“Tangled Up in Blue” – Bob Dylan
While I will readily acknowledge that “Tangled Up in Blue,” the opening track from his 1975 LP Blood on the Tracks, may not be his Bobness’ greatest song, it’s certainly in his top ten where “Like a Rolling Stone” sits at #1. But “Tangled” is by far my favorite Dylan tune. It likely holds that spot since the LP it comes from was the first one released that I savored in real time. Blood on the Tracks on 8-track tape was played an awful lot in my 1971 lime green Ford Pinto while I commuted to college back then.
Although Bob had recently split with his wife Sara, Mr. Dylan has often said that Blood on the Tracks was not autobiographical despite it being a “break-up” record. But some of its tale does seem to fit his life, and when listening to “Tangled Up in Blue” and getting lost in the cinematic imagery of its narrative, it sure is Dylan that I picture. He did try to confuse things though when in later live versions, revised lyrics often changed the song’s main character from first person (“I”) to third (both “He” and “She”).
The lively upbeat acoustic tempo of the song has always made it a fun sing-along for me. It’s a delightful story to follow and again, Dylan delivers lyrics like few can. Something though that it took time for me to notice was that the storyline within the song is non-linear, like is often found in many novels.
Surprisingly, despite being a little long for the radio at 5:41, “Tangled Up in Blue” was released as a single and even made it to #31 on the US charts. It also was one of the songs that Dylan re-recorded with the “Minneapolis Musicians” after it had been previously cut in New York City with some session players. It also was produced by Bob’s brother, David Zimmerman, although he is not credited.
What’s my favorite segment of the song, you ask? Well, that must be when “She was working in a topless place and I stopped in for a beer.” And it’s all because of the curious scene that this spot’s closing lines portray: “I must admit I felt a little uneasy when she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe.”
Finally, to me it’s truly remarkable how in this song, Dylan gives form and substance to the word “blue.” He was once quoted as saying that he was inspired by Joni Mitchell’s 1971 album, Blue. To me, the song gives the word “blue” the character of a state of mind or an obstacle to overcome. But I’ll leave the “Dylan-alysis” to the professionals and just say that regardless of his intentions, I just love the whole story!
And this live video of Dylan performing the song on his 1976 Rolling Thunder Revue is one of my fave live clips of all time. Watch, enjoy and sing along!