This brings us to the song “Simple Twist of Fate”. With the knowledge of Dylan’s breakup in mind, the lyrics seem easy enough to understand, as the song immediately opens with two people together in a relationship where love would be quickly found and lost. The persistent use of “wish he gone straight” is Dylan’s own acknowledgement of his faults, placing some of the blame of the breakup on his own shoulders, and perhaps revealing drug use as one of the reasons for the breakup. This, coupled with phrases like “emptiness inside”, “born too late”, and “lost the ring” reveal just how devastated Dylan was over his disintegrating relationship with Sara. However, that much can be gleamed simply from Dylan’s own voice throughout the piece, as he speaks line after line in a mournfully melancholy tone. The theme of regret is further emphasized by the quiet pacing of the guitar and added effect of the harmonica. However, there is something else, more hidden, that the song portrays. Dylan’s conversion to Christianity was far from spontaneous.
Dylan himself called John Wesley Harding (1968) “the first biblical rock album”, and with good reason (Mark 193). Two of the songs contain direct scriptural references; “The Wicked Messenger” comes from Proverbs 13:16-17, and “All Along the Watchtower” is a condensation of Isaiah 21, 6-9, and 11-12, dealing with the fall of Babylon and coming of the apocalypse. This album is stuffed with critiques of American materialism and lack of true spirituality, showing that Dylan’s eventual conversion is not as radical a change as some make it out to be (Mark 109).
A significant portion of the lyrics can be stretched and turn the song into a journey of faith and not of a relationship. The diction is particularly revealing, using the words “sin”, “emptiness”, and the intriguing phrase “born too late”. If we assume the male character to be Dylan himself, it becomes clearer. The women’s gaze that makes him “wish he’d gone straight” can be seen as the savior or an angel of some sort. He is enthralled and filled with a sense of wonder and awe, almost enough to make him confess right on the spot. But he cannot turn away yet; Dylan’s vices still overwhelm him. When he is left alone in the room, we get a sense of Dylan's separation from society, and how he tried so hard to ignore it. He is pondering the state of his life in that room, wondering if there was still a chance to be saved from it all. He wants to fill what is missing from his life. He wants to belong. He was “born too late”, but wants to be born again. His lust for another chance borders on sinfulness, but the ending “maybe she’ll pick him out again”, implies that there is still hope for salvation. Next time, he would be ready to accept the divine calling.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
More Dylan Papers
From Jeremy Strahan: