Episode 28. “Fourth Time Around.” Blonde on Blonde. September 7, 2017. The smoky-fire-hellscape-raining-ash Bunker. Rainier’s.
The song was recorded on February 14, 1966 and released on 1966’s Blonde on Blonde. While not as illuminating as “I Want You” or “Visions of Johanna,” the roughly twenty takes on The Cutting Edge are fantastic and worth it (even if it’s just for the false starts involving Joe South’s bass!)
It’ll be hard to talk about “Fourth Time Around” without mentioning a little band of Liverpool called The Beatles (10:15). “Norwegian Wood” shares a similar melody, lyrical premise and that 3/4 time signature. People consider this to be the first Beatles song where the lyrics were more important than the melody (how very Dylan of them). Like “I Wanna Be Your Lover” from Episode 2, “Fourth Time Around” can be seen as a playful homage or some satirical warning to John Lennon, who told Rolling Stone in 1968,
Or Dylan was just flexing, encouraging the Beatles along as they were moving in the direction that most fans, including myself, associate them with.
Before we get into the song, Kelly took a look into the past (15:00). She looked at the 4th century BCE and the 4th century CE. (We’re going to try to keep encouraging this over BC and AD!) In the 4th century BCE: the Romans built their first aqueduct, the Chinese were using hand-trigger crossbows (in contrast to the gastrophetes, the belly trigger bows from Greece), Gan De let us in on the “celestial sphere” and donkey powered mills were all the rage! In the 4th century CE: “it was a big year, and by year I mean century, for Christianity.” Armenia declared Christianity the state religion, Constantinople is a thing and Emperor Theodosius bans pagan worship. Stir-ups were also invented, as was sex with the Kama Sutra.
Let’s talk the song itself (23:20): We interrupt your blues-y rock for a folk ditty. Kelly loved the guitar, the fast waltz 3/4 time, and the repetition of the melody throughout the track. Daniel learned a new word, which will apply to a lot of Dylan’s work: “strophic,” as in verse-verse-verse without chorus. To use it in a sentence: “Kelly (generally) hates strophic songs!”
Daniel and Kelly have two different takes on Dylan’s lyrics. Both see it as a romance gone wrong but Daniel includes a third person, noting how the narrator is talking to a “you” when referring to “she.” Kelly saw it more like the HBO movie Gia staring Elizabeth Mitchell and Angelina Jolie.
There are only two people, but the “she,” screaming and falling over and writhing about needs her fix and when the narrator provides it, the third person, “you,” the real you at last, reemerges for the time being.
Recommendations (40:40): Kelly has been watching a show called iZombie and notes that there was a Bob Dylan reference in one of the episodes. (I found it and it’s in the episode, but I also tracked down a tweet from the writers below.)
Daniel recommends Steely Dan, in remembrance of Walter Becker who passed away on September 3, 2017. Two podcast he’d been catching up on: Heartland History, from the Midwestern History Association and “The Dig” from Jacobin. Also, Against Me! as they are going to see them this weekend.