Bob Dylan at 80. My top 80 greatest Bob Dylan songs. Today: 70 through 61 (Part 2)

Bob Dylan at 80. My top 80 greatest Bob Dylan songs. Today: 70 through 61 (Part 2) May 10, 2021

On May 24, 2021, Bob Dylan turns 80. In honor of this occasion, I have put together a list of what I believe are the 80 greatest songs that Dylan has composed and performed over his nearly 60-year career. (To see what I mean by “composed and performed,” go here).  Starting on May 8, 2021, I began an eight-part series of posts on these 80 songs. We have already gone through songs 80 through 71.  Today we cover songs 70 through 61:

70.  Murder Most Foul (2020)
69.  Not Dark Yet (1997)
68.  When the Ship Comes In (1963)
67.  Tryin’ to Get to Heaven (1997)
66.  Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You (1969)
65.  Slow Train (1979)
64.  Key West (Philosopher Pirate) (2020)
63.  Tombstone Blues (1965)
62.  Shooting Star (1989)
61.  Oxford Town (1963)

What follows is a recorded performance of each song followed by the lyrics.  If I could not find a recording of a Dylan performance (or at least a good one), I included a cover version.  In this second installment all the performances are by Dylan except for “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven” by Joan Osborne.

70.  Murder Most Foul (2020)

‘Twas a dark day in Dallas – November ‘63
The day that will live on in infamy
President Kennedy was riding high
A good day to be living and a good day to die
Being led to the slaughter like a sacrificial lamb
Say wait a minute boys, do you know who I am?
Of course we do, we know who you are
Then they blew off his head when he was still in the car
Shot down like a dog in broad daylight
‘Twas a matter of timing and the timing was right
You got unpaid debts and we’ve come to collect
We’re gon’ kill you with hatred and without any respect
We’ll mock you and shock you, we’ll grin in your face
We’ve already got someone here to take your place

The day that they blew out the brains of the king
Thousands were watching, no one saw a thing
It happened so quickly – so quick by surprise
Right there in front of everyone’s eyes

Greatest magic trick ever under the sun
Perfectly executed, skillfully done
Wolfman, oh wolfman, oh wolfman, howl
Rub a dub dub – it’s murder most foul

Hush lil children, you’ll soon understand
The Beatles are coming they’re gonna hold your hand
Slide down the banister, go get your coat
Ferry ‘cross the Mersey and go for the throat
There’s three bums comin’ all dressed in rags
Pick up the pieces and lower the flags
I’m going to Woodstock, it’s the Aquarian Age
Then I’ll go over to Altamont and sit near the stage
Put your head out the window, let the good times roll
There’s a party going on behind the grassy knoll
Stack up the bricks and pour the cement
Don’t say Dallas don’t love you, Mr. President
Put your foot in the tank and step on the gas
Try to make it to the triple underpass
Black face singer – white face clown
Better not show your faces after the sun goes down

I’m in the red-light district like a cop on the beat
Living in a nightmare on Elm Street

When you’re down on Deep Ellum put your money in your shoe
Don’t ask what your country can do for you
Cash on the barrel head, money to burn
Dealey Plaza, make a left hand turn
Go down to the crossroads, try to flag a ride
That’s the place where Faith, Hope and Charity died
Shoot ‘em while he runs, boy, shoot ‘em while you can
See if you can shoot the Invisible Man
Goodbye, Charlie, goodbye Uncle Sam
Frankly, Miss Scarlet, I don’t give a damn
What is the truth and where did it go
Ask Oswald and Ruby – they oughta know
Shut your mouth, says the wise old owl
Business is business and it’s murder most foul

Tommy can you hear me, I’m the Acid Queen
I’m ridin’ in a long black Lincoln limousine
Ridin’ in the back seat, next to my wife
Heading straight on into the afterlife
I’m leaning to the left, got my head in her lap
Oh Lord, I’ve been led into some kind of a trap
We ask no quarter, no quarter do we give
We’re right down the street from the street where you live
They mutilated his body and took out his brain
What more could they do, they piled on the pain
But his soul was not there where it was supposed to be at
For the last fifty years they’ve been searching for that

