Song for Bob Dylan: Ten Songs Which Name-check Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan Releases ‘Like A Rolling Stone’. This Day in History, 24/07/1965.

1.  David Bowie ‘Song for Bob Dylan’

(from the album Hunky Dory, 1971).

2.  The Who ‘The Seeker’

(single A-side, 1970).

3.  Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins ‘The Charging Sky’

(from the album Rabbit Fur Coat, 2006).

4.  Belle & Sebastian ‘Like Dylan in the Movies’

(from the album If You’re Feeling Sinister, 1996).

5.  The Auteurs ‘Chinese Bakery’

(from the album Now I’m A Cowboy, 1994).

6.  John Lennon ‘God’

(from the album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, 1970).

7.  T-Rex ‘Ballrooms of Mars’

(from the album The Slider, 1972).

8.  Stephen Malkmus ‘Jo Jo’s Jacket’

(from the album Stephen Malkmus, 2001).

9.  Wilco ‘Bob Dylan’s 49th Beard’

(from the More Like the Moon EP, 2003).

10. Syd Barrett ‘Bob Dylan Blues’

(recorded in 1970).

Song of the Day: Travel in Music (Day Four). “Well It’s Alright, We’re Going to the End of the Line”.

The Traveling Wilburys were an English-American supergroup made up of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty.  The band recorded two albums, Traveling Wilburys (Vol. 1) (1988) and the mischievously and misleadingly titled Traveling Wilburys (Vol. 3) (1990).  Orbison died in December 1988, two months after the release of the first album.

Harrison had first mentioned the Traveling Wilburys during a radio interview with Bob Coburn on the Rockline Radio station in February 1988.  In answer to Coburn asking Harrison what he planned to do as a follow up to his 1987 album, Cloud Nine, Harrison replied:  “What I’d really like to do next is … to do an album with me and some of my mates ,,, a few tunes, you know.  Maybe The Traveling Wilburys … it’s this new group I got:  it’s called the Traveling Wilburys, I’d like to do an album with them and later we can do our own albums again”.

The band’s name derived from a slang term first used by Harrison during the recording of Cloud Nine with Lynne as producer.  ‘Wilbury’ referred to any small mistake in the performance, with Harrison saying to Lynne, “We’ll bury ‘em in the mix”.  Harrison originally suggested the name Trembling Wilburys for the band but Lynne suggested Traveling Wilburys, to which all members agreed.

The band name uses the American-English spelling, ‘Traveling’ in order to compliment the American / English membership of the band.  The ‘Wilbury’ joke was extended to the pseudonyms used by the band.  Taking on the guise of the Wilbury brothers, Harrison became Nelson Wilbury; Lynne became Otis Wilbury; Orbison became Lefty Wilbury and Petty became Charlie T. Jr. Wilbury.  Harrison had already used a number of pseudonyms in the past.  Take for example on The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967).

Additionally, as a session musician, he had gone under names such as L’Angelo Misterioso, George O’Hara and Hari Georgeson.  The five men stated that they were half-brothers and sons of the fictional Charles Truscott Wilbury Sr.  The real names of the band members never appear anywhere on any Traveling Wilburys release.

The band began with a meal between Harrison, Lynne and Orbison.  Shortly afterwards, they convened at Dylan’s home in Malibu, California to record a B-side for Harrison’s single, This Is Love (Cloud Nine, 1987).  Petty’s involvement came by chance due to Harrison leaving his guitar at Petty’s house.  When Harrison went to collect it, he took Petty back with him.  The resulting song was Handle with Care.  Those involved in the recording and Harrison’s record label felt that the song was too good to be thrown away on a single flipside and the five friends set out to record an entire album.  Recording took place in the home and garden of Eurythmics member, Dave Stewart.  Handle with Care is the opening cut on the resulting album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1.

The theme of travelling in the music of the Traveling Wilburys is most prevalent on the band’s second single and closing track of Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, End of the Line.  The single was released in January 1989.  The riding-on-the-rails rhythm of the song compliments the travel by train themed lyrics and the on-the-move nature of the band.  The whole band take on main vocal duties on the song, with the exception of Dylan.  Harrison, Lynne and Orbison take turns in singing the chorus whilst Petty sings the verses.  By the end of the song, the riding-on-the-rails rhythm has expanded into a freight train style rhythm.  Due to the video for the single being shot after the death of Orbison, the band opted to pay tribute to him with a single shot of a guitar sitting in a rocking chair next to a photo of their late friend.  The video shows the band members in a carriage of a steam train playing the song.

