Song of the Day #601: ‘Temporary Like Achilles’ – Bob Dylan

In May of 1966, Bob Dylan completed the most extraordinary trilogy in modern music history by releasing Blonde on Blonde just 14 months after Bringing it All Back Home, with Highway 61 Revisited sandwiched in between. Where did he get the nerve?!

Blonde on Blonde is certainly one of Dylan’s finest albums and it sits in the top ten of virtually every list of the “greatest albums ever recorded.” It’s the fourth member of my Dylan Six and a strong candidate for my favorite of his records. This is the album I’d likely recommend if somebody new to Bob Dylan wanted a sense of what he’s all about.

It’s not that Blonde on Blonde encompasses all Dylan is capable of — no single album could do that — but it shows him doing a lot of different things as well as they can possibly be done. From the opener, the raucous ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,’ to the elegant 11 1/2 minute closer ‘Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,’ Dylan never once fails to command your attention, both musically and lyrically.

I could throw a dart and hit a song on this album worth featuring today… so I did, in a manner of speaking. I used a random number generator to pick a number between one and 14 (the number of tracks on the album). It came up with 10, which corresponds to ‘Temporary Like Achilles.’

A sleepy blues number about a man who has no luck with the woman he loves, this song aptly demonstrates the sound Dylan came up with during the Nashville sessions of Blonde on Blonde. Lots of barroom piano and shuffling percussion, this is the sound of broken hearts and shanty towns.

Standing on your window, honey,
Yes, I’ve been here before.
Feeling so harmless,
I’m looking at your second door.
How come you don’t send me no regards?
You know I want your lovin’,
Honey, why are you so hard?

Kneeling ‘neath your ceiling,
Yes, I guess I’ll be here for a while.
I’m tryin’ to read your portrait, but,
I’m helpless, like a rich man’s child.
How come you send someone out to have me barred?
You know I want your lovin’,
Honey, why are you so hard?

Like a poor fool in his prime,
Yes, I know you can hear me walk,
But is your heart made out of stone, or is it lime,
Or is it just solid rock?

Well, I rush into your hallway,
Lean against your velvet door.
I watch upon your scorpion
Who crawls across your circus floor.
Just what do you think you have to guard?
You know I want your lovin’,
Honey, but you’re so hard.

Achilles is in your alleyway,
He don’t want me here,
He does brag.
He’s pointing to the sky
And he’s hungry, like a man in drag.
How come you get someone like him to be your guard?
You know I want your lovin’,
Honey, but you’re so hard.

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3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #601: ‘Temporary Like Achilles’ – Bob Dylan

  1. Dana says:

    Dylan’s output in this trilogy of albums is truly amazing. And Blonde on Blonde probably is the best of the three. For me, the standout on the album is probably “Visions of Johanna.” I’ve also always been fond of “Just Like a Woman” and “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”

  2. Amy says:

    So this sound is considered the Nashville influence? Fascinating. It’s definitely the sound I most strongly associate with Dylan. “Just Like a Woman” is the song with which I’m probably most familiar on the album (“greatest hit” that it is), but I can tell I should be listening to this album in its entirety.

  3. Clay says:

    His next couple of albums have a more traditional Nashville sound, but I guess it started here.

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