Freedom, oh freedom, freedom over me
Hate to tell you, Mister, but only dead men are free
Send me some loving – tell me no lie
Throw the gun in the gutter and walk on by
Wake up, Little Suzie, let’s go for a drive
Cross the Trinity River, let’s keep hope alive
Turn the radio on, don’t touch the dials
Parkland Hospital’s only six more miles
You got me dizzy Miss Lizzy, you filled me with lead
That magic bullet of yours has gone to my head
I’m just a patsy like Patsy Cline
I never shot anyone from in front or behind
Got blood in my eyes, got blood in my ear
I’m never gonna make it to the New Frontier

Zapruder’s film, I’ve seen that before
Seen it thirty three times, maybe more
It’s vile and deceitful – it’s cruel and it’s mean
Ugliest thing that you ever have seen
They killed him once, they killed him twice
Killed him like a human sacrifice
The day that they killed him, someone said to me, “Son,
The age of the anti-Christ has just only begun.”
Air Force One coming in through the gate
Johnson sworn in at two thirty-eight
Let me know when you decide to throw in the towel
It is what it is and it’s murder most foul

What’s New Pussycat – wha’d I say

I said the soul of a nation been torn away
It’s beginning to go down into a slow decay
And that it’s thirty-six hours past judgment day
Wolfman Jack, he’s speaking in tongues
He’s going on and on at the top of his lungs
Play me a song, Mr. Wolfman Jack
Play it for me in my long Cadillac
Play that Only The Good Die Young
Take me to the place where Tom Dooley was hung
Play St. James Infirmary in the court of King James
If you want to remember, better write down the names
Play Etta James too, play I’d Rather Go Blind
Play it for the man with the telepathic mind
Play John Lee Hooker play Scratch My Back
Play it for that strip club owner named Jack
Guitar Slim – Goin’ Down Slow
Play it for me and for Marilyn Monroe
And please, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
Play it for the First Lady, she ain’t feeling that good
Play Don Henley – play Glenn Frey
Take it to the Limit and let it go by
And play it for Carl Wilson, too
Lookin’ far, far away down Gower Avenue
Play Tragedy, play Twilight Time
Take Me Back to Tulsa to the scene of the crime
Play another one and Another One Bites the Dust
Play the Old Rugged Cross and in G-d We Trust
Ride the Pink Horse down that Long, Lonesome Road

Stand there and wait for his head to explode
Play Mystery Train for Mr. Mystery
The man who fell down dead, like a rootless tree
Play it for the Reverend, play it for the Pastor
Play it for the dog that’s got no master
Play Oscar Peterson and play Stan Getz
Play Blue Sky, play Dickie Betts
Play Art Pepper, play Thelonious Monk
Charlie Parker and all that junk
All that junk and All That Jazz
Play something for The Birdman of Alcatraz
Play Buster Keaton play Harold Lloyd
Play Bugsy Siegel play Pretty Boy Floyd
Play all the numbers, play all the odds
Play Cry Me A River for the Lord of the Gods
Play number nine, play number six
Play it for Lindsey and Stevie Nicks
Play Nat King Cole, play Nature Boy
Play Down in the Boondocks for Terry Malloy
Play It Happened One Night and One Night of Sin
There’s twelve million souls that are listening in
Play the Merchant of Venice, play the merchants of death
Play Stella by Starlight for Lady Macbeth
Don’t worry Mr. President, help’s on the way
Your brothers are comin’, there’ll be hell to pay
Brothers? What brothers? What’s this about hell?
Tell ‘em we’re waitin’- keep coming – we’ll get ‘em as well

Love Field is where his plane touched down
But it never did get back up off of the ground
Was a hard act to follow, second to none
They killed him on the Altar of the Rising Sun
Play Misty for me and that Old Devil Moon
Play Anything Goes and Memphis in June
Play Lonely at the Top and Lonely Are the Brave
Play it for Houdini spinning around in his grave
Play Jelly Roll Morton, play Lucille
Play Deep in a Dream and play Drivin’ Wheel 
Play Moonlight Sonata in F sharp
And Key to the Highway by the king of the harp
Play Marchin’ Through Georgia and Dumbarton’s Drums
Play Darkness and death will come when it comes
Play Love Me or Leave Me by the great Bud Powell
Play the Blood Stained Banner – play Murder Most Foul

69.  Not Dark Yet (1997)

Shadows are falling and I’ve been here all day
It’s too hot to sleep, time is running away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I’ve still got the scars that the sun didn’t heal
There’s not even room enough to be anywhere

It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain
She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind
She put down in writing what was in her mind
I just don’t see why I should even care
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