The song’s title refers to the train’s last stop whilst the lyrics contain the folk style wisdom derived from the band members’ past experiences.  As the song starts, Harrison takes the lead vocal with backing vocals from the other Wilburys.  The opening chorus sets the scene for the song, portraying the band members as free spirits:  “Well it’s all right, riding around in the breeze, Well it’s all right, if you live the life you please, Well it’s all right, doing the best you can, Well it’s all right, as long as you lend a hand”.

In the first verse, with lead vocals by Petty, the band tell of how they are unconstrained by every day things:  “You can sit around and wait for the phone to ring, Waiting for someone to tell you everything, Sit around and wonder what tomorrow will bring, Maybe a diamond ring”.

Following this, the second chorus, with lead vocals by Lynne finds the band telling the listener not to take any notice of what anybody else says:  “Well it’s all right, even if they say you’re wrong, Well it’s all right, as long as you got somewhere to lay, Well it’s all right, everyday is Judgement Day”.

Verse two, with lead vocals from Petty, finds the narrator thinking of somebody he has left behind:  “Maybe somewhere down the road aways, You’ll think of me, wonder where I am these days, Maybe somewhere down the road where somebody plays, Purple Haze”.  “Purple Haze” refers to the Jimi Hendrix song, Purple Haze.  Purple Haze was released as the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s second single in 1967 and was the opening song on the North American edition of his debut album, Are You Experienced?, also released in 1967.  Here, Petty is expecting his muse to associate the song with him whilst she is thinking of him.

The third chorus, with lead vocals by Orbison, continues the joyous celebration of being unfettered by worrying about the troubles of life:  “Well it’s all right, even when push comes to shove, Well it’s all right, if you got someone to love, Well it’s all right, everything’ll work out fine, Well it’s all right, everything’ll work out fine, Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line”.  This verse is poignant due to “the end of the line” being an analogy for death as well as the end of the railway line.

The third verse, with lead vocals by Petty, tells of how the narrator cares little about material possessions and states that he doesn’t even mind if anybody is “by his side”, perhaps meaning a loved one or those who criticise him in general:  “Don’t have to be ashamed of the car I drive, I’m glad to be here, happy to be alive, It don’t matter if you’re by my side, I’m satisfied”.

The fourth chorus, sung by Harrison, begins with the lines, “Well it’s all right, even if you’re old and grey, Well it’s all right, you still got something to say”.  When the band formed, Harrison was 45 years old Dylan and Orbison were even older.  Whilst traditional societies have often emphasised the wisdom of older people, modern rock music usually considers even the relative middle age of 45 as being too old to be relevant.  This verse is notable for being adapted as the theme tune for the BBC series New Tricks (2003 – present) and sung by cast member Dennis Waterman.

As the fourth chorus continues, we find the line “Well it’s all right, remember to live and let live”.  “Live and let live” was the name given to the strategy used by soldiers of both sides in World War One to avoid killing each other if it could be helped, often via the negotiation of truces between low-ranking soldiers.  The war was essentially a pointless one, with the common man not having much to gain or a cause to fight for.  As a result, these truces were quite common.  The most famous truce occurred on Christmas Day, 1914 when the opposing sides took part in a football match.  Unfortunately, such truces were easily broken with high ranking officers organising raids to encourage the violence to start again or disciplining soldiers for cowardice if they objected to killing.  The punishment for cowardice was death.  In the context of this song, however, “live and let live” means something akin to “let sleeping dogs lie”; i.e. live your life without harming others if necessary.  The final line of the fourth chorus, “Well it’s all right, the best you can do is forgive” suggests that we should forgive those who have wronged you in order to be free of bitterness and therefore, happy.

The song comes full circle with the final chorus, with lead vocals by Harrison, which starts with the same two lines found in the first chorus.  The verse continues with the line, “Well it’s all right, even if the sun don’t shine”.  The sun and clouds were reoccurring metaphors in Harrison’s songs, representing peacefulness and clarity.  For the best examples of this, see All Things Must Pass (All Things Must Pass, 1970); …

… Blow Away (George Harrison, 1979) …

… and Here Comes the Sun (The Beatles, 1968).

The song and the journey are neatly brought to a close with the line, “Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line”.

In 2000, End of the Line was used at the close of the last episode of BBC television comedy One Foot in the Grave, Things Aren’t That Simple Anymore.  The song was played over a montage of clips from the lifetime of the show, following the death of its main character, Victor Meldrew.  Interestingly, Eric Idle, who provided provided the liner notes for Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 under the pseudonym Prof. Tiny’ Hampton, wrote and sang the theme tune for One Foot in the Grave.

