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Music / Blood on the Tracks

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Lord knows I've paid some dues, getting through, tangled up in blue.

This is my favourite album ever. I spent the end of my teenage years and my early twenties listening to old music Ė Rockabilly music, stuff like that. Then I discovered Folk Music when I was 25, and that led me to Dylan. He totally blew me away with this. It's like the great album from the second period, y'know? He did that first run of albums in The '60s, then he started doing his less troublesome albums Ė and out of that comes Blood On The Tracks. It's his masterpiece.
Quentin Tarantinonote 

Blood On The Tracks is the fifteenth studio album by Bob Dylan, released in 1975.

After the Career Resurrection of Planet Waves and his 1974 tour with The Band, Dylan once again surprised everyone by releasing perhaps his most personal effort. The months after the tour had seen two major events in his life: his marriage to his then-wife Sara had become strained, and after years of amateur painting (including the covers of Music from Big Pink and Self Portrait), he took formal lessons with artist Norman Raeben (son of Tevye creator Sholem Aleichem). Reflecting on his life, and on Raeben's advice that honest, unexaggerated depiction of reality was the highest form of art, he crafted a set of songs that used his trademark poetic wordplay to express the emotions and feelings of love gained and lost.

Initially recorded in New York as an acoustic-based album (with a few attempts at full-band arrangements), Dylan called off its release at the last minute, then re-recorded five of its ten songsnote  in Minneapolis, with group of local musicians assembled by his brother David Zimmerman.

The album is best remembered for the hit single "Tangled up in Blue" and the fan favorites "Shelter from the Storm" and "Simple Twist of Fate". A song left off the album, "Up to Me", was released on the Biograph box set in 1985, along with the New York version of "You're a Big Girl Now". Several other alternate takes and the previously-unreleased "Call Letter Blues" were included on The Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3 in 1991. In 2018, a Bootleg Series installment devoted to the entire album sessions, called More Blood, More Tracks, was issued to great acclaim (including from Kanye West, who tweeted some of the lyrics from "Up to Me" and invited Dylan to "get together" with him).

Also in 2018, Luca Guadagnino announced that he will make a film adaptation of the album, from a screenplay by Richard LaGravenese. ChloŽ Grace Moretz has been cast as the female lead.


Side One

  1. "Tangled Up In Blue" (5:40)
  2. "Simple Twist Of Fate" (4:18)
  3. "You're A Big Girl Now" (4:36)
  4. "Idiot Wind" (7:45)
  5. "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" (2:58)

Side Two

  1. "Meet Me In The Morning" (4:19)
  2. "Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts" (8:50)
  3. "If You See Her, Say Hello" (4:46)
  4. "Shelter From The Storm" (4:59)
  5. "Buckets Of Rain" (3:29)

Tangled Up In Tropes:

