Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 238
Fri. Oct. 25, 2013
“Stuck Inside the Mobile with the Memphis Blues again (live from Hard Rain’s Rolling Thunder Revue)”
up in the
If you’re wondering why Bob Dylan would revisit this Blonde on Blonde classic during the second leg of his Rolling Thunder Revue tour, all you have to do is look towards the book Bob Dylan: The Never Ending Story when author Lee Marshall wrote, “[“Stuck Inside”] is clearly ‘about’ displacement and alienation but the meaning is not really in the words. The series of experiences recounted offer glimpses but nothing like a coherent explanation of the feeling. This alienation is clear, however […]” Dylan was in the process of winding down and growing tired of being on the road with one his longest tours since the sixties, his marriage was falling apart and he was filled with sense of anger that came through perfectly when he sang on Hard Rain’s 1976 live rendition that oozed with the same all too familiar alienated emotions of feeling “Memphis Blues Again.”
Then again you can also look at it geographically, the latter of Rolling Thunder Revue circa 1976 tour was focuses on the south as author Clinton Heylin noticed in his book, Revolution in the Air: The Songs of Bob Dylan 1957-1973, when he wrote, “Dylan knew ‘Stuck Inside of Mobile” was one of those fortune instances where the song rushed to him when required. It was only when Dylan realized he was a day or two away from playing a show in Mobile, Alabama, in the spring of 1976, that he decided to work out an arrangement with the Rolling Thunder veterans that would suit both the sound of Guam (the band’s nickname) and those psychedelic syllables. The 1976 arrangement, almost as raucous as a contemporary “Lay, Lady, Lay” […] at least it reminded Dylan of the song’s enduring allure.” It was fated perfectly that Dylan had the right band and was in the dislocated mindset to bring new life to Blonde on Blonde’s “Stuck Inside.” Matching Dylan’s mood, focusing more on the blues and less on the tripped out studio vibes, the reason I can’t stop spinning this Hard Rain live 1976 version is that Dylan stripped away most of the original psychedelics from it’s Blonde on Blonde roots. You can feel how these nomadic artists were definitely inspired by their surroundings; I love the southern like charm that Dylan and his Rolling Thunder Revue band gave to this 1966 vintage gem.
The Rolling Thunder Revue tour had the same feel of Bob Dylan’s electric shows following his dramatic performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Dylan sounds like a man in transition as Jim Beviglia noticed in his book Counting Down Bob Dylan: His 100 Finest Songs, when the author wrote, ““Dylan Goes Electric!” is often hailed as one of the most singular moments in rock history […] in his live shows from that era, it was slightly a different story, as Dylan was challenging his audiences nightly to get on board or get out of the way.” Dylan was trying to bring that same unbridled enthusiastic spirit from those climatic late shows from the 1960’s to these Rolling Thunder Revue tours of the late 1970’s. I believe it has more to do with his love of his backing band, back then Dylan had the Hawks, in 1976 Dylan was using his Guam band to bring new electric color and flavors, focusing more on his electric numbers where songs like ‘Stuck in Memphis” got a much updated “Memphis Blues” makeover.
So why change and rejuvenate a classic song like “Stuck in Mobile” you ask, maybe as author Frank Hogan suggested in his book real Punks Don’t Wear Black, “The last line of the song goes, “here I sit so patiently, waiting to find out what price/ You have to pay to get out of going through all these things twice,” which I took to be Dylan’s answer to Nietzsche’s challenge. Nietzsche had the crackpot idea that all events in the world would reoccur infinitely, and his (non-crack-pop) challenge was to ask if you could celebrate—dance to—this fact, that life is what it is and ultimately can never progress away from itself. Dylan’s answer seemed to be an empathetic. No, he could not.)” Even though his life was going through chaos and disorder and no matter what his head was thinking, Dylan’s heart was telling himself to relish his days and nights while playing new revised versions of songs like “Memphis Blues” during his Rolling Thunder Revue tours of 1976.
I must be one of the minority Dylan fans who truly appreciates this live 1976 Hard Rain version, on the ten year anniversary when Bob first recorded the original studio rendition of his 1966 Blonde on Blonde classic. There’s not many artists who would channel their creative energies while their being “Stuck Inside” the inner turmoil of their personal lives, but that’s what makes Dylan, The American Bard who lives for bringing new life to some of his most beloved songs and if you don’t appreciate the sentiment or sound, this was his way of keeping at bay by challenging those so call die-hards with these renewed arrangements, a method that Bob still uses today on his shows for his Never Ending World tour.
Do you agree with Jim Beviglia who when talking about the sound of “Memphis Blues,” he wrote in his book Counting Down Bob Dylan: His 100 Finest Songs, “The thing that’s truly electric about the song is Dylan’s miraculous ability to make the mundane sound momentous.” I believe the more miraculous thing that Dylan does is to take is most beloved songs, and no matter how connected we are to their original sounds, he’ll update them by breathing renewed life with new livelier arrangements just like he did with the now classic songs on his live album documenting the second leg of the Rolling Thunder Revue tour on Hard Rain.
Reading Robert Shelton’s book No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan, you could understand why Dylan would revisit and constantly update this Blonde on Blonde classic ten years after first recording the original in 1966, when the author eloquently explained, “Dylan couldn’t quite decide what to do with this “big blues.” In blues and country songs, there is a recurring lamentation about places left behind. If “Desolation Row” had become Main Street, then “Memphis Blues” had become the national condition of mobile, lonely and lost society.”
Listening to this 1976 rendition of “Stuck Inside” is like Bob Dylan metaphorically updated his anthem for the lost society within the Rolling Thunder Revue’s carnival-esque arrangement. Why condemn this new rendition and revel in the soundtrack to our 21st Century edition of our modernly displaced society? The American Bard must have definitely been foreshadowing our future societal disconnection as the reason Dylan release this Hard Rain version as a single in 1976.
When asked in Nigel Williamson’s The Rough Guide to Bob Dylan, “Doesn’t it ever get tiring singing the same song over and over again?” Dylan replied, “No it doesn’t. That’s the thing about music. It’s not on the page. It’s got a life of it’s own.” No song reflects Dylan’s wisdom more than the tenth anniversary live 1976 Hard Rain version of “Stuck Inside.” Not only does “the Mobile with the Memphis” have a life of it’s own, this 1966 Blonde on Blonde cut is resurrected with a new coat of Rolling Thunder gloss that will definitely cure your worried blues today. If you’re feeling lost, let Dylan’s lyrical raindrops of desolation help you find your way as you press play on your new remastered copy of Hard Rain. I’m ready for all these 1976 southern fried Hard Rain melodies – and to let these wonderfully soaked with new rejuvenated Rolling Thunder Revue rhythms in Dylan’s revitalized version of “Memphis Blues” wash over me again.