musicology #124

socialcommentaryweek #4

(Bob Dylan – It’s Alright Ma I’m only bleeding)

house full of kids today, (easter holidays), so it’s an evening post..

hardcore social commentary from the man who needs no introduction.

must confess that themusicologist’s relationship to Mr Dylan had two periods..the early, (as a young child via my dad), and the second time round as an experimental 21 year old on the ‘bottom lips’. during that part of the journey this one in particular expanded my mind.

a lyrical and emotional tour de force that almost transports me back to me days wandering in a ‘diamond sky’

taken from the 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home..

Darkness at the break of noon,
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying.

Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece
The hollow horn plays wasted words
Proves to warn
That he not busy being born
Is busy dying.

Temptation’s page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover that you’d just be One more
person crying.

So don’t fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It’s alright, Ma, I’m only sighing.

As some warn victory some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don’t hate nothing at all
Except hatred.

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Made everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-coloured Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far
That not much Is really sacred.

While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have To stand naked.

An’ though the rules of the road have been lodged
It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge
And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it.

Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you.

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks
They really found you.

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit to satisfy
Insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to.

but though the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to.

For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than something
They invest in.

While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God bless him.

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he’s in.

But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it’s alright, Ma, if I can’t please him.

Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn’t talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony.

While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer’s pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death’s honesty
Won’t fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes Must get lonely.

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed graveyards
False gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough
What else can you show me?

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only.

Lyrics by Bob Dylan 1965 Warner Bros. Inc Renewed 1993 Special Rider Music


9 thoughts on “musicology #124

  1. I believe dylan was a great conduit for his generation and times; but also for later generations cause as with all great music/words they have a lasting ‘meaning’ that holds our attention even if like me it takes some time to cotton on and go aahh thats whats going on!


  2. I am so “proud” to have found this site, and have posted links a half dozen times, just now… describing it as “literate” among other things.
    thanks! 😀


  3. Bill,

    warms my heart to know that music connects people. the social commentary week has taken extra effort and I’m very pleased to hear that it is being heard.

    for themusicologist nothing compares to the universal language of music when attempting to connect and communicate a message

    appreciate you taking the time to comment and link.


  4. On Bob Dylan….. I recently read that he wrote the lyrics to A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall on a Wednesday evening in October 1962… the very same day that JFK and NK were eyeballing each other…. shitting themselves while threatening the world with nuclear annihilation. That was the day every half-way decent human being held their breath, prayed, and/or wrote something… anything (in Bob’s case another masterpiece).

    And honestly, I’m not exaggerating


  5. ok..I’ll take your word for it. as an observer, (with hindsight), there was also a lot of Cold War, Game theory involved in the stand-off. I think they call it
    ‘The Politics Of Fear’, the world we now inhabit.


  6. As far as I know, to have “hindsight” or to have “observed” one has or had to have witnessed i.e. experienced the incident or action in question…. believe me, those few days – the Wednesday of which I write through to the following Sunday – in October 1962 were UNIQUE…. simple as that. I personally have never experienced a COLLECTIVE feeling anything like it… before or since.

    True, the political Cold War Game Theory you mention was indeed tested and was found to be wanting… but very nearly couldn’t be stopped from mutating into mind-blowing practice.

    Thus the Suits (political and industrial) brown trousered while the Brass very nearly got away with blowing us all off the face of the earth…. we, the people, smelt it; we somehow instinctively knew it was spinning – or had already spun – out of control. And so Dylan, unsure whether he would live to write another song and “wanting to get the most down I possibly could of the feeling of nothingness” wrote A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.

    (of the many nutters involved, one sums it up…. Curtis LeMay…. he who was to become the inspiration for Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove).

    I had to set the record straight!!


  7. Thanks for introducing me to Phil Ochs… a humbling experience!!
    Also… an education (see – behind the songs)


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