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“Two riders were approaching:” Isaiah and All Along the Watchtower

But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late

5 Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield.
6 For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.
9 And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.  —-   Isaiah 21

In an interview Dylan is asked why after so many years he still out there on stage, performing all of his songs on tour. After emphasizing that he doesn’t take any of it for granted, Dylan gives the following reply: ‘’It goes back to that destiny thing. I mean, I made a bargain with it, you know, long time ago. And I’m holding up my end’’. On the question of what his bargain was Dylan answers: ‘‘to get where I am now”. And asked whom he made that bargain with he answers: “With the Chief Commander, in this earth, and in a world we can’t see”. — Kees de Graaf  

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  • Ron January 11, 2021, 9:51 AM

    Very interesting interpretation of the song


  • jwm January 11, 2021, 10:48 AM

    Saturday was our monthly bike club. No one came out to ride with us, and one of our guys was no show. But we rode. Despite lockdowns, mandates, or whatever, we ride. The Vietnamese, God bless them, were rallying for Trump again at the Huntington Beach pier. They’ve been there every weekend since October. They know what it’s like to lose a country.

    Sunday was quiet, sad, and empty. Deep haze and clouds buried the winter sun. I took my stretch cruiser, the show bike, out early, put on my club shirt, and took a slow morning cruise. The streets were all but deserted. The few people out were slouching along with their muzzled faces shoved into cell phones, ears jammed shut with blue-tooth plugs.

    Luckily, there was no one at the park, so I sat at my favorite spot, and knocked back a couple of bowls. But that served only to deepen an overall sense of gloom. So I saddled up, and just wandered, turning here or there with no thought of getting anyplace.

    I cruised down Whittier Boulevard, passed the Whittwood shopping center, and slid down the side streets into the neighborhood.

    I passed St. Bruno’s Catholic Church. The haze rolled in deeper, and the silver morning light grew dull.

    The sun rays turned the pewter sky into the iris of an immense leaden eye with a bone white pupil staring down the world.

    I rolled around the corner, and stopped, just to look at the sky. Across the street I could see St. Bruno’s holding outdoor mass in the lunch area of the parish schoolyard. Recorded music started as the congregants lined up in their face masks to receive communion. Each received the host in his cupped hands, turned from the altar to face the street where I sat on the cruiser. Each took several steps to insure a safe social distance, and lifted a corner of the muzzle to slide the host into the mouth, and onto the tongue.

    There was something furtive, and broken in the gesture. The whole scene became surreal, almost frightening. I was standing in a tarot card. That moment could have been painted by Breughels, or Bosch.

    I rolled on home, and put the bike up. Buddy the Cat was in the yard, snoozing on the table in the gazebo. The haze was breaking up and the ol’ guy was enjoying the thin warmth of the January sun. I re-heated some stale coffee, sat down, and joined him.


  • Vanderleun January 11, 2021, 11:31 AM

    You’re a good soul, jwm. Long may you ride.

  • ghostsniper January 11, 2021, 11:53 AM

    That was like a little mental vacay John.

  • Phil in Englewood January 11, 2021, 1:00 PM

    JWM – thanks. Evocative… As our host say, long may you ride.

  • Callmelennie January 11, 2021, 1:46 PM

    That time al Bab al Dila’an teamed up with Wahhabi guitar phenom Dhimmi Khendrix for this Sufidelic take on the Afghan War (Stop me before I pun again)

    There must be some kind of blade over here
    Said the Mullah to the Thief
    There’s too many contusions
    I cant make this chop neat
    Taliban, they stone my wife
    Bombers scorch my earth
    Noboby in this land of strife
    Knows what a poppy is worth

    No reason you should Shi’ite it
    The Thief, he kindly spoke
    There are infidels among us
    Who feel Shari’ah’s just a joke
    But you and I we’ve been thru that
    And this is not our faith
    So let us stop chopping falsely now
    My stump’s beginning to ache

    Well ALLAH’s on the watchtower
    Snipers kept their view
    While barefoot women came and wept
    As we stoned them, too
    Outside in the Kush distance
    A Blackhawk did prowl
    Two Warthogs were approaching
    And al djinn begins to howl

  • H (science denier) January 11, 2021, 6:59 PM

    “There was something furtive, and broken in the gesture.”

    Fantastic images, all of it JWM, prophetic, like the end of On the Beach.

  • Casey Klahn January 12, 2021, 6:17 AM

    jmw, my compliments. You’ve a grand talent at writing and, I feel, at observation. Also, you’re gone to school with Gerard on American Digest.