Well, I’ve been to London and I’ve been to gay Paree
I’ve followed the river and I got to the sea
I’ve been down on the bottom of a world full of lies
I ain’t looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes
Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

I was born here and I’ll die here against my will
I know it looks like I’m moving, but I’m standing still
Every nerve in my body is so vacant and numb
I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don’t even hear a murmur of a prayer
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

68.  When the Ship Comes In (1963)

Oh the time will come up

When the winds will stop
And the breeze will cease to be breathin’
Like the stillness in the wind
’Fore the hurricane begins
The hour when the ship comes in

Oh the seas will split
And the ship will hit
And the sands on the shoreline will be shaking
Then the tide will sound
And the wind will pound
And the morning will be breaking

Oh the fishes will laugh
As they swim out of the path
And the seagulls they’ll be smiling
And the rocks on the sand
Will proudly stand
The hour that the ship comes in

And the words that are used
For to get the ship confused
Will not be understood as they’re spoken
For the chains of the sea
Will have busted in the night
And will be buried at the bottom of the ocean

A song will lift
As the mainsail shifts
And the boat drifts on to the shoreline
And the sun will respect
Every face on the deck
The hour that the ship comes in

Then the sands will roll
Out a carpet of gold
For your weary toes to be a-touchin’
And the ship’s wise men
Will remind you once again
That the whole wide world is watchin’

Oh the foes will rise
With the sleep still in their eyes
And they’ll jerk from their beds and think they’re dreamin’

But they’ll pinch themselves and squeal
And know that it’s for real
The hour when the ship comes in

Then they’ll raise their hands
Sayin’ we’ll meet all your demands
But we’ll shout from the bow your days are numbered
And like Pharoah’s tribe
They’ll be drownded in the tide
And like Goliath, they’ll be conquered

67.  Tryin’ to Get to Heaven (1997)

(Performed by Joan Osborne)

The air is getting hotter
There’s a rumbling in the skies
I’ve been wading through the high muddy water
With the heat rising in my eyes
Every day your memory grows dimmer
It doesn’t haunt me like it did before
I’ve been walking through the middle of nowhere
Trying to get to heaven before they close the door

When I was in Missouri
They would not let me be
I had to leave there in a hurry
I only saw what they let me see
You broke a heart that loved you
Now you can seal up the book and not write anymore
I’ve been walking that lonesome valley
Trying to get to heaven before they close the door

People on the platforms
Waiting for the trains
I can hear their hearts a-beatin’
Like pendulums swinging on chains
I tried to give you everything
That your heart was longing for
I’m just going down the road feeling bad
Trying to get to heaven before they close the door

I’m going down the river
Down to New Orleans
They tell me everything is gonna be all right
But I don’t know what “all right” even means
I was riding in a buggy with Miss Mary-Jane
Miss Mary-Jane got a house in Baltimore
I been all around the world, boys
Now I’m trying to get to heaven before they close the door

Gonna sleep down in the parlor
And relive my dreams
I’ll close my eyes and I wonder
If everything is as hollow as it seems
When you think that you’ve lost everything
You find out you can always lose a little more
I been to Sugar Town, I shook the sugar down
Now I’m trying to get to heaven before they close the door

66.  Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You (1969)

Throw my ticket out the window

Throw my suitcase out there, too
Throw my troubles out the door
I don’t need them anymore
’Cause tonight I’ll be staying here with you

I should have left this town this morning
But it was more than I could do
Oh, your love comes on so strong
And I’ve waited all day long
For tonight when I’ll be staying here with you

Is it really any wonder
The love that a stranger might receive
You cast your spell and I went under
I find it so difficult to leave

I can hear that whistle blowin’
I see that stationmaster, too
If there’s a poor boy on the street
Then let him have my seat
’Cause tonight I’ll be staying here with you

Throw my ticket out the window
Throw my suitcase out there, too
Throw my troubles out the door
I don’t need them anymore
’Cause tonight I’ll be staying here with you

65.  Slow Train (1979)

Sometimes I feel so low-down and disgusted
Can’t help but wonder what’s happenin’ to my companions
Are they lost or are they found
Have they counted the cost it’ll take to bring down

All their earthly principles they’re gonna have to abandon?
There’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

I had a woman down in Alabama
She was a backwoods girl, but she sure was realistic
She said, “Boy, without a doubt
Have to quit your mess and straighten out
You could die down here, be just another accident statistic”
There’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

