Song of the Day #1,724: ‘Walls of Red Wing’ – Bob Dylan

dylan_bootlegHere’s one of those early tracks from the first volume of Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series. This song was an outtake from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.

Unlike many of the songs that were inexplicably left off of Dylan’s albums over the years, scrapping this one was a good choice. It’s certainly not bad, but neither does it rise to the high level of everything else on Freewheelin’.

Dylan wrote this song about a juvenile detention center in Red Wing, Minnesota. I don’t know if he ever served time there. I suspect the actual facility wasn’t surrounded by electrified barbed wire fences, but that’s the beauty of poetic license.

Oh, the age of the inmates
I remember quite freely:
No younger than twelve
No older ’n seventeen
Thrown in like bandits
And cast off like criminals
Inside the walls
The walls of Red Wing

From the dirty old mess hall
You march to the brick wall
Too weary to talk
And too tired to sing
Oh, it’s all afternoon
You remember your hometown
Inside the walls
The walls of Red Wing

Oh, the gates are cast iron
And the walls are barbed wire
Stay far from the fence
With the ’lectricity sting
And it’s keep down your head
And stay in your number
Inside the walls
The walls of Red Wing

Oh, it’s fare thee well
To the deep hollow dungeon
Farewell to the boardwalk
That takes you to the screen
And farewell to the minutes
They threaten you with it
Inside the walls
The walls of Red Wing

It’s many a guard
That stands around smilin’
Holdin’ his club
Like he was a king
Hopin’ to get you
Behind a wood pilin’
Inside the walls
The walls of Red Wing

The night aimed shadows
Through the crossbar windows
And the wind punched hard
To make the wall-siding sing
It’s many a night
I pretended to be a-sleepin’
Inside the walls
The walls of Red Wing

As the rain rattled heavy
On the bunkhouse shingles
And the sounds in the night
They made my ears ring
’Til the keys of the guards
Clicked the tune of the morning
Inside the walls
The walls of Red Wing

Oh, some of us’ll end up
In St. Cloud Prison
And some of us’ll wind up
To be lawyers and things
And some of us’ll stand up
To meet you on your crossroads
From inside the walls
The walls of Red Wing

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2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,724: ‘Walls of Red Wing’ – Bob Dylan

  1. Dana says:

    Unless I am hearing incorrectly, I think he is singing “inside the grounds” not “inside the walls.” Odd that this lyric would be wrong in the text when the rest seems correct.

    A good song with provocative lyrics, but it really doesn’t go anywhere musically. I recognize that this is a particular style of traditional folk Dylan is using, but, in his more memorable songs, there is usually a bit more to them to hold your attention.

  2. Andrea Katz says:

    I always loved this one and I am thinking that I loved it from Joan baez’ “Any Day Now” album of Dylan’s songs. I really used to enjoy this. Thanks for two of my favorites this week.

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