Song of the Day: Biography in Music (Day Three). “This is the Story of the Hurricane, The Man the Authorities Came to Blame”.

Hurricane is a protest song written by Bob Dylan for his 1976 album, Desire.  The song, co-written with Jacques Levy, is based on the imprisonment of American / Canadian boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter.  It compiles the alleged acts of racism and profiling against Carter, which led to his trial and wrongful imprisonment.  He was later freed via a petition of habeas corpus after spending almost twenty years in prison.

Carter (6th May, 1937 – 20th April 2014) was arrested in 1966, along with his friend John Artis, for a triple homicide committed in the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson, New Jersey.  Police stopped Carter’s car and brought him and Artis, also in the car, to the scene of the crime.  When the police carried out their search of the car, they found ammunition which fitted the weapons used in the murder.  Police took no fingerprints at the crime scene and at that point in time, did not have the facilities to conduct a paraffin test for gunshot residue.  Carter and Artis were convicted twice for the murders, in 1967 and 1976, but after the second conviction was overturned in 1985, prosecutors chose not to try the case for the third time.

In 1975, Carter’s autobiography, The Sixteenth Round, was published by Warner Books.  In the book, Carter maintained his innocence.  The Sixteenth Round moved Dylan to such an extent that he visited Carter in Rahway State Prison in Woodbridge County, New Jersey and began to write what would become Hurricane.  At first, Dylan was unsure whether he could do justice to Carter and his predicament in song form but using the storytelling method previously used on other topical ballads such as The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (The Times They Are a-Changing, 1964) …

… he eventually found that the words flowed reasonably quickly, such was his contempt for those who had wrongfully imprisoned the former middleweight boxer.  Hurricane was one of Dylan’s few protest songs of the 1970’s and became his fourth most successful single of the decade, reaching number 33 on the US Billboard Chart.

Hurricane was first recorded in July 1975 with Scarlet Rivera on violin and Vinnie Bell on Danelectro Bellzouki 12-string guitar.  In October 1975, Dylan was forced to re-record the song with its lyrics altered, after concerns were raised by Columbia’s lawyers who feared a lawsuit regarding references to Alfred Bello and Arthur Dexter Bradley, petty criminals who were in the area to burgle a factory, robbing the bodies.  Bello and Bradley had never been accused of such acts.  Due to the amount of leakage on the multi-tracks, making it difficult to achieve a vocal ‘punch in’, Dylan decided to record the entire song.  The resulting final version of Hurricane is faster than the original cut and in addition to Rivera on violin, uses other musicians from Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue as the back-up band.  The final version was put together from two separate takes, both recorded on the 24th October, 1975, and clocks in at over eight minutes in length.

Despite the fact that some offending lyrics had been rewritten, the song still managed to attract legal action, from eyewitness Patricia Graham Valentine.  However, her case was dismissed by a federal district.  The dismissal was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.  Other lyrics to receive criticism included the line “Number one contender for the middleweight crown” because according to the May 1966 issue of The Ring, Carter was ranked ninth at the time of his arrest and had never been placed higher than third.  Additionally, at the time of the song’s release, reporters for the Herald News, a New Jersey newspaper published not far from the scene of the crime, questioned Dylan’s objectivity and accused him of excessive poetic license.  Others noted that there was no reference to Carter’s criminal history or violent temper.  Another song from Desire, Joey, about the life and death of mobster Joey Gallo, received similar criticism.

Hurricane brought Carter’s case to the attention of the wider public and is credited with harnessing popular support to Carter’s defence.  Following the release of Desire, Dylan and the Rolling Thunder Revue played a benefit concert for Carter in New York’s Madison Square Garden.  The concert raised $100,000.  Dylan and his band also played another benefit at the Houston Aerodrome a year later, alongside Stevie Wonder, Ringo Starr and Dr John, whom Dylan had personally managed to get to play the concert after meeting with managers Richard Flanzer and Roy Silver.  Despite its all-star line-up, after expenses were paid, the Houston failed to raise any money.

Despite winning the right to a new trial, Carter and Artis were once again found guilty and on the 9th February 1976, Carter was sentenced to two consecutive life terms.  Dylan and Carter’s other high-profile supporters did not attend the trial.  In 1985, Federal Judge H. Sarokin of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey ruled that Carter had not received a fair trial and set aside the conviction, commenting that the prosecution had been “based on racism rather than reason and concealment rather than disclosure”.  Ironically, Sarokin had declined to listen to Dylan’s song when it was offered to him by his family.  In 1988, following the prosecution stating that they would not seek a third trial and filed a motion to dismiss, a Superior Court Judge dropped all charges against Carter.

