Mr Tambourine Man

I played this last night; for some reason the words just bowled me over.

The final verse is I think the most extraordinary:

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

What is it about? It is about escape I suppose, a dream of freedom from this world of “crazy sorrow”. It is also about music as a gateway to another world. It is a spiritual song; we escape what is frozen and haunted and we arrive on the beach alongside the infinite sea. And then, brilliantly, a reminder that cold reality will return tomorrow.

Dylan’s gift is to come up with phrases that sound both striking and familiar – “the foggy ruins of time” – and yet, did anyone before put those words together in that order? I doubt it. Yet these phrases come tumbling out: “the jingle jangle morning”, “skippin’ reels of rhyme”, “to dance beneath the diamond sky”. You could write an entire song based on just one of these.

When I think of the song, two images come to mind. One is Dylan himself singing it; I was fortunate to hear him perform this at Brixton Academy in 1995. Another is a busker, any busker, sitting in the street strumming and singing this song as a way to transport himself and every passer by to a better place.


Note: all the words are here.