Lecture on

    "Hey Mr.Tambourine Man"

    [click for lyrics and realaudio excerpt]

    English 253--June 1, 1999

    Steven Marx

  1. General
    1. Title of Album: Bringing It All Back Home (Jan 1965)--from the public world to the individual consciousness
      1. sixties political revolution--concern with emotional and spiritual revolution, the individual soul--no solutions in the common and the public
      2. Blake and Wordsworth disillusion with revolution
      3. Bring Pop music back from England
    2. Mr. Tambourine Man--great lyric poem about search for transcendance in music and art--tradition of Blake, Wdsth, Keats, Shelley, Goethe, Schubert, Fitzgerald, Baldwin, Holiday, Bishop
    3. 1973: Al Aronowitz: " Bob must have stayed up past dawn rapping away at the keys in his cigarette fog. He had just broken up with...Suze...For him it was a long step farther into loneliness..." Robert Shelton, No Direction Home, 1986
    4. Who is The Tambourine Man?
      1. Most widely accepted interpretation: drugs--transcendance, freedom, escape, a trip, stripped senses, smoke rings of the my mind--the drug connection--acid rock
      2. More universal experience--Tambourine of Salvation Army; gospel
      3. muses of music and poetry--voice of inspiration
      4. sandman for adults--spirit of escape
      5. pastoral: e.g. Wordsworth: "the young lambs bound as to a tabor's (tamborine's) sound"=Innocence
      6. Tabor and pipe
        1. Blake's Piper
          1. "Piping down the valleys wild" to whom the child says, "Piper pipe that song again...Sing thy songs of happy chear,"
        2. the Fiddler on the Roof
        3. Mr. Bojangles
  2. The Song
    1. Musical structure
      1. Chorus repeated five times
      2. Repeats in chorus: first and third lines; melody in second and fourth lines varies slightly only at the end
      3. four stanzas
        1. each stanza is melodic extension of chorus--two part repetition, with apposite phrases
    2. Intense repetitiousness creates hypnotic, incantatory, nodding, lullaby effect-- comforting and yearning; aching desire
      1. counting sheep, trying to get to sleep
      2. for oblivion or peace or escape or transcendance
      3. eternal space of repetition; no time--the Grecian Urn: forget about today until tomorrow
    3. The words and poem
      1. Repeats but also varies dramatically; tells a story of progression from Experience to Innocence--and perhaps back at very end
        1. Speaker's mood changes in the course of the song
        2. each stanza gets longer: first has six lines, next two have seven lines, but third is longer than second, last has eight lines
      2. dense imagery; multiple meanings
      3. one theme: music vs. poetry--as in Blake's Introduction
      4. Dylan as poet
        1. mix popular and literary language
        2. mix registers:--in' endings with biblical sonorousness
        3. off center use of cliches--familiarity and originality
        4. sample lines and phrases:
          1. my weariness amazes me
          2. cast your dancing spell my way/I promise to go under it
          3. if you hear vague traces of skippin' reels of rhyme
          4. far from twisted reach of crazy sorrow
          5. to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
    4. Romantic Yearning--Sehnsucht, Weltschmertz--for Innocence or Eden in a world of Experience; comfort for great pain or fatigue
      1. Blake's Sunflower "weary of time who countest the steps of the Sun/Seeking after that sweet golden clime, Where the traveller's journey is done"
      2. Werther
      3. Frankenstein,
      4. Schubert, the Miller
      5. Wordsworth--
        1. the loss of the "glory and the freshness of a dream/it is not now as it hath been of youre
      6. Keats
      7. Rimbaud,
      8. Fitzgerald,
      9. Baldwin in Sonny's Blues
      10. Billie's Blues
  3. Structural Analysis
    1. Chorus--concentrates meaning and structure of ALL stanzas, both verbal and musical
      1. Rhyme scheme of chorus: abab
      2. First couplet-- Hey!...play a song FOR ME--commanding first time; second time, higher and pleading
        1. Audience's demanding relation to artist--Newport 1965
        2. I'm not sleepy...I'll follow--challenge
      3. Second time around--Pleading toward the muse, the artist, the prophet, for pleasure, escape, compensation, vision, wisdom, everything--Jesus Christ Superstar 1970
        1. I'm not sleepy
          1. release me from my present insomniac, nighttime immobility--new morning
          2. Jingle jangle morning--jangled nerves, carefree and musical
        2. there is no place I'm going to; I'll come followin' you--cult followers--the guru
        3. sense of huge loss: of love, of mother, of America the innocent, of the family and the past and future
          1. results of politics and drugs
        4. come following you....but dont follow leaders, watch the parking meters
        5. artist as loving and threatening
        6. PLAY opening chorus
    2. Stanza 1 [insomnia and clinical depression--wasted world]
      1. scheme: aa(a)bccb'
      2. no place I'm going to...no one to meet
        1. evening's empire returned to sand--Ozymandias--the Sandman [Marvel Comics]--sand castles
        2. ancient...vanished from hand...flowing through fingers
        3. empty street too dead for dreaming
          1. Blake's London: I wander thro' each dhartered street/near where the charter'd Thames does flow/And mark in everyface I meet/Marks of weakness, marks of woe."
          2. Tintern Abbey: the fretful stir/unprofitable, and the fever of the world
        4. cant sleep or dream--stand blindly; cant lie down; weariness amazes me
        5. PLAY stanza 1 and chorus
    3. Stanza 2 [desire for escape; pledge of faith--wasted self]
