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Music / Slow Train Coming

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There's a slow, slow train comin' up around the bend.

Slow Train Coming is the nineteenth studio album by Bob Dylan, released in 1979. At the time it was his first album after becoming an born-again Christian and this is reflected on this and many other albums he released in The '80s. Musically he shifted more towards Christian Rock and Gospel Music and his lyrics dealt more with his faith in God. While Dylan did reach a new audience among religious people, it did alienate a lot of his older fans, especially considering Dylan wrote far more critical songs about religion earlier in his career, notably "With God On Our Side" from The Times They Are A-Changin'.

Commercially the album did well. "Gotta Serve Somebody" was his first huge hit in three years and won him his first Grammy Award ("Best Rock Vocal"). Critical reactions were more mixed, though with the passing of time and especially regarding Dylan's entire career it's nowadays Vindicated by History as one of his better albums (or at the least superior to his other two Christian albums).


Side One

  1. "Gotta Serve Somebody" (5:24)
  2. "Precious Angel" (6:31)
  3. "I Believe In You" (5:09)
  4. "Slow Train" (5:58)

Side Two

  1. "Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking" (5:28)
  2. "Do Right To Me Baby (Do Unto Others)" (3:53)
  3. "When You Gonna Wake Up?" (5:29)
  4. "Man Gave Names To All The Animals" (4:27)
  5. "When He Returns" (4:32)

Gotta Trope Somebody:

  • Adam and Eve Plot and Animal Motifs: "Man Gave Names To All The Animals", based on Adam naming all the animals in the Garden of Eden. It's rather childlike in nature and has often been called one of Dylan's worst songs in terms of lyrics.
  • Apocalypse How: Well, a good solid helping of the Book of Revelation, at least as seen by certain evangelical circles.
  • Author Avatar: The general message of this album is pretty much summed up in "When You Gonna Wake Up?"
    There's a man up on a cross and He's been crucified for you
    Believe in His power that's about all you got to do.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Many tracks deal with Christian themes. But some are directly based on biblical quotes, such as "Precious Angel", "Do Right To Me Baby (Do Unto Others)" and "Man Gave Names To All The Animals".
  • Christian Rock: The whole album, but neatly summed up in a couplet from "Precious Angel".
    You were telling him about Buddha, you were telling him about Mohammed in the same breath
    You never mentioned one time the Man who came and died a criminal's death.
  • Crapsack World: "Slow Train":
    All that foreign oil controlling American soil
    Look around you, it’s just bound to make you embarrassed
    Sheiks walkin’ around like kings
    Wearing fancy jewels and nose rings
    Deciding America’s future from Amsterdam and to Paris
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The cover was designed by Catherine Kanner.
  • The End Is Near: All over the place. Dylan even had end times sermons between the songs during concerts.
  • Extreme Doormat: "Do Right To Me Baby"
    Don't wanna be used by nobody for a doormat
  • God-Is-Love Songs: All the songs are about God in one way or another. In "Precious Angel" Dylan asks God to "shine his light on him", while "I Believe In You" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. In "When You Gonna Wake Up" Dylan tells everybody to wake up and convert to God. In "Do Right To Me, Baby" however Dylan states: "Don't put my faith in nobody, not even a scientist."
  • Gospel Music: This album marked Dylan's shift towards gospel.
  • Heroic Resolve: Dylan applies it to himself in several songs.
    Though the Earth may shake me
    And my friends forsake me
    Even that won't make me go back
    Don't, don't let me change my heart
  • I Have Many Names: "Gotta Serve Somebody"
    You may call me Terry, you may call me Jimmy
    You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy
    You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray
    You may call me anything but no matter what you say
    You're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
  • Lonely Piano Piece: "When He Returns", which ends the album.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Invoked Trope. Dylan wanted to sell some pretty controversial religious and political ideas using catchy songs and smooth production. Much of the controversy around the album is a result of how well it worked.
  • Made a Slave: "Precious Angel"
    We are covered in blood, girl, you know both our forefathers were slaves
    Let us hope they've found mercy in their bone-filled graves
  • My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: "Slow Train"
    Man's ego is inflated, his laws are outdated, they don't apply no more
    You can't rely no more to be standing around waiting
    In the home of the brave, Jefferson turning over in his grave.
  • New Sound Album: Dylan had converted to Christianity at time of recording and as a result all songs are about his new found faith in God.
  • Reggae: "Man Gave Names To All The Animals" is reggae inspired.
  • Record Producer: Dylan enlisted Jerry Wexler (longtime Atlantic Records executive) and Barry Beckett (prolific keyboardist who was part of the influential Soul/Rock musical crew based in Muscle Shoals, Alabama) to produce.
  • Questioning Title?: "When You Gonna Wake Up?"
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: "Gotta Serve Somebody"
    You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
    Money and drugs at your command, women in a cage
  • Shaped Like Itself: "He unleashed His power at an unknown hour that no one knew"
  • Shout-Out:
    • "When You Gonna Wake Up?"
    Karl Marx has got ya by the throat, Henry Kissinger got you tied up in knots.
    • "You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray" in "Gotta Serve Somebody" is a nod to comedian Bill Saluga and his Raymond J. Johnson Jr. character, who was ubiquitous on American TV variety shows in The '70s.
  • Singer Name Drop: "Gotta Serve Somebody", in which he even acknowledges his birth surname Zimmerman.
    You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy
  • "Somewhere" Song: "Gonna Change My Ways"
    There's a kingdom called Heaven
    A place where there is no pain of birth
    Well the Lord created it, mister
    About the same time he made the Earth
  • Special Guest: Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits plays guitar on this album, with original Dire Straits drummer Pick Withers also helping out. As a result, several of the songs almost sound In the Style of the band.
  • A Storm Is Coming: "Slow Train" describes situations that will mark a turn for the worse.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: Each verse of "Man Gave Names To All The Animals" describes an animal, ending on a rhyme on its name. Until the final verse:
    He saw an animal as smooth as glass
    Slithering its way through the grass
    Saw him disappear in a tree by a lake

    [End of song]
  • Title Track: "Slow Train"
    Sometimes I feel so low-down and disgusted
    Can't help but wonder what's happening to my companions
    Are they lost or are they found, have they counted the cost it'll take to bring down?
    All their earthly principles they're gonna have to abandon?
    There's a slow, slow train coming up around the bend.
  • 12-Bar Blues: "Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking" is a pretty straight example.
  • Train Song: "Slow Train", where the train is to be understood as a metaphor for the coming biblical apocalypse and Jesus' return.
  • Wham Line: "When You Gonna Wake Up?"
    You got some big dreams baby, but in order to dream you gotta still be asleep