  • Addled Addict: The "Montague Street" verse in "Tangled Up in Blue" rewrote the original verse, which started out with these lines:
    He was always in a hurry
    Too busy or too stoned
    And everything that she ever planned
    Just had to be postponed
  • Album Closure:
    • "Buckets of Rain" closes with a reflective verse.
      Life is sad, life is a bust
      All you can do is do what you must
      You do what you must do, and you do it well
      Iíll do it for you
      Honey baby, Canít you tell?
    • But, interestingly, the Cut Song "Up to Me" sure feels like it was the song he'd originally conceived as the album closer, ending with these lines, which almost seem like Dylan's mission statement for his whole career:
      If we never meet again, baby, remember me
      How my lone guitar played sweet for you that old-time melody
      And the harmonica around my neck, I blew it for you free
      No one else could play that tune, you knew it was up to me
  • Alliterative Title: "Meet Me In The Morning".
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: "Meet Me In The Morning"
    Little rooster crowing there must be something on his mind
    Well, I feel just like that rooster
    Honey, ya treat me so unkind
  • Ascended Meme: The cover art. Paul Till was a 20-year-old amateur photographer and Dylan fan who took a picture of him onstage at his 1974 Toronto concert, then added some darkroom effects and hand-coloring. He started selling copies and sent one unsolicited to Dylan's office. Dylan saw it and chose it for his new album. Till tells the whole story here.
  • As the Good Book Says...:
    • "Shelter From The Storm" has two references to the Crucifixion.
    She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns
    In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes
    Now we heard the Sermon on the Mount and I knew it was too complex
    It didn't amount to anything more than what the broken glass reflects
  • Break-Up Song: One of the most iconic break-up albums, inspired by Dylan's marriage falling apart. Pretty much all of the songs are about failed relationships, from a one night stand in "Simple Twist Of Fate" to divorce proceedings in "Idiot Wind".
  • Breather Episode: The breezy "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" and the undemanding "Meet Me in the Morning" are sequenced back-to-back to help you recover from the bitter "Idiot Wind" and prepare you for the long, wordy "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts".
  • Chekhov's Gun: Chekhov's Drill, in "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts".
  • Concept Album: Probably the closest Dylan ever came to one (not counting his Cover Albums). The interpretation that all the songs (except "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack Of Hearts") are about the same couple is very common.
  • Cool Shades: Bob wears them on the album cover.
  • Epic Rocking:
    • "Idiot Wind" and "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack Of Hearts" both exceed the 7:00 mark. Amazingly, they were both about a minute longer in their New York iterations (and "Lily" had an extra verse that he cut for the Minnesota version).
  • Face Death with Dignity: Rosemary "didn't even blink" as she was hanged for Big Jim's death in "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts".
  • Face on the Cover: Dylan's face in profile.
  • The Film of the Song: There were two separate attempts to get a film adaptation of "Lily, Rosemary and The Jack of Hearts" greenlighted, but they never got past the scripting stage. A few years after the album came out, Dylan hired John Kaye (who later did the screenplay for Where the Buffalo Roam) to write a screenplay, but it fell into Development Hell afterwards. In 1981 a writer named James Byron wrote a screenplay called The Jack of Hearts, which dramatized the song and infused some elements of Hamlet into the story, with the Alternative Character Interpretation of the Jack of Hearts as Rosemary's long-lost son.
  • Four More Measures: "Tangled Up in Blue", "You're a Big Girl Now" and "Lily, Rosemary and The Jack of Hearts" all have intros that go on longer than you'd expect. On "Lily" it's really obvious where Bob's supposed to start singing, but he waits two more bars before he actually does.
  • Hanging Judge: The Hanging Judge in "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts".
  • Heroes Want Redheads: The women in "Tangled Up in Blue" and "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" both have red hair.
  • I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy: In "If You See Her, Say Hello":
    I always have respected her for busting out and gettin' free
    Oh, whatever makes her happy, I won't stand in the way
  • Inherently Funny Words: Probably one of the reasons that Ashtabula, Ohio (population 19,000) gets mentioned in "You're Gonna Make Lonesome When You Go" (the fact that it was also referenced by Jack Kerouac and Carl Sandburg might be another reason).
  • Interrupted Suicide: "Simple Twist Of Fate":
    He told himself he didn't care pushed the window open wide
    Felt an emptiness inside to which he just could not relate
    Brought on by a simple twist of fate
  • Ladykiller in Love: Possibly might be the case with the man in "Simple Twist of Fate" and why he can't let go of the woman's memory.
  • Love Dodecahedron: "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts", involving the titular trio and Rosemary's husband Big Jim.