All that foreign oil controlling American soil
Look around you, it’s just bound to make you embarrassed
Sheiks walkin’ around like kings
Wearing fancy jewels and nose rings
Deciding America’s future from Amsterdam and to Paris
And there’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

Man’s ego is inflated, his laws are outdated, they don’t apply no more
You can’t rely no more to be standin’ around waitin’
In the home of the brave
Jefferson turnin’ over in his grave
Fools glorifying themselves, trying to manipulate Satan
And there’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

Big-time negotiators, false healers and woman haters
Masters of the bluff and masters of the proposition
But the enemy I see
Wears a cloak of decency
All nonbelievers and men stealers talkin’ in the name of religion

And there’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

People starving and thirsting, grain elevators are bursting
Oh, you know it costs more to store the food than it do to give it
They say lose your inhibitions
Follow your own ambitions
They talk about a life of brotherly love show me someone who knows how to live it
There’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

Well, my baby went to Illinois with some bad-talkin’ boy she could destroy
A real suicide case, but there was nothin’ I could do to stop it
I don’t care about economy
I don’t care about astronomy
But it sure do bother me to see my loved ones turning into puppets
There’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

64. Key West (Philosopher Pirate) (2020)

McKinley hollered – McKinley squalled
Doctor said McKinley – death is on the wall
Say it to me if you got something to confess
I heard all about it – he was going down slow
Heard it on the wireless radio
From down in the boondocks – way down in Key West

I’m searchin’ for love and inspiration
On that pirate radio station
It’s comin’ out of Luxembourg and Budapest
Radio signal clear as can be
I’m so deep in love I can hardly see
Down in the flatlands – way down in Key West

Key West is the place to be
If you’re lookin’ for immortality
Stay on the road – follow the highway sign
Key West is fine and fair
If you lost your mind, you’ll find it there
Key West is on the horizon line

I was born on the wrong side of the railroad track
Like Ginsberg, Corso and Kerouac
Like Louie and Jimmy and Buddy and all of the rest
It might not be the thing to do
But I’m stickin’ with you through and through
Down in the flatlands – way down in Key West

I got both my feet planted square on the ground
Got my right hand high with the thumb down
Such is life – such is happiness
Hibiscus flowers grow everywhere here
If you wear one put it behind your ear
Down on the bottom – way down in Key West

Key West is the place to go
Down by the Gulf of Mexico
Beyond the sea – beyond the shifting sand
Key West is the gateway key
To innocence and purity
Key West – Key West is the enchanted land

I’ve never lived in the land of Oz

Or wasted my time with an unworthy cause
It’s hot down here and you can’t be overdressed
The tiny blossoms of a toxic plant
They can make you dizzy – I’d like to help ya but I can’t
Down in the flatlands – way down in Key West

The fishtail ponds and the orchid trees
They can give you the bleedin’ heart disease
People tell me – I oughta try a little tenderness
Amelia Street – Bay View Park
Walkin’ in the shadows after dark
Down under – way down in Key West

I play the gumbo limbo spirituals
I know all the Hindu rituals
People tell me that I’m truly blessed
Bougainvillea bloomin’ in the summer and spring
Winter here is an unknown thing
Down the flatlands – way down in Key West

Key West is under the sun
Under the radar – under the gun
You stay to the left and then you lean to the right
Feel the sunlight on your skin
And the healing virtues of the wind
Key West – Key West is the land of light

Wherever I travel – wherever I roam
I’m not that far from the convent home
I do what I think is right – what I think is best
Mystery Street off Mallory Square
Truman had his White House there
Eastbound – westbound
Way down in Key West

Twelve years old and they put me in a suit

Forced me to marry a prostitute
There were gold fringes on her wedding dress
That’s my story but not where it ends
She’s still cute and we’re still friends
Down in the bottom – way down in Key West

I play both sides against the middle
Pickin’ up that pirate radio signal
I heard the news – I heard your last request
Fly around my Pretty Little Miss
I don’t love nobody – gimme a kiss
Down at the bottom – way down in Key West

Key West is the place to be
If you’re lookin’ for immortality
Key West is paradise divine
Key West is fine and fair
If you lost your mind you’ll find it there
Key West is on the horizon line

63.  Tombstone Blues (1965)

The sweet pretty things are in bed now of course
The city fathers they’re trying to endorse
The reincarnation of Paul Revere’s horse
But the town has no need to be nervous