    I have a noteworthy friend and mentor, who lives in NYC. He is collected by The Met; I was scheduled to make a studio visit with him when the lockdown prevailed. Anyway, my friend is a lib, and so he has had, as long as I’ve known him, just shit to say about Dylan. It might be interesting to know how many abandoned the bard when he became a gospeler.

    I’ve seen Bob Dylan 3 times in concert. All very memorable; epic, in fact.

  • ghostsniper January 12, 2021, 8:00 AM

    Good one Lennie!
    I could put up with Dylan doing Tangled Up in Blue but then I’d hafta get out of there, can only handle so much of his mumblin’.

  • Jack January 12, 2021, 9:40 AM

    Loved that one Lennie…..absolute best version of that tune ev’uh!

    As for the song I generally always love an acoustic version but I draw the line, long before I get to Hendrix. Taste is subjective and there’s no accounting for it but I stand firm before the heat that I know I’m certain to receive: I cannot stand a note that guy ever played, his singing positively sucked and he even died poorly: OD’d on barbiturates and died with his lungs full of vomit.

  • Vanderleun January 12, 2021, 10:33 AM

    Lennie for the lyrical win!

  • Dirk January 12, 2021, 12:11 PM

    Was searching the CD collection for Dylan’s Watch Tower, when up popped Savoy Brown greatest hits. The searches over, SB, grabbed me!, won’t let go. Up next Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

  • Vanderleun January 12, 2021, 1:11 PM

    Ah Paul… a great band….

  • ghostsniper January 12, 2021, 2:25 PM

    @Jack, I’m a player but never fell into the adulation of Hendrix. Frankly, I thought he was a sloppy player. No, he didn’t carve new ideas, lots of people were doing better things at the time. He was a negro that played an upside down guitar and that’s all.

  • Casey Klahn January 13, 2021, 9:29 AM

    Here we go. This morning I must take payment for my workshop (art, one each) and normally I use PayPal. I awake to the news item: PayPal shuts out Christian account; looks like those nasty Christians raised money for people to go to the Trump rally on the 6th. The squeeze begins. I already encouraged my wife to cut our Amazon commerce in half, I don’t use Twitter, I can’t use Parler… On that note, I was informed by my son that Parler users were doxed and their accounts elsewhere hacked. So, I jumped through my ass to cancel subscriptions, change passwords, etc. GooGull confirmed that I had multiple compromised accounts – that’s probably gaslighting, too.

    So, anyway, our brave new world awaits. I do almost all of my commerce on DeFacebook, but have just established a new system where the courses no longer are delivered on that vile platform. Maybe some will in the future, but my point is, we are now a sub-culture. A class whose social media scores have bottomed out, and possibly our commerce going forward will be bitcoin, oyster shells, who thafuk knows?

    Gotta get that woodstove chimney up. Extr@ w@ll put down, too. I foresee the networking of my neighborhood as a key social system going forward. Thank God I live in the most conservative county in my state – no stoplights, damn few democrats, and a huge portion of our population here are all off grid. We are the gun-owningest sunsabitches anywhere. Myself, I am at the end of the grid. We are assessing all of our utilities, thinking through the alternatives, and making sure our human network is established.

    Enjoy your day. Out here.

  • Gordon Scott January 13, 2021, 9:49 AM

    Casey, I hear you. A big move, out of the deep blue, is in my near future.

    Heresy alert: I have tried. I just cannot get what is so special about this song. Was it the first of the ominous anthems of the 1960s? The music is nothing special. The lyrics work, in terms of scansion and rhyme, but it seems to me that they are So Laden With Mettyfor that it overflows. Is it that I was a few years too young to be wowed by Dylan in his prime?

    Please, someone explain. I’m open to learning.

  • Vanderleun January 13, 2021, 11:14 AM

    It’s explained in the second (bottom) video above, Gordon. The first video is the original song before lebenty-leben covers.

  • Gordon Scott January 13, 2021, 7:59 PM

    Gerard, I watched the video. Well, mostly listened to it. I now understand the significance, having gained an appreciation over the years of the significance of Dylan in the minds of a certain group of boomers. I can appreciate, too, that Dylan put out a lot of music in a short time compared to what groups do today. What, it took Fleetwood Mac seven years to put out three albums? Good ones, yeah, but with three songwriters, you’d think . . . .

    I’ve seen his house in Hibbing, rolled up and down Highway 61 (though not the parts Dylan was singing about) and positively I drive down 4th Street at least once a week. All the coffeehouses are gone. They’re demolishing all the little stores and businesses so they can put up another hi-rise for Chinese students (owned by someone in China, of course. Gotta get that money out of the country somehow!). Joey B, the big guy, is going to be welcoming in many more.

    But I have to say: All along the parapet, Bob. The watchtower is on either end, and you go up and down in a watchtower.