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What's the story of Bob Dylan's 4th Time Around?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by johnnyyen, Nov 11, 2006.

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  1. johnnyyen

    johnnyyen Senior Member Thread Starter

    As we probably all know, Dylan adapted the music of The Beatles Norwegian Wood to write this great song from Blonde On Blonde. I've read John Lennon took it as a critique of his new writing style which was influenced by Dylan, and began checking future Dylan releases to see whether there were anymore digs at him. However that's all I know about it. Was Dylan showing his contempt for The Beatles or was it just a playful stab at their musical progression. The final lines seem to be quite critical of Lennon in particular:

    "And I, I never took much,
    I never asked for your crutch.
    Now don't ask for mine."

    So, what's it all about?
  2. Ed Bishop

    Ed Bishop Incredibly, I'm still here

    Typical Dylan: no names were used so he could go after all who opposed him....:D

  3. jpmosu

    jpmosu a.k.a. Mr. Jones

    Ohio, USA
    I don't think contempt was intended. But I also think it was a less-than-subtle reminder that he was the master, rather than the pupil. Dylan didn't lack confidence (arrogance?)--and this was just one of the ways he showed it.
    qwerty likes this.
  4. daveman

    daveman Forum All Star

    I don't think it was contempt, either. If anything, I think it was a compliment.
    JimC likes this.
  5. lil.fred

    lil.fred Forum Resident

    The East Bay
    I don't see how "I never asked for your crutch etc." could refer to the Beatles. If it's directed at all, it's directed at a woman - such a "relationship" thing to say. If anything I relate it to the reference to "her Jamaican rum"; Dylan was using a number of crutches in 1966.
    Thelonious_Cube likes this.
  6. vonwegen

    vonwegen Forum Resident

    4th Time Around is definitely a dig at Lennon, imho. The melody is very similar, enough to point listeners to the original, and the storyline has the feel of a parody.

    Me, I think it was typical Bob behaviour back then. This is something the Scorcese film does not touch upon, but Dylan and his sidekicks at the time (Bobby Neuwirth, et al.) got their kicks out of the discomfort of others. Clinton Heylin's book "Behind The Shades revisited" does a pretty good job of describing that.

    Of course, Bob apparently did not know that there was some very strong Macca input on "Wood"--it was McCartney's idea that the protagonist burn the house down at the end,...
    905, johnnyyen and theMess like this.
  7. ivor

    ivor Forum Resident

  8. Another Side

    Another Side Forum Resident

    San Francisco
    Here is Lennon's take on it in 1968 from a Rolling Stone interview:

    Louise Boat, JimC and Zeki like this.
  9. John DeAngelis

    John DeAngelis Senior Member

    New York, NY
    Just because Dylan wrote a song that's a take-off on "Norwegian Wood" doesn't mean that the lyrics were about John Lennon or the Beatles. It's a song about a relationship. Just like "Norwegian Wood". Dylan also wrote a song that was a take-off on "Ode To Billie Jo" ("Clothesline Sage") and the lyrics weren't about Bobbie Gentry, they were a take-off on the lyrics to "Ode To Billie Jo". Same thing applies to "Fourth Time Around".
    Suncola, RayS, alchemy and 1 other person like this.
  10. Ed Bishop

    Ed Bishop Incredibly, I'm still here

    I just took it to be one among many Dylan songs about a relationship--probably a lady, though I wouldn't insist upon that, Dylan could have been referring to one person, or several. Many have spent considerable time trying to figure out who he's talking about, but of course it's possible he just made it all up, like any artist...:D

  11. czeskleba

    czeskleba Senior Member

    Best post in this thread.