Lyrically, Hurricane is a straight, or as straight as can be from a writer who wasn’t present at the scene of the crime, retelling of the events that led to Carter’s arrest and his incarceration.  The song sets the scene with its opening line, “Pistol shots ring out in the barroom night”, placing the listener at the crime scene.  The star witness, Patty Valentine, who was awoken by the sound of the gunshots, is mentioned in the second line, “Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall”.  Following this, we find Valentine’s view as she entered the bar:  “She sees the bartender in a pool of blood, Cries out, “My God, they killed them all”.  “All” refers to bartender, James Oliver and two customers, who were killed instantly.

The following section of the song and probably its most famous, “Here comes the story of the Hurricane, The man the authorities came to blame, For something that he never done, Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a-been, The champion of the world” finds Dylan lamenting on how Carter lost twenty years of his life along with his career and his chances of reaching the top of his profession in the process.

Following this, we once again find Patty Valentine’s view, “Three bodies lyin’ there does Patty see”.  The prosecution believed that the murders at the Lafayette Bar and Grill, particularly that of white bartender James Oliver, were motivated by the murder of black bartender, Leroy Holloway, who happened to be the stepfather of one of Carter’s friends.  The next lines, “And another man named Bello, movin’ around mysteriously, “I didn’t do it”, he says and throws up his hands, “I was only robbin’ the register, I hope you undertand, I saw them leavin’”, he says and stops”, refer to Bello’s testimony at the 1966 and 1976 trials, in which he stated that he saw Carter and Artis outside the Lafayette Bar and Grill with a shotgun and a pistol immediately after the triple murder.  He apparently came face to face with them on the sidewalk and saw their getaway car.

“”One of us had better call up the cops”, And so Patty calls the cops, And they arrive on the scene with their red lights flashin’, In the hot New Jersey night”.  Due to the murder taking place on the 17th June, the temperatures would most probably have been at an extreme high, common at that time of year.  It has been said that heat can cause people to be enough on edge to commit murder.  This idea was also famously used by Spike Lee in his 1989 film, Do the Right Thing.  In both Hurricane and Do the Right Thing, heat is portrayed as a major physical and psychological factor for rage and violence.

The next lines, “Meanwhile, far away in another part of town, Rubin Carter and a couple of friends are drivin’ around, Number one contender for the middleweight crown, Had no idea what kinda shit was about to go down”, find Carter and his friends driving through town, completely unaware of what was about to happen.  Carter, at this stage in his life, was in the middle of his career.  He had a record of two wins, twelve losses and one draw.  As several publications have noted since the song’s release, Dylan neglects to mention that Carter was far from a law abiding citizen, having done several stints in jail for mugging and assault.  However, on this occasion, Carter was wrongfully convicted by the US’s corrupt justice system.  In the following lines, “When a cop pulled him over to the side of the road, Just like the time before and the time before that”, Dylan suggests that the police continuously pulled Carter over as they were racist.  The idea of the police being racist is carried over to the next lines, “In Paterson that’s just the way things go, If you’re black you might as well not show up on the street”, which suggests that racism against black men like Carter was institutionalised and was readily practised by the local police.  In the following line, “’Less you wanna draw the heat”, “heat” is this time used to refer to the police.

The following lines feature further testimony from Bello and Bradley:  “Alfred Bello had a partner and he had a rap for the cops, Him and Arthur Dexter Bradley were just out prowlin’ around, He said, “I saw two men runnin’ out, they looked like middleweights, They jumped into a white car with out-of-state plates”.  Note the vague way in which the men say, “they looked like middleweights” expressed in Dylan’s lyrics.  Additionally, Bradley refused to cooperate with prosecutors, and neither prosecution nor defense called him as a witness.

The line “And Miss Patty Valentine just nodded her head” refers to the way that Valentine simply agreed with what other witnesses had seen without actually knowing anything.  Valentine provided a description of the car to the police, which changed at the second court case.  Valentine claimed that the lights “lit up like butterflies”.  However, on Carter’s car, this was not the case, as only the end two lights lit up.

“Cop said, “Wait a minute, boys, this one’s not dead”, So they took him to the infirmary, And though this man could hardly see, They told him, that he could identify the guilty man, Four in the mornin’ and they haul Rubin in, Take him to the hospital and they bring him upstairs, The wounded man looks up through his one dyin’ eye, Says, “Wha’d you bring him in here for?  He ain’t the guy!” refers to Willie Marrins who was not killed instantly and the police attempt to have Carter identified as the murderer.  Marrins told the police that Carter was not the murderer but his testimony was ignored.