      1. (a)a(a)a(a')bc(c')b' [wanderin/under it]
      2. transition:--after no place, destination, person to meet, now no selfhood remaining
      3. take me on a trip--wanderlust
        1. magic/swirling drunken boat of Rimbaud
        2. a ritual prayer with which to begin a drug trip--loss of control
      4. ready to go anywhere; receptiveness; detached;
        1. cut loose; free; letting go
          1. no motive or direction or purpose; just being; readiness is all--existential dasein, being not being something or someone
        2. senses stripped, toes cant grip, toes too numb to step
          1. ready to be pushed by heels
          2. ready to fade into my own parade--multiple selves, impression; [like the world returned to sand]
            1. Keats: my heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains/my sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk/or emptied some dull opiate to the drains/...and Lethe ward had sunk...O for a draft of vintage....that I might drink, and leave the world unseen/and with thee fade away into the forest dim...Fade far away, dissolve and quite forget....the weariness, the fever and the fret...where but to think is to be full of sorrow
            2. Rimbaud: little drunken vigil holy--"Drunken morning"
        3. receptive to spell--promise to "go under it"
          1. magic and swirling; destroy world
          2. promise as pledge of good faith; surrender of selfhood
          3. pledge of discipleship--faith
            1. Steve Gaskin
            2. Tim Leary
            3. Other gurus and communards
            4. Weathermen and Charlie Manson
            5. the hashishins
      5. At end of Stanza 2, third chorus changes tone to eager instead of strung out
      6. PLAY Stanza 2 and chorus
    4. Stanza 3 [desire turns to satisfaction as speaker "goes under" the spell of the melody--as his imagination and emotion revive, as the morning comes up and he does follow T.M.]
      1. a(a')abc(c)cc'db
      2. The continuing song--the music of the instrumentalist--cf. Blake's Piper; Sonny's Blues, the Nightingale's whistle--lifts him to ecstasy and freedom
        1. laughin, spinnin, swining madly across sun
        2. escapin on the run...no fences
          1. Bishop: I'd drink the awful fizzy, stinging stuff/that went stright to my head/and play my home-made flue...and dizzy, whoop and dance among the goats."
          2. Tintern Abbey--a sense sublime/of something far more deeply interfused/whose dwelling is the light of setting suns/and the round ocean and theliving air
      3. The highpoint is the creation of the almost ineffable lyrics that come to him in this ecstasy of melody--no fences
        1. not aimed at anyone
        2. vague traces of skippin reels of rhyme
        3. to your tambourine in time
        4. a ragged clown behind...dont pay it any mind
        5. chasing his own shadow in those words
      4. Chorus now has new meaning: this is collaboration between melody/muse and the strung out hungry persona of the author writing about himself
        1. muse inspires and energizes him--not sleepy
        2. I'll come followin you with those glorious lyrics
        3. Followed by a long harmonica break ending with a moan
      5. PLAY stanza 3 and chorus and break
    5. Stanza 4 [reprise: take me away from the present time, from memory and fate and sorrow to a distant place of freedom and dance in solitude and forgetfulness]
      1. a(a')b(b')b''(b'')c b'''(b''')d(e)e'c
      2. take me disappearin through the smoke rings of my own mind
        1. an internal journey
        2. smoke rings produced from within; crawl into what the mind has produced
        3. smoke rings evanescent like sand castles or shadows or vague traces or skippin reels=rings
      3. utopian quest for innocence
        1. back past foggy ruins of time
        2. past frozen leaves, haunted frightened trees
          1. Wordsworth: "custom lies upon thee with a weight/Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life"
        3. to windy beach
          1. Wordsworth: "though inland far we be/our souls have sight of that immortal sea/which brought us hither/can in a moment travel thither/and see the children sport upon the shore/and hear the mighty waters rolling evermore"
        4. far from twisted reach--fjord or canyon
        5. diamond sky, waving free
          1. Mueller/Schubert: "The Brook's Lullaby": "Good night, good night. Until all awake/Sleep out your joy sleep out your pain/The full moon climbs/the mist fades away/and the heavens above, how wide they are."
          2. Baldwin: "Freedom lurked around us and I understood at last, that he could help us to be free if we would listen, the he would never be free until we did. Yet there was no battle in his face now. ..this was only a moment, that the world waited outside, as hungry as a tiger, and that trouble stretched above us longer than the sky."
        6. circled by circus sands--the wind as spirit--the sand as flowing, changing dancing reality--contrast and similar to evening's empire crumbling to sand
        7. memory and fate--the contrasted frozen reality
        8. additions of parallel rhyming phrases seem to go on for ever
      4. final point--perhpas return to opening--let down back to Experience like Keats and Wordsworth
        1. let me forget about today until tomorrow
        2. let the release be temporary
        3. Jingle Jangle morning now perhaps is the tomorrow when he'll pay his dues and return if he's just allowed a brief surcease of sorrow
      5. PLAY Stanza 4 and last chorus
    6. Conclusion
      1. Who is Tambourine Man: Bob Dylan singing this song as we are the speakers who are carried away, not think about today until tomorrow
      2. See "The Path of Totality"