Queen Jane Approximately,” “Forever Young,” and “Simple Twist of Fate,” to name a just a few songs that have no doubt appeared on other peoples’ top 20 lists. In fact, I suspect that two weeks from now, and in a different mood, 10 of my top 20 would include some of these others. Bob Dylan’s sheer volume of musical creativity boggles the mind.

Now, without further ado, here are my top 4 songs composed by Dylan:

4. Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
3. Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again (1966)
2. My Back Pages (1964)
1. Like a Rolling Stone (1965)

What follows is a video of each as well as lyrics….

4. Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
YouTube Preview Image
(performed by Bob Dylan live in 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival; he does not begin singing until about a minute into the video, though what precedes it is fascinating)

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Though I know that evenin’s empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street’s too dead for dreaming

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship
My senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip
My toes too numb to step
Wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin’
I’m ready to go anywhere, I’m ready for to fade
Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way
I promise to go under it

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Though you might hear laughin’, spinnin’, swingin’ madly across the sun
It’s not aimed at anyone, it’s just escapin’ on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facin’
And if you hear vague traces of skippin’ reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time, it’s just a ragged clown behind
I wouldn’t pay it any mind
It’s just a shadow you’re seein’ that he’s chasing

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Copyright © 1964, 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992, 1993 by Special Rider Music

3. Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again (1966)
YouTube Preview Image
(preformed live by the Grateful Dead in 1988)

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

Copyright © 1966 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1994 by Dwarf Music

2. My Back Pages (1964)
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xcgi0g
(performed live in 1992 by Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Neil Young, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan)

Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin’ high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
“We’ll meet on edges, soon,” said I
Proud ’neath heated brow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
“Rip down all hate,” I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull. I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Girls’ faces formed the forward path
From phony jealousy
To memorizing politics
Of ancient history
Flung down by corpse evangelists
Unthought of, though, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

A self-ordained professor’s tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
“Equality,” I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I’d become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
My pathway led by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Copyright © 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992 by Special Rider Music

1. Like a Rolling Stone (1965)
YouTube Preview Image
(performed by Bob Dylan live in 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival, the year he went “electric” and ticked off a lot of people. Hence, the boos at the end of the song).

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you?
People’d call, say, “Beware doll, you’re bound to fall”
You thought they were all kiddin’ you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin’ out
Now you don’t talk so loud
Now you don’t seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

You’ve gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely
But you know you only used to get juiced in it
And nobody has ever taught you how to live on the street
And now you find out you’re gonna have to get used to it
You said you’d never compromise
With the mystery tramp, but now you realize
He’s not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And ask him do you want to make a deal?

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
When they all come down and did tricks for you
You never understood that it ain’t no good
You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you
You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain’t it hard when you discover that
He really wasn’t where it’s at
After he took from you everything he could steal

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people
They’re drinkin’, thinkin’ that they got it made
Exchanging all kinds of precious gifts and things
But you’d better lift your diamond ring, you’d better pawn it babe
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse
When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You’re invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music

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