Further into the song, we find the line “He ain’t no Gentleman Jim”, a reference to James J. Corbett, who is considered to be the father of modern boxing.  Carter is said not to be a “gentleman” because, unlike Corbett, Carter is black.  Other lines of interest in Hurricane include “And to the black folks he was just a crazy nigger, No one doubted that he pulled the trigger”.  Here, Dylan, a white man, single-handedly invented a rhyme (“trigger” and “nigger”) which today is one of the most popular rhymes in hip-hop.  For example, see Nas’s N.Y. State of Mind, from the album Illmatic (1994).

One wonders whether Hurricane’s closing lines, “Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been, The champion of the world” may have influenced Carter receiving an honorary World Champion title in 1993, five years after his release from prison.  Additionally, following his release and before his death in 2014, Carter headed the Association in Defense of the Wrongfully Convicted for twelve years and founded Innocence International in 2004.

Song of the Day: Music Inspired by Television Shows (Day Two). “And So It’s My Assumption, I’m Really Up the Junction”.

Up the Junction is the eighth track on, and third single from, Squeeze’s second album, Cool for Cats (1979).   The song became one of Squeeze’s most successful singles, reaching number two on the UK chart and has become one of their most enduring and recognisable compositions. The tale of working class life set in the band’s native South London is notable for not having a chorus, instead using key changes to its base progression in order to mirror the dramatic arc of its storyline.  ”.  Structurally, the song is similar to Bob Dylan’s Positively 4th Street (1965), which songwriters Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook have cited as an influence.  In a piece written for The Guardian on the 5th May 2015, Tilbrook stated “There’s no chorus because I thought a repeated section would spoil the flow of Chris’s story”.

Lyrically, the song is well-known for its use of half rhymes.  For example, “ready” and “telly”; “kitchen” and “missing”.  The title of the song is not sung until the final line.  Difford has been known to cite Roxy Music’s Virginia Plain (1972), which similarly only has the song’s title in the last line, as the inspiration for this.

Difford has acknowledged that the song takes its title from the 1965 television play Up the Junction, aired as part of The Wednesday Play series, directed by Ken Loach, and the subsequent film version, released in 1968.

The play is, in turn, based on Neil Dunn’s collection of short stories of the same name, first published in 1963. The film version of Up the Junction featured a song named also named Up the Junction by Manfred Mann, which is unrelated to Squeeze’s song.

Although Squeeze’s Up the Junction is not a retelling of the play, it does include several parallels.  Firstly, both the play and Squeeze’s song are a portrayal of daily life in the Clapham area of London, the song beginning with the lines “I never thought it would happen, With me and a girl from Clapham”.  The “Junction” in both the song and the play refers to Clapham Junction railway station.  Clapham is seven miles southwest of Deptford, where the band is from.  The term ‘up the junction’ is English slang meaning without hope, or taken at its crudest level with another English colloquialism, ‘screwed’.   In turn, ‘screwed’ is also a colloquialism for someone who has just had sexual intercourse, thus linking in with the theme of pregnancy in both the play and particularly in the song, in which it is a main theme.  The use of colloquial working class language is prominent in both the song and the play.

As the song continues, the “windy common” mentioned as the place where ‘it happened’ between the song’s protagonist and his love interest is a 200 acre park in Clapham which has sports fields, freshwater ponds, a bandstand and its own tube station.  Further into the song, following a verse of flirting between the couple, we find the lines “We moved into a basement, With thoughts of our engagement, We stayed in by the telly, Although the room was smelly”.  Here, the protagonist and love interest are living together and thinking about marriage.  They are living very modestly but happily, staying at home and enjoying each other’s company and watching the television.  Further to this, in the following lines, “We spent our time just kissing, The Railway Arms we’re missing, But love has got us hooked up, And all our time it took up” sees the couple loved up and starting a new way of life away from the local pub, “The Railway Arms”.

In the following verse, the protagonist tells of how he “got a job with Stanley, He said I’d come in handy, And started me on Monday, So I had a bath on Sunday”.  The first day of a new job being a special enough occasion to have a bath is a reflection of the economic situation of the characters in the song.  Additionally, the idea of having a bath as and when needed is an example of the humorous self-defacing attitude towards British working class life prominent in the song.  For further examples of this, see the line “She dealt out all the rations, With some or other passions” in the first verse.  This line not only depicts the love interest playing hard to get but is also a comment on rationing in post-World War Two Britain, which didn’t end until 1954.  If we were to take the song to be set in the same era as the play, with the book on which it was based having been published in 1963, then although rationing was finished, it would have still been very fresh in the memories of the characters involved.  Also, the couple live in a “basement”, which has connotations of them being at the bottom of the property ladder.

