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"Did You Ever Compromise with the Mystery Tramp?" Topic

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GamesPoet Supporting Member of TMP20 Oct 2021 3:57 a.m. PST

"Once upon a time you dressed so fine
Threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you?
People call say 'beware doll, you're bound to fall'
You thought they were all kidding you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hanging out
Now you don't talk so loud
Now you don't seem so proud
About having to be scrounging your next meal

How does it feel, how does it feel?
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone

Ahh you've gone to the finest schools, alright Miss Lonely
But you know you only used to get juiced in it
Nobody's ever taught you how to live out on the street
And now you're gonna have to get used to it
You say you never compromise
With the mystery tramp, but now you realize
He's not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And say do you want to make a deal?

How does it feel, how does it feel?
To be on your own, with no direction home
A complete unknown, like a rolling stone

Ah you never turned around to see the frowns
On the jugglers and the clowns when they all did tricks for you
You never understood that it ain't no good
You shouldn't let other people get your kicks for you
You used to ride on a chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain't it hard when you discovered that
He really wasn't where it's at
After he took from you everything he could steal

How does it feel, how does it feel?
To have on your own, with no direction home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone

Ahh princess on a steeple and all the pretty people
They're all drinking, thinking that they've got it made
Exchanging all precious gifts
But you better take your diamond ring, you better pawn it babe
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him he calls you, you can't refuse
When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You're invisible now, you've got no secrets to conceal

How does it feel, ah how does it feel?
To be on your own, with no direction home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone"

by Bob Dylan, 1965

Deucey Supporting Member of TMP20 Oct 2021 5:59 a.m. PST


GamesPoet Supporting Member of TMP20 Oct 2021 6:34 a.m. PST

If you read it, it will come. ; )

The title of the poll is half way down in the third paragraph.

John the OFM20 Oct 2021 7:00 a.m. PST

Needs some bad harmonica.

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP20 Oct 2021 8:11 a.m. PST

Or maybe a 250 rank pipe organ?

So you can't hear the lyrics?


Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP20 Oct 2021 8:31 a.m. PST

You can hear the lyrics???
Never could pick much out of that song but the chorus, myself.

It's fun to mock-sing like Dylan, because anyone can.

ZULUPAUL Supporting Member of TMP20 Oct 2021 10:10 a.m. PST

Never cared for Dylan.

Old Contemptible20 Oct 2021 1:30 p.m. PST

The Voice of a Generation.




GamesPoet Supporting Member of TMP20 Oct 2021 4:59 p.m. PST

Dylan himself said in reference to this song, "I don't want to scream it", and he had a reason.

And the person being addressed by Dylan in the song is a woman, and from the description and upper class one at that, and then seemingly a fall from her place, and cast away, while failing to see the situation that was developing to her. And the song repeats the same pattern, while at the same time seems to hint at a possibility of improvement, as if a choice can be made still, its not too late.

When one looks deeper at it, the patterns, the rhyming, the actual music itself, and the whole thing done in one take, the first time they sat down to record it, it starts to take on more meaning across the spectrum of the music poetry that exists. And his voice, oh he gets lots of criticism for that, yet here it is subtly changing, if one is open to actually listening for such, and willing to accept his authoritarian perspective that seems to be sensitive to the person's situation as well.

And this leads to the pondering on what is the relationship between the singer and the woman. And then there is this "rolling stone", two words that appeared in other songs prior to Dylan's. And the song came at a time when folks actually listening to his music were in essence feeling the same way that the woman is feeling.

And while coming during an era where powerful and wealthy people came into conflict with even their children, the latter who'd gotten past adolescence and into adulthood, yet were struggling for their current place in society. And thus what were these young people going to do after all their behavior's of rebellion from privilege, and the choices that privilege was forcing upon many of them at a time of war.

So he is not singing about just one woman, and he is repeating the rolling stone because of its symbolism and history, and to a bunch of folks of his own generation, to say what are you going to do now? A song of reflection, that now that you're own your own, that you have the freedom that you have, he wonders what will be chosen from here.

Deucey Supporting Member of TMP21 Oct 2021 4:01 a.m. PST

So what's the question?

