Bob Dylan: Positively 4th Street (1965)

 |   |  1 min read

Bob Dylan: Positively 4th Street (1965)

When you have guitar, a voice, a studio and an expectant audience -- and some degree of vitriol to be delivered -- why would you not fire off this bitter salvo at former friends you might feel (rightly or wrongly of course) who have betrayed you?

Not many songs begin with such an arrestingly confrontational lines as, "You got a lot a lotta nerve to say you are my friend, when I was down you just stood there grinnin'." 

In mid '65 when he was between his albums Highway 61 Revisited (which had divided his former folk-loyalists) and the expansively exceptional Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan flicked out this single which was not just a farewell to those former friends but probably nailed a few people specifically.

He walks you into the rage and disappointment he feels about those who would hold him back, stop his growth, and suck him back into their rarified world where he had somehow let them down.

But that polite folk world of (what later became known as) passive-aggression was where beardy earnest men and wispy well-intentioned women were afraid to speak their real feelings -- but would talk behind his back  . . . Well, he's sick of it.

Fuggit, why not say they are pissed off but he's moving on?

"You know as well as me you'd rather see me paralysed, why don't you just come right out and scream it . . ." 

There were probably more than a few old pals who would have had a cold colon and shivering spine moment when Bob sang, "I know you're dissatisfied with your position and your fate, [but] don't you understand it's not my problem . . ."

You must have known that was directed at you, because of some unspecified slight or back-handed comment over bottles of wine down there in Greenwich Village.

But the master poet saves the best for last, one of the most brittle, resentful and coolly angry lines in his catalogue. In anyone's catalogue.

"I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes and just that one moment I could be you . . .  you'd know what a drag it is to see you . . ."

Fade to back. 

For more on-offs or songs with an interesting back-story see From the Vaults.

Share It

Your Comments

mahadevan.rajan@gmail.com - Oct 10, 2011

Few more songs that begin and end as dramatically come to my mind, like Masters of War, Idiot wind ....

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

The Remains: Don't Look Back (1966)

The Remains: Don't Look Back (1966)

Pub quiz time: Which four-piece Sixties group quickly became adept at wrting their own material, built a local following, eventually appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, hung out with the Byrds in... > Read more

Diane Hildebrand: You Wonder Why You're Lonely (1969)

Diane Hildebrand: You Wonder Why You're Lonely (1969)

The recent Record Store Day made a major gouge in my bank account, but even so there were some accidental bargains in my bag. While waiting in the queue at Southbound Records with some pricey... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE JAZZ QUESTIONNAIRE: Michael League of Snarky Puppy

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE JAZZ QUESTIONNAIRE: Michael League of Snarky Puppy

Few jazz groups today command the massive audience which Snarky Puppy have. Many of their pieces have multiple million plays on Spotify. The Grammy-grabbing collective – which picked... > Read more

Wicked Chicken: soul funk for the barbecue

Wicked Chicken: soul funk for the barbecue

Many years ago Rhino Records -- a reissue label out of LA -- put out a booklet-cum-CD package of old soul and funk with an eating theme, specifically food for barbecues. Tracks on the CDs... > Read more