Blood on the Tracks