  • Lovable Rogue: The Jack of Hearts in "Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts", who's a charming, charismatic criminal.
  • Love Nostalgia Song: "If You See Her, Say Hello", as released, is mostly this. Later live versions tend to subvert it.
    And though our separation it pierced me to the heart
    She still lives inside of me, we've never been apart
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Idiot Wind"
  • Lyrical Shoehorn: Despite the high level of writing in the lyrics, there are some occasional lapses, like this from "Simple Twist of Fate".
    He hears the ticking of the clocks
    And walks along with a parrot that talks
  • Lyric Swap: "Idiot Wind" ends each (rather long) verse with the line "You're an idiot, babe, it's a wonder that you still know how to breathe" before switching to "We're idiots, babe, it's a wonder we can even feed ourselves" in the last verse.
  • Multiple Narrative Modes: As originally written, the lyrics of several songs jump between third-person and first-person narration, which was a case of Dylan being influenced by Norman Raeben's painting instruction. Raeben believed that multiple perspectives were valid and could be depicted in art. "Tangled Up in Blue" at first was largely third-person. The rewritten version that ended up on the album switched it mostly to first-person, though the "Montague Street" verse (which wasn't in the original) goes into third-person. "Simple Twist of Fate" also switches from third to first at a couple key points, suggesting the song was about the Narrator All Along.
  • Not Staying for Breakfast: "Simple Twist Of Fate"
    He woke up the room was bare
    He didn't see her anywhere
  • Pep-Talk Song: "Shelter From The Storm"
    Try imagining a place where it's always safe and warm
    "Come in" she said
    "I'll give you shelter from the storm".
  • Pretender Diss: The original New York version of "Idiot Wind" has Dylan complaining about how "Imitators steal me blind".
  • Rearrange the Song: Most of the songs have become concert mainstays, and almost all of them have gone through several rewrites over the years. As illustrated here, "Tangled Up In Blue" is probably his most tinkered-with song lyrically.
    • He even did this during the recording sessions. "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" was also attempted as a ballad and with an almost Bluegrass-type uptempo arrangement. He also tried "Shelter from the Storm" with a jingly piano, and "Meet Me in the Morning" as a Robert Johnson-style acoustic blues piece.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "Idiot Wind".
    It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe
  • Rule of Seven: "Idiot Wind"
    The priest wore black on the seventh day and sat stone faced while the building burned
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts", in which Dylan acts as the Lemony Narrator of a Wild West story of love and jealousy, but in the end it's actually the account of a gang of thieves who successfully rob a bank, while their leader, the Jack of Hearts, uses his Lovable Rogue personality to distract the townsfolk.
  • Shout-Out:
    Situations have ended sad
    Relationship have all been bad
    Mine 've been like Verlaine and Rimbaud note 
    • "You're a Big Girl Now." "Love is so simple" is the Catchphrase of Garance in Children of Paradise, a film that Dylan has called one of his favorites.
    • "I lived with them on Montague Street" in "Tangled Up in Blue". There is a Montague Street in Brooklyn, but no doubt Dylan had Romeo and Juliet in mind when he chose the name (given that the song is about a couple with disapproving parents).
      • Also, the "Italian poet from the 13th century". Asked the identity of the poet in a 1978 interview, Dylan replied "Plutarch. Is that his name?" Presumably he was thinking of Petrarch, who actually lived in the 14th century.
    • Give how often The Byrds did Cover Versions of Dylan songs, it's appropriate that he makes a reference to their 1970 song "Chestnut Mare" in "Idiot Wind". Doubly appropriate, since Roger McGuinn co-wrote "Chestnut Mare" with Jacques Levy, who went on to be Dylan's songwriting collaborator on Desire.
  • Something Blues: The Cut Song "Call Letter Blues" has a perplexing Non-Appearing Title, since the lyrics have nothing to do with radio or TV stations. The Working Title was the more appropriate "Church Bell Blues". There's a line about "call girls", so it might have been an allusion to that.
  • Stalker with a Crush: The man making a point of searching out a woman he barely knows toward the end of "Simple Twist of Fate" can be seen as an example. "Tangled Up in Blue" ends similarly, but it was a more serious relationship.
  • A Storm Is Coming:
    • "Shelter From The Storm", where the woman gives the male protagonist shelter from what could possibly be a metaphorical storm.
    • "Idiot Wind"
    I ran into the Fortune Teller, who said beware of lightning that might strike
    • The equivalent of the above line in the original New York version of "Idiot Wind".
    I threw the I Ching yesterday. Said there might be some thunder at the well.
  • Tsundere: The line She might think that I've forgotten her, don't tell her it isn't so in "If You See Her, Say Hello".
  • 12-Bar Blues: "Meet Me in the Morning" and its Cut Song companion piece "Call Letter Blues".
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: "Meet me in the morning, 56th and Wabasha". There doesn't appear to be any city with that particular intersection. St. Paul, Minnesota has a major thoroughfare called Wabasha Street, but it ends at 12th Street.