Song of the Day #602: ‘Absolutely Sweet Marie’ – Bob Dylan

Blonde on Blonde was the first double album of the rock era, but it doesn’t have all that many songs. Fourteen tracks is pretty normal on a single album these days. But these were some long songs. Three clocked in at more than 7 minutes, and the nearly 12-minute ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ took up one whole side of disc two.

And these are among Dylan’s most celebrated and successful songs. Blonde on Blonde features such classics as ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,’ ‘Just Like a Woman,’ ‘Visions of Johanna,’ ‘I Want You’ and ‘Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.’

But every song here is excellent. My personal favorite might be ‘Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,’ that bawdy bit of absurdity which features one of my favorite Dylan lyrics:

Well, I see you got a new boyfriend
You know, I never seen him before
Well, I saw him
Makin’ love to you
You forgot to close the garage door
You might think he loves you for your money
But I know what he really loves you for
It’s your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat

And ‘4th Time Around,’ inspired by The Beatles’ ‘Norwegian Wood,’ is a delicately surreal tale of an encounter with a mysterious woman.

My second SOTD selection from Blonde on Blonde is ‘Absolutely Sweet Marie,’ another hard-luck love tale. This one contains some great Dylan lines, such as “to live outside the law you must be honest” and “anybody can be just like me, obviously, but… not too many can be like you, fortunately.” And “beating on my trumpet” and “the fever down in my pockets” are among the more creative ways of describing sexual frustration that I’ve heard in a song (unless I’m misreading things).

Well, your railroad gate, you know I just can’t jump it
Sometimes it gets so hard, you see
I’m just sitting here beating on my trumpet
With all these promises you left for me
But where are you tonight, sweet Marie?

Well, I waited for you when I was half sick
Yes, I waited for you when you hated me
Well, I waited for you inside of the frozen traffic
When you knew I had some other place to be
Now, where are you tonight, sweet Marie?

Well, anybody can be just like me, obviously
But then, now again, not too many can be like you, fortunately

Well, six white horses that you did promise
Were fin’lly delivered down to the penitentiary
But to live outside the law, you must be honest
I know you always say that you agree
But where are you tonight, sweet Marie?

Well, I don’t know how it happened
But the riverboat captain, he knows my fate
But ev’rybody else, even yourself
They’re just gonna have to wait.

Well, I got the fever down in my pockets
The Persian drunkard, he follows me
Yes, I can take him to your house but I can’t unlock it
You see, you forgot to leave me with the key
Oh, where are you tonight, sweet Marie?

Now, I been in jail when all my mail showed
That a man can’t give his address out to bad company
And now I stand here lookin’ at your yellow railroad
In the ruins of your balcony
Wond’ring where you are tonight, sweet Marie.

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4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #602: ‘Absolutely Sweet Marie’ – Bob Dylan

  1. Amy says:

    With each new Dylan weekend, I realize just how little of his songs I actually know. So thank you for the crash course in some of the better of these lesser known (at least by me) works from the master. I like this one a lot. This is the kind of Dylan I like best. Good stuff.

  2. Dana says:

    I’m not that familiar with this song either. Good one though.

  3. Whalespoon says:

    Just as Jimi Hendrix took “All Along the Watchtower” to a whole new level, Jason and the Scorchers also made this one their own. One of my very favorite Dylan covers and well worth seeking out if you do not know it.

  4. Clay says:

    I didn’t… thanks for the suggestion. Here it is:

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