In the next verse, “I worked eleven hours, And bought the girl some flowers, She said she’d seen a doctor, And nothing now could stop her”, we see the change in circumstances which informs the rest of the song.  Interestingly, after the love interest finds out she is pregnant, the song’s tempo speeds up, perhaps referring to the passage of time taking on a new speed and evoking the chaos which the couple are thrown into.

For the next verse, “I worked all through the winter, The weather brass and bitter, I put away a tenner, Each week to make her better, And when the time was ready, We had to sell the telly, Late evenings by the fire, With little kicks inside her”, the song shifts from a major to minor key in order to simulate the passing of time and circumstance and the change of season.  The “brass” is another British colloquialism from the phrase “cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey”.  It is derived from small monkeys cast from alloy brass which were very common tourist souvenirs from China and Japan in the 19th and 20th centuries.  They often, although not always, came in a set of three representing the Three Wise Monkeys carved in wood above the Shrine of Toshogu in Nikko, Japan.  Some sets added a fourth monkey with its hand covering its genitals.  Similarly, “tenner” is another British colloquialism, meaning ten pounds.  The fact that the couple have “to sell the telly [another colloquialism, meaning television]” shows how tight money is, particularly with their new arrival imminent.  The couple also live in cramped conditions; note how their living quarters is referred to as a “room” earlier in the song.  This means they would be thinking there would now be very little room for a “telly” once the baby arrived.  The fact that the couple are sitting in front of the fire in the penultimate line of the verse is telling of the coldness of the couple’s flat during the winter.

The next verse, “This morning at four fifty, I took her rather nifty, Down to an incubator, Where thirty minutes later, She gave birth to a daughter, Within a year a walker, She looked just like her mother, If there could be another”, switches back to the major key, conveying the joy of childbirth.  This joy is short-lived, as the next verse explains:  “And now she’s two years older, Her mother’s with a soldier, She left me when my drinking, Became a proper stinging, The devil came and took me, From bar to street to bookie, no more nights by the telly, no more nappies smelling”.  In this verse, the stress of fatherhood has taken its toll on the protagonist, his partner and his daughter are no longer in his life and he has succumbed to the twin vices of drinking and gambling.

The following verse, “Alone here in the kitchen, I feel there’s something missing, I’d beg for some forgiveness, But begging’s not my business, And she won’t write a letter, Although I always tell her, And so it’s really my assumption, I’m really up the junction” finds the protagonist missing his partner and daughter and his old life but admitting that it is his own fault that he is on his own.  The fact that he wants his ex-spouse to write a letter shows that the protagonist wants to make amends for his wrongdoings and have his family back in his life.  The brilliance of the song’s composition is seen in the way in which the final line, featuring the phrase “up the junction”, referring to both the hopelessness of the situation and Clapham Junction, brings the song full circle with the opening scene, “I never thought it would happen, With me and a girl from Clapham”.

And what became of the “girl from Clapham”?  She reappears in the later Squeeze song A Moving Story, from their 1998 album Domino.

The music video for Up the Junction features the band playing in a flat.  The flat is actually John Lennon’s old house, the same house where the promotional film for Imagine was filmed.  Additionally, the song is also notable for its accompanying Top of the Pops performance, for which the band, miming to the song, swapped instruments.  For example, singer Glenn Tilbrook is on drums and pianist Jools Holland is on guitar.

Song of the Day: Crime in Music (Day Six). “William Zantzinger Killed Poor Hattie Carroll …”

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll from Bob Dylan’s 1964 album The Times They Are a-Changin’ tells the story of the murder of Hattie Carroll, a 51 year old barmaid, by William Devereux “Billy” Zantzinger (referred to as “William Zantzinger” in the song).  The lyrics of the song are a commentary on 1960s racism.  At the time of Carroll’s murder, Charles County was still strictly segregated by race in public places such as restaurants, churches, theatres, doctor’s offices, buses and the county fair.  The schools of Charles County remained segregated until 1967.  William Zantzinger was then 24 years old and a wealthy young tobacco farmer from Charles County, Maryland.  Zantzinger was sentence to a mere six months in a county jail after being convicted of assault.

The murder in the song took place in the early hours of the 9th February, 1963 “At a Baltimore hotel society gathering”, the white tie Spinsters’ Ball at the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore.  Zantzinger, in a drunken state, assaulted at least three of the Emerson Hotel workers: a bellboy, a waitress and at about 1.30am, Carroll.  The murder weapon was a toy cane, referred to in the line “William Zantzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll, With a cane that he twirled round his diamond ring finger”.  Carroll “who gave birth to ten children”, was president of a black social club.

