Outside In The Cold Distance

Said The Joker To the Thief. All Along The Watchtower

Some of my favorite songs paint vivid pictures with their lyrics. Few of those do more so than Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower”.


More often associated with Jimi Hendrix than Bob Dylan, the song is one of my favorite from either artists. But to be honest, I give Hendrix the edge with his slightly more hypnotic, more psychedelic version of the guitar intro. 

After hearing Hendrix's version, Dylan reportedly remarked, "It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn't think of finding in there… I liked Jimi Hendrix's record of this and ever since he died I've been doing it that way... Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it's a tribute to him in some kind of way.”

Recorded in 1967 for Dylan’s John Wesley Harding album and released as it’s second single… (Hendrix’s version would be released six months later, and would later be regarded by Rolling Stone magazine as the greatest cover version of a song of all time.)

But what is the song about ? Is the singer struggling ? Is he trapped and trying to escape ? Is he being lied to ? Abused ? Or is it about something all together different ?

The differences in the lyrical interpretation of All Along The Watchtower is vast. Many writers have attached biblical meaning to the song and even cite certain biblical passages to it, such as this… “ The Bible passage from the Book of Isaiah that inspired this song talks about the destruction of the enemy city of Babylon, which worshipped false gods called "idols." “, and then some attach it’s meaning to the Vietnam War… "...All Along the Watchtower " was written during the height of the Vietnam War, and watchtowers are part of the iconic scenery of that war, so it's natural to connect one to the other.”

And perhaps even about Dylan himself, and his conflicting personas.. “Some believe that Dylan is the “Joker” in the song, while Elvis Presley is the “Thief.” Others surmise how the two characters are really different sides of Dylan. “ ….

And of course, the final verse, could easily be a lyrical interpretation of a coming Apocalypse… “ Outside in the cold distance, A wildcat did growl. Two riders were approaching. And the wind began to howl ”

I guess that’s the attraction to Dylan and his songs… the ambiguity, the mystery of the intent… leaving the whole thing up to the listener. And that’s the beauty of a lyrical song like this… like art, we all take in the same thing, and interpret it as it suits us.

Let me know what you think…. Agree ? Disagree ? Drop me a line and share your opinion.  And if you have a music loving friend that might also enjoy some music related cartoon art, please share with this with them. Until the next time… 

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