The ghost of Belle Starr she hands down her wits
To Jezebel the nun she violently knits
A bald wig for Jack the Ripper who sits
At the head of the chamber of commerce

Mama’s in the fact’ry
She ain’t got no shoes
Daddy’s in the alley
He’s lookin’ for the fuse
I’m in the streets
With the tombstone blues

The hysterical bride in the penny arcade
Screaming she moans, “I’ve just been made”
Then sends out for the doctor who pulls down the shade
Says, “My advice is to not let the boys in”

Now the medicine man comes and he shuffles inside
He walks with a swagger and he says to the bride
“Stop all this weeping, swallow your pride
You will not die, it’s not poison”

Mama’s in the fact’ry
She ain’t got no shoes
Daddy’s in the alley
He’s lookin’ for the fuse
I’m in the streets
With the tombstone blues

Well, John the Baptist after torturing a thief
Looks up at his hero the Commander-in-Chief
Saying, “Tell me great hero, but please make it brief
Is there a hole for me to get sick in?”

The Commander-in-Chief answers him while chasing a fly
Saying, “Death to all those who would whimper and cry”
And dropping a barbell he points to the sky
Saying, “The sun’s not yellow it’s chicken”

Mama’s in the fact’ry
She ain’t got no shoes
Daddy’s in the alley
He’s lookin’ for the fuse

I’m in the streets
With the tombstone blues

The king of the Philistines his soldiers to save
Puts jawbones on their tombstones and flatters their graves
Puts the pied pipers in prison and fattens the slaves
Then sends them out to the jungle

Gypsy Davey with a blowtorch he burns out their camps
With his faithful slave Pedro behind him he tramps
With a fantastic collection of stamps
To win friends and influence his uncle

Mama’s in the fact’ry
She ain’t got no shoes
Daddy’s in the alley
He’s lookin’ for the fuse
I’m in the streets
With the tombstone blues

The geometry of innocence flesh on the bone
Causes Galileo’s math book to get thrown
At Delilah who sits worthlessly alone
But the tears on her cheeks are from laughter

Now I wish I could give Brother Bill his great thrill
I would set him in chains at the top of the hill
Then send out for some pillars and Cecil B. DeMille
He could die happily ever after

Mama’s in the fact’ry
She ain’t got no shoes
Daddy’s in the alley
He’s lookin’ for the fuse
I’m in the streets
With the tombstone blues

Where Ma Rainey and Beethoven once unwrapped their bedroll
Tuba players now rehearse around the flagpole

And the National Bank at a profit sells road maps for the soul
To the old folks home and the college

Now I wish I could write you a melody so plain
That could hold you dear lady from going insane
That could ease you and cool you and cease the pain
Of your useless and pointless knowledge

Mama’s in the fact’ry
She ain’t got no shoes
Daddy’s in the alley
He’s lookin’ for the fuse
I’m in the streets
With the tombstone blues

62.  Shooting Star (1989)

Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of you
You were trying to break into another world
A world I never knew
I always kind of wondered
If you ever made it through
Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of you

Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of me
If I was still the same
If I ever became what you wanted me to be
Did I miss the mark or overstep the line
That only you could see?
Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of me

Listen to the engine, listen to the bell
As the last fire truck from hell

Goes rolling by
All good people are praying
It’s the last temptation, the last account
The last time you might hear the sermon on the mount
The last radio is playing

Seen a shooting star tonight
Slip away
Tomorrow will be
Another day
Guess it’s too late to say the things to you
That you needed to hear me say
Seen a shooting star tonight
Slip away

61.  Oxford Town (1963)

Oxford Town, Oxford Town
Ev’rybody’s got their heads bowed down
The sun don’t shine above the ground
Ain’t a-goin’ down to Oxford Town

He went down to Oxford Town
Guns and clubs followed him down
All because his face was brown
Better get away from Oxford Town

Oxford Town around the bend
He come in to the door, he couldn’t get in
All because of the color of his skin
What do you think about that, my frien’?

Me and my gal, my gal’s son
We got met with a tear gas bomb
I don’t even know why we come
Goin’ back where we come from

Oxford Town in the afternoon
Ev’rybody singin’ a sorrowful tune
Two men died ’neath the Mississippi moon
Somebody better investigate soon

Oxford Town, Oxford Town
Ev’rybody’s got their heads bowed down
The sun don’t shine above the ground
Ain’t a-goin’ down to Oxford Town


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