Zantzinger was already drunk before reaching the Emerson Hotel that night.  The cane that the 6’2” inch tall killer used was a 25 cent toy.  At the Spinsters’ Ball, he called a 30 year old waitress a “nigger” and hit her with the cane.  The waitress ran out of the room in tears.  A few moments later, he ordered a bourbon from Carroll.  When he was displeased with the length of time that Carroll had taken fetching the bourbon, Zantzinger cursed her and called her a “nigger”, followed by “you black son of a bitch” and struck her on the shoulder and across the head with the cane.  In the court notes, it states:  “He asked for her a drink and called her ‘a black bitch’, and a ‘black son of a bitch’.  She replied ‘Just a moment’ and started to prepare his drink.  After a delay of perhaps a minute, he complained about her being slow and struck her a hard blow on her shoulder about half-way between the point of her shoulder and her neck”.  She handed him his drink.  After striking Carroll, he attacked his own wife, knocking her to the ground and hitting her with his shoe.

Within minutes of receiving the blow, Carroll leaned heavily against the barmaid next to her and complained of feeling ill.  Carroll told co-workers, “I feel deathly ill, that man has upset me so”.  The barmaid, along with another employee, helped Carroll to the kitchen.  Her arm became numb and her speech became thick.  She then collapsed and was taken to hospital.  She died eight hours after the assault.  Her autopsy revealed hardened arteries, an enlarged heart and high blood pressure.  A spinal tap confirmed that Carroll had died from a brain hemorrhage.  She died in Mercy Hospital at 9am on the 9th February, 1963.

Initially, Zantzinger was charged with murder.  His defence was that he had been extremely drunk and said he had no memory of the attack.  His charge was reduced to manslaughter and assault, based on the likelihood that it was her stress reaction to his verbal and physical abuse that had led to the intracranial bleeding, rather than blunt-force trauma from the blow that left no lasting mark.  On the 28th August, Zantzinger was convicted of both charges and given the six month sentence.  Time Magazine covered the sentencing on the 6th September, saying:

“In June, after Zantzinger’s phalanx of five top flight attorneys won a change of venue to a court in Hagerstown, a three-judge panel reduced the murder charge to manslaughter.  Following a three-day trial, Zantzinger was found guilty.  For the assault on the hotel employees: a fine of $125.  For the death of Hattie Carroll: six months in jail and a fine of $500.  The judges considerately deferred the start of the jail sentence until September 15, to give Zantzinger time to harvest his tobacco crop”.

Coincidentally, Zantzinger’s sentencing occurred on the same day as Martin Luther King led 250,000 civil rights marchers to Washington in what the New York Times called “the greatest assembly for the redress of grievances that this capital has ever seen” and made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington.  Bob Dylan was present as Martin Luther King made his speech and on the journey back to his home in New York, read about the conviction of Zantzinger in the New York Times.  The headline read “Farmer sentenced in barmaid’s death”.  This inspired Dylan to write a protest song about the case whilst sitting in an all night cafe in Manhattan.  Dylan had previously written about two other white-on-black murders, both in the 18 months prior to the writing of The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.  These songs were The Death of Emmett Till about the murder of a 14-year old African American by two white men in 1955 …

… and Only a Pawn in their Game (also from The Times They Are a-Changin’) about the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, shot in Jackson, Mississippi in June 1963.

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll tells of how Zantzinger’s wealth and connections aided the lenient nature of the sentencing.

In the second verse of the song, Zantzinger and the wealth and influence which helps him to get out of prison on bail quickly are described thus:  “William Zantzinger, who at twenty-four years, Owns a tobacco farm of six hundred acres, With rich wealthy parents who provide and protect him, And high office relations in the politics of Maryland, Reacted to his deed with a shrug of his shoulders, And swear words and sneering, and his tongue it was snarling, In a matter of minutes on bail was out walking”.

Now compare this description of Zantzinger with the description of Hattie Carroll in verse three:  “Hattie Carroll was a maid of the kitchen, She was fifty one years and gave birth to ten children, Who carried the dishes and took out the garbage, and never once sat at the head of the table, And didn’t even talk to the people at the table, Who just cleaned up all the food from the table, And emptied the ashtrays on a whole other level, Got killed by a blow, lay slain by a cane, That sailed through the air and came down through the room, Doomed and determined to destroy all the gentle, And she never done nothing to William Zantzinger”.

