Today on Blogcritics
Home » Music » Verse Chorus Verse: Bob Dylan – “Obviously 5 Believers”

Verse Chorus Verse: Bob Dylan – “Obviously 5 Believers”

Please Share...Print this pageTweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

When times are tough and I don't know what to do, I go looking for answers. When I'm particularly lost, I often go seeking knowledge from The Wizard, The Oracle, The Dylan. I'm not sure I found the answer to my particular problem — well, I'm sure I didn't but that's not Bob's fault — but something did occur to me this morning as I sifted through the songs in search of one.

People have been scrutinizing Dylan for more than 40 years and most of them are no closer to understanding the man or his words. I sometimes wonder if a few of them haven't missed the plot altogether. No, I'm not claiming original insight into the mind of His Royal Dylan-ness but while picking my way through Blonde On Blonde this morning I realized something: this is a great rock and roll record.

I know what you're thinking, and you may be wrong. You're saying, "Slow down there, Sparky. A great Dylan record? You're right. None of the Dylanophiles have said anything like that before." That's not what I'm saying. Everyone thinks Dylan is great, except for the people trying to be too cute by half by dismissing Dylan to be different (and if you're one of those people, put Blonde On Blonde on your iPod and go get a lap).

Driving in this morning I quit scrunching my face, trying to wring every ounce of truth and prophecy from the lyrics long enough to hear the music. Whether the words mean anything, everything, or nothing at all, Blonde On Blonde works because songs like "Obviously 5 Believers" rock with smart, glorious abandon. "5" takes the essence of golden era Muddy Waters and imbues it with the emerging rock and roll sounds. Tangy guitars bite as the drums snap and tap while amplified harmonica blasts howl and wail. Who cares what Dylan's saying? The message is in the music, and the music is speaking life.

Powered by

About Josh Hathaway

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    Dylan is a great example of somebody who writes beautiful lyrics that i don’t feel that i have to ‘get’…can just enjoy them for the beauty.

    i mean…”..dance beneath the diamond sky, one hand waving free”

    screw meaning, that’s really nice on its own, you know?

  • mike

    i love bob dylan’s music. i have since i saw him in washington in the summer of 1962 which i think is 49 years. he’s funny, then serious one concert in danbury he was talking and joking the whole show(til some girl rushed the stage not an easy thin to do,for the stage is suruonded bby a 6 ft. widemoat or what ever here’s where we go our separate. sure dylan can change a mood. but i turn to the Lord God and find true contentment

  • Dave

    You’re right this is a great song that truly does rock. This song also works so well because its sandwiched between the whimsical 4th Time Around and the absolutely orgasmic Sad Eyed Lady. The juxtoposition makes this song rock even more.

    Mark Saleski, I think its hilarious that out of all the lyrics by Dylan that are cryptic and mysterious you choose to illustrate an example with “dance beneath the diamond sky, with one hand waving free” one of the most straight forward lyrics he ever wrote. Its a beautiful image, diamonds being the stars obviously, that sums up for me in one word what I believe Mr. Tambourine Man celebrates, “freedom”.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    well, i’m glad i served up some amusement for you dave.

    sure, i could have picked a more opaque lyric, but that doesn’t change the idea that sometimes it’s interesting to ignore the deeper meaning and revel in the surface.

    besides, i listen in a way that’s quite different than more people. first, i mostly ignore the words (yes, an odd thing to bring up in the context of Dylan, but it’s true) and when i do, i most often hear them in small fragments. i can’t help that.

  • Peter Hill

    Obviously 5 Belivers is evidence that Dylan’s a fan of Memphis Minnie (her “Me & My Chaffeur” is the template for the song).

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I get a lot of what Mark means here. It’s not always so much what the lyrics mean, as the cadence of how the words flow together. The beauty of language is sometimes music unto itself, and that is definitely true with Dylan (the phrasing is why I love “the croak” so much).

    Still, ya gotta admit…figuring out Dylan’s words is still one of the greatest armchair sports….

    -Glen

  • Dan

    The music sounds to me quite close to Chuck Berry’s “I Want To Be Your Driver”. Just sayin’.

  • Dave

    Glen/Mark…
    Yeah I do get what you’re saying. I think Sad Eyed Lady is a great example of this. Though you can give it a close reading which does reveal plenty of stuff theres something about just the vowels and flow of the melody that is stunning. This also has to do with the soundscape created by the band but the words do a lot too.
    Another great example is “Angelina”, the lost treasure from the Christian period. I believe its a shot of love outtake. Regardless, the individual images in the songs do not really add up to anything amazingly meaningful as a whole but rather are gems themselves. Verses like
    “His eyes were two slits that would make a snake proud… With a face that any painter would paint as he walked through the crowd..
    Worshipping a god with the body of a woman well endowed.. And the head of a hyena”
    “I see pieces of men marching; trying to take heaven by force… I can see the unknown rider, I can see the pale white horse… In God’s truth babe tell me what you want, and you’ll have it of course…
    Just step into the arena”

    I feel like the secrets of life are hidden somewhere in the beautiful images of that song and each time you listen you gain something powerful but never can really grasp it.. Stunning.

  • Dave Desmond

    I think that is the song on which he does NOT play harmonica. There is a harmonica but it isn’t him. I think it is the only song on which someone else plays harmonica. check the songs to be sure which one it is. but on that record someone else plays harmonica on one song. Why? ask bob if you see him. he’s a personable guy if you can get him alone.