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP21 Oct 2021 11:15 a.m. PST

I think you're giving Dylan too much credit. It comes across as one of those songs that people nod and say, ‘that's deep, man, really deep." And then you ask them "What's deep about it?", and they can't give you a cogent answer.
I'm not saying you're wrong (or that your answer isn't cogent), but I do think you're reading a lot into the song that's not evidently there. Now, if Dylan later said that's what the song was about, okay. But to me, reading the lyrics, and having heard him sing it, I think it's a bit more personal, either actually about a specific person whom he has watched crash (and in which crash he seems to take a little too much satisfaction), or about "selling out" in general, probably among fellow "folk" or "protest" singers (and maybe even himself). As a generational statement, I dunno. Maybe?

In any case, if that's the point, I think he missed his targets, winding up with a song people sing snatches of without either grasping what it means or even caring. Which is the case with most "meaningful" songs. But then, it's not the nature of a song to be understood or to put forth any sort of logical argument.

DJCoaltrain21 Oct 2021 11:57 a.m. PST

In order to sell out you gotta have something to sell. The downtrodden of American Society got nothing to sell. If they had anything, they'd willingly sell it. As for me, "Hillbilly Elegy" says it all. Personally, I find it very difficult to believe anyone worth $350 USD million has any intimate knowledge of those being crushed by generational poverty. Jus Sayin.

von Schwartz ver 221 Oct 2021 4:34 p.m. PST

Didn't the Stones cover this one too?

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP21 Oct 2021 5:17 p.m. PST

If a writer--including a songwriter--has to explain what he wrote, he's failed as a writer. I'm not sure Dylan COULD explain what he wrote.

He's also 33 years behind "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian21 Oct 2021 10:41 p.m. PST

Some say the mystery tramp is Christ.

Others say it is a rhyming substitution for 'enemy camp'.

John the OFM21 Oct 2021 10:59 p.m. PST

Or he could have been stoned when he wrote it.

GamesPoet Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2021 3:10 a.m. PST

The song does seem to work on a personal level, and of course it came from experience, perhaps more than one experience, perhaps a collection of experiences that added up, of which he witnessed outside himself, maybe questioning himself, and perhaps a combination of all of these. There are those that claim the song is about a specific person, and that is certainly possible, yet perhaps more than one, especially since more than one is mentioned, and the relationship(s) between people, and what people obtain in such situations, and how fleeting that can be. Will they learn, and how will they move forward? And when different people can relate to the repetitiveness of the chorus, especially to those who were showing up to his concerts, its not surprising for a generational association to come out of it, on purpose or not, it happened, and he already was aware of his own influence on that, which I'll mention what that was causing shortly.

As for being 33 years behind, the first references to this kind of stuff goes much further back, at least into the 1500s some say as far back as the 1000s, and some say all the way back to Publilius Syrus, BC. However, that doesn't mean Dylan was thinking of any of that, although using the rolling stone reference repeatedly doesn't show it to be an accident.

And the idea that such themes are something that is part of the human condition, shows that it doesn't take 350 million dollars to see it, which I suspect he didn't have at the time of the release of this music, when he was needling at that condition through at a minimum personal experience and perspective. And while being around the time when Dylan himself was beginning to question his own path, even considering quitting music.

Additionally, suspect that Dylan can explain what he writes, and from multiple interviews, it seems he does so with resistance, and seems to answer only to the extent that he seems to be willing to share.

So there are lots of questions, and lots of answers.

I have at least 5 responses in this post. ; )

Deucey Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2021 4:26 a.m. PST

So what does the original poll question mean?

DJCoaltrain22 Oct 2021 10:07 a.m. PST

John the OFM – Like most of the musicians from the 60s.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2021 4:19 p.m. PST

Reversals of fortune certainly go back a bit. But my point, GamesPoet, is that to the extent I can make out what he's talking about, it had already been done much better by previous composers and singers. You only do another version of "Romeo and Juliet" if you think you can top Shakespeare.

GamesPoet Supporting Member of TMP23 Oct 2021 1:19 a.m. PST

If Dylan's song is only being seen as a reversal of fortune situation, then yes, what's been made out has been missed. Even so, during the Great Depression there were a lot more folks who farmed and labored and soldiered that had to wait in bread lines while those who lived in the upper class, where some say the choices were made that impacted the majority who suffered, yet it was the majority that was providing and protecting for all. Some might say the working class didn't make good choices either, but Dylan's song was not about either of those perspectives on the economics of the times. However, the authors of both songs do seem to be speaking of choices, and calling for folks to contemplate.

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