In complete contrast to Zantzinger, a swearing, sneering and snarling tongued rich young white man who was given a silver spoon by his parents, Carroll is described as a gentle poor black woman who spent her life caring for others, whether it was her family or the people whom she served in the Baltimore hotel in which she was killed but was discriminated against because of the colour of her skin.

The fourth verse of the song tells of how the judge presiding over the trial stresses that all are equal in the court of law, but also of how this will be of no help because of the wealth of the accused: “In the courtroom of honour, the judge pounded his gavel, To show that all’s equal and that the courts are on the level, And that the strings in the books ain’t pulled and persuaded, and that even the nobles get properly handled, Once the cops have chased after and caught ‘em, And that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom, Stared at the person who killed for no reason, Who just happened to be feelin’ that way without warnin’, And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished, And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance, William Zantzinger with a six-month sentence”.

The chorus of The Lonesome death of Hattie Carroll, “But you who philosophise disgrace and criticize all fears, take the rag away from your face, Now ain’t the time for your tears”, refers to the way in which upper class women would hide their faces with a veil or some sort of cloth (a “rag”) when experiencing strong emotional outbursts like tears which were not considered proper in public.  However, burying your face in a cloth over-dramatically, implying tears, was also a way to fake emotions.  In the chorus, Dylan purposely uses very elaborate words such as “philosophise disgrace” and “criticise fears” in order to describe their actions, further supporting the impression that Dylan is addressing the upper-class public with these lines, criticizing them for the very shallowly condemning such acts without caring to find the real cause and root of the problem:  The particular tragedy of the case not being the murder of an innocent woman, or that the perpetrator got out on bail so quickly, but that he was only sentenced to six months in prison.  Therefore, in The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, Dylan makes the point that the main tragedy is not that upper class people treat the lower class badly; it is the ease with which they get away with it.

In 2001, talking to Howard Sounes for Down the Highway, the Life of Bob Dylan, Zantzinger dismissed the song as a “total lie”, going on to say, “It’s actually had no effect on my life”.  He also expressed his disdain for Dylan saying, “He’s a no-account son of a bitch, he’s just like a scum of a scum bag of the earth, I should have sued him and put him in jail”.  Zantzinger died on the 3rd January 2009 at the age of 69.

“This is a true story, it’s taken out of the newspapers”

– Bob Dylan introducing The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll at Manchester Free Trade Hall in May 1965.

Song of the Day: The Bible in Music (Day Six).

“Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”

Abe says, “Man, you must be putting me on”

God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”

God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but

The next time you see me coming you better run”

Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killing done?”

God says, “Out on Highway 61””

– Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited, from the album Highway 61 Revisted, 1965.

Long before his fully fledged conversion to Born Again Christianity in the late 1970’s, When he released the full on Christian themed albums Slow Train Coming (1979) and Saved (1980), Bob Dylan was already referencing The Bible.

On Highway 61 Revisited from 1965’s landmark album of the same name, he begins the song by referencing the story of Isaac and Abraham.  In the story of Isaac and Abraham, God commands Abraham to kill one of his son, Isaac, in order to prove his devotion to him:

“Some time later, God tested Abraham.  He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am”, he replied.

Then God said, “Take your only son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region

of Moriah.  Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you””.

– Genesis 22.

Adding significance to the use of the story in Highway 61 Revisited, Abram, the original name of the Biblical Abraham, is the name of Dylan’s own father.  The use of the Abraham and Isaac story could also be used as a protest symbol against the Vietnam War.  It is probably no coincidence that the President at the time of the American Civil War was Abraham Lincoln.  Therefore, Bob Dylan may be making a connection between the Bible story and historical events via his own father in order to make a comment about the Vietnam War.  Is Dylan about to be sacrificed as a warning to America not to kill it’s sons by sending them to war in the same way Abraham Lincoln did in the American Civil War?

Highway 61 is the road which runs through Bob Dylan’s home town down to the Mississippi delta and the same road that he wanders down in One Too Many Mornings.  The route passed near to the birthplaces and homes of influential musicians such as Muddy Waters, Son House, Charlie Patton and Elvis Presley and had already been the subject of Roosevelt Sykes’s 1932 song Highway 61 Blues.  It is also the road where Bessie Smith died after sustained serious injuries in a car accident.  But most significantly in terms of music history and relating to the first verse’s religious imagery, it is the road where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil, at the crossroads of Highway 61 and Highway 49.  So therefore, through the song’s Biblical reference, is this God telling Dylan’s father that he has to kill his son at the same place that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil?