(Continuing from Part 2)
'Not Dark Yet' opens quietly, majestically, with the rising and falling chord pattern, elegiac military funereal drum rolls, and the landscape instantly defined...
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 (Son) didn’t heal
There’s not even room enough to be anywhere
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there
The scars that the sun, or Son, in my insertion, didn't heal could be the scars that even belief in Jesus couldn't make disappear. In any case, his faith has been brought down to its knees, the human condition wobbles forward at its most vulnerable, in age, drops one foot in front of another, slowly, to the drudge of the
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 beat, looking furtively to the horizon for a gleam, a ray, but the sunlight is sinking away, and all that's left to say is,
It's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...
The song is a masterpiece, describing the punishing reality of human experience, which spares no man, not Buddha, not Ghandi, no king, no John Henry - all fall to the pounding of the hammer of the world. It evokes (in me) a great wall-long collage of Goya/Gauguin/Lautrec/Van Gogh visions, painting weary at the end of their lives, lives played to the fullest, the sweetest, the deepest, the bitterest, nowhere left to go, darkness falling.
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
'Cold Irons Bound' bumps along on Tony Garnier's bass like a wagon on a rutted road with Dylan looking around, hearing voices, all used up, waste deep in the mist, ghostly, heading away from some enemy, enmity, a faded woman still in the picture as he's running like he's a ragged dog or there's a ragged dog close behind or a pack, the barking out of earshot but not out of mind. 20 miles out of town, and headed for capture... cold irons bound.
(A superb version here, from Masked and Anonymous. Watch Dylan's face at the start as he listens to everything the band plays.)
Then in the midst of all this misery, a love song. 'Make You Feel My Love' was roundly criticized by many when the album came out for being too 'soft' or something, but it's simply a beautiful song, and not many love songs say -
I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawling down the avenue
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love
The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea
And on the highway of regret
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
You ain’t seen nothing like me yet
Recently recorded by Adele, 'Make You Feel My Love' is probably headed in the future to some 'classic' status.
'Can't Wait' brings us right back into the walking hell the narrator's been in all along.
I can’t wait, wait for you to change your mind
It’s late, I’m trying to walk the line
Well, it’s way past midnight and there are people all around
Some on their way up, some on their way down
The air burns and I’m trying to think straight
And I don’t know how much longer I can wait
I’m doomed to love you, I’ve been rolling through stormy weather
I’m thinking of you and all the places we could roam together
It’s mighty funny, the end of time has just begun
Oh, honey, after all these years you’re still the one
While I’m strolling through the lonely graveyard of my mind
I left my life with you somewhere back there along the line
I thought somehow that I would be spared this fate
But I don’t know how much longer I can wait
What woman could resist that entreaty? Yet he doesn't even seem to realize that the appeal might not be as he imagines it to be.
Word had leaked about "Time Out of Mind" before its release, and the word was there was a 17 minute song on it. I remember joking with my friend Kevin that it was probably an instrumental. Meaning that the chance of Dylan writing a magnum opus like 'Desolation Row' was, if his recent past track record was any indication, close to nill.
As it turned out, 'Highlands' wasn't a magnum opus, merely a long, dream-filled way to close out what was the most doomed, dissolute, desolate, dread-filled aural landscape anyone had yet created. And yet, and yet - why was "Time Out of Mind" so invigorating? After listening, it didn't leave you depressed, it left you buoyant. Perhaps when you facing down devils, you could move beyond them. Perhaps all this darkness was just an illusion waiting to transmute into light.
He's got new eyes at the end of the song, everything looks far away. Everything around him, that is. Salvation waits, just over hill and dale.
Well, my heart’s in the Highlands at the break of day
Over the hills and far away
There’s a way to get there and I’ll figure it out somehow
But I’m already there in my mind
And that’s good enough for now