    The lyrics (at least the first half of the song) strike me as simply being about a guy visiting a prostitute and not the money to pay when it's over. The rest of the song is more surreal. I think people read a lot more into Dylan songs of this era than was intended by the songwriter.
    John DeAngelis likes this.
  12. Another Side

    Another Side Forum Resident

    San Francisco
    Well, but there is no denying that Dylan wrote the song in the same narrative style as Norwegian Wood. We can debate on the motivation behind the song, but the connection is there.
  13. Ed Bishop

    Ed Bishop Incredibly, I'm still here

    Which has been said about Van Morrison's key works, & John Lennon's. That we still discuss the meanings of those works speaks to the mysteries of language, verse, rhyme, and the musical foundations that support the words. For me, Dylan's best just works in a magical way, the words a part of a larger whole. The tone of his voice, the way he stretched words, usually told me more than what he was saying...or not saying.

    Some think that "Like A Rolling Stone" and "Positively 4th Street" 'sound the same,' and that the plot is similar. But the introductory lines of each tell a different story:

    Rolling Stone: "Once upon a time you dressed so fine"

    4th Street: "You got a lot of nerve to say you are my friend"

    The former is a bitter regret from a distance; the latter, a bitter attack; the former begins like a tale of the past, the latter clearly in the present, emotions still bare and charged. Both are great works, and unlike anything mainstream radio had hitherto played(or tolerated).

    Beyond that, I wouldn't dream of suggesting what each song 'means,' but there's little doubt of Dylan's intent. Anger, bitterness, confusion, a touch of regret, the desire for revenge--all very obvious. No wonder JL might have been bugged by "4th Time Around," if only because he felt a kindred spirit(what else can we believe of "Girl" and "Run For Your Life"?)

    fluffskul likes this.
  14. JWB

    JWB New Member

  15. johnnyyen

    johnnyyen Senior Member Thread Starter


    Well I think Lennon saw the song very differently and said so, and he finally got the opportunity to respond to Dylan with his Serve Yourself because he was so appalled at Dylan's conversion to Christianity.
  16. David R. Modny

    David R. Modny Senior Member

    Streetsboro, Ohio
    I was always under the impression that the song's title was some veiled reference to the similarity between earlier, alternating Lennon and Dylan melodies - i.e. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away being the "1st Time Around," another Dylan tune being the "2nd Time Around," Norwegian Wood being the "3rd Time Around"...etc...
    nikh33, Johnny Livewire and johnnyyen like this.
  17. johnny33

    johnny33 New Member

    I always understood that 4th time was just the opposite as far as concerning its relationship to Nor. Wood. I think Dylan liked the song of Johns and was paying a bit of a tribute to it. Dylan wouldnt have been so outward in making fun of something imo.It was more of a tribute.

    Also, this song is like a continuation of Nor. Wood. John was describing the scene. While Dylan was describing the conversation.

    Dylan had definitely listened to Nor Wood I would bet though. This songs too clear in its melodic similarities.
    JimC likes this.
  18. lou

    lou Fast 'n Bulbous

    Then "I'm a Loser" would have been the second time around.
  19. Jose Jones

    Jose Jones Outstanding Forum Member

    Detroit, Michigan
    Probably because Christianity would have been appalled at his walking out on his wife and son. Where's that song?
    beatlematt and Kermit27 like this.
  20. jkauff

    jkauff Putin-funded Forum Troll

    Akron, OH
    Phil Ochs was convinced the song was about him. Phil was a bit paranoid, but I can see him in the role.
  21. INSW

    INSW Forum Resident

    It's obviously about Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
    Hot Ptah, Steve E., alchemy and 2 others like this.
  22. Thelonious_Cube

    Thelonious_Cube Epistrophe of Light

    Oakland, CA
    I'd say it's actually about Eleanor, but told through F. Delano's eyes (nit-picky, I know). The subtle references to the Yalta Conference and Stalin and Churchill really make the song for me. Spit out your gum, indeed!
    uzn007 and HominyRhodes like this.
  23. HominyRhodes

    HominyRhodes Forum Resident

    You people are too much.

    "...I tried to make sense/ Out of that picture of you in your wheelchair..."


    RayS likes this.
  24. Terry

    Terry Senior Member

    My fav Blonde on Blonde song.
  25. Otlset

    Otlset under western skies

    Temecula, CA
    I've always loved this song, loved its lilting wistful quality. That album sure has a load of dynamite songs!
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