Bob Dylan: Neighborhood Bully (1983)

 |   |  1 min read

Bob Dylan: Neighborhood Bully (1983)

As I write, the fragile "peace" between Israel and the Palestinians on the West Bank looks to be holding. At least, the missile attacks from both sides have stopped and some people are talking.

Others are doubtless re-arming themselves while rebuilding their lives and homes.

Without getting into the rights and wrongs of aggression and the usual "you started it" standoff, it was interesting that Bob Dylan would weigh in with a pro-Israel/Zionist stance in '83 on the album Infidels -- which included Jokerman and the political rant in favour of economic protectionism on Union Sundown -- especially since on the three preceding albums he had openly embraced Christianty.

Dylan, it seemed, was back in the fold of Judaism and rumour had it he had taken up with a Hasidic group. Fueling the speculation were photos of him wearing a yarmulke and at the Wailing Wall.

It seemed however that he was still attending the Vineyard Fellowship in California and believing Jesus Christ was the Messiah.

Religion aside, Neighborhood Bully nails its belief in the right of the state of Israel to exist pretty clearly.

The idea of Israel being pro-active in defending itself wasn't a popular political stance at the time (except in the obvious circles) and I suspect would be less so today. Tragically this song is almost 30 years old, and times haven't changed.

In linking of the history of the Jews ("been driven out of every land, he's wandered the earth an exiled man . . . always on trial for just being born") and the political status of Israel ("he got no allies to really speak of, what he gets he must pay for, he don't get it out of love") Dylan was painting in broad strokes and did seem a little muddled.

But muddled was pretty much Dylan in the Eighties

For more one-offs, oddities or songs with an interesting backstory use the RSS feed to get your daily delivery From the Vaults

Share It

Your Comments

Blair - Nov 25, 2012

It's great to be reminded of this . I always thought that the Infidels album was criminally under rated despite Mark Knopfler being in the producer chair . It was a great band that was put together and I gather Dylan thought of Mick Taylor after seeing a John Mayell Bluesbreakers reunion gig.Side 1 was extraordinary with Jokerman, Sweetheart Like You and Licence to Kill (destroyed by Tom Petty at the 30th reunion concert). But how "Blind Willie McTell" was left off defies belief. There is still an unreleased band version with Taylor on slide that deserves a wider audience. GRAHAM REPLIES: Interesting if odd things on Infidels, agreed. And the Bootleg Series Vol 1-3 (reviewed at Elsewhere) showed how much greatness (BWMcTell among them) was sidelined. Muddled decade, as I said?

David Lewis - Nov 28, 2012

Nice post, it has always been weird song in Dylan's canon. Muddled isn't the word - 'no allies to really speak of'? Only the most powerful nation in the world, the US, underwriting Israel's entire economic, military and political system? Surely one of Dylan's worst lines ever!

jzsnake - Nov 28, 2012

Leave it to Bob Dylan to be able to cut through the B.S. in one short song.

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

The Church: The Unguarded Moment (2004)

The Church: The Unguarded Moment (2004)

Most people know the Church's 1981 Unguarded Moment as a classic slice of paisley pop full of guitar jangle and a world-weary drone-meets-melody delivery (see the clip below). But the... > Read more

Lou Christie: If My Car Could Only Talk (1966)

Lou Christie: If My Car Could Only Talk (1966)

Elsewhere has previously essayed the delights and confusion that Lou Christie's career threw up: the darkly romantic older woman in his life (who was allegedly some gypsy mystic), the soaring... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

PAT BOONE INTERVIEWED (1995): Still the same Mr Nice Guy

PAT BOONE INTERVIEWED (1995): Still the same Mr Nice Guy

If conventional wisdom and the rock'n'roll history books are to be believed, Pat Boone was one of the villains - simply because he was so nice. He was the square when his contemporaries were... > Read more

The Ramblers: It's only rock'n'roll, and I survived it

The Ramblers: It's only rock'n'roll, and I survived it

A few years ago at the Herald, to amuse ourselves and readers over the Christmas season, it was decided I would write a piece about a band of roadies who were playing a rare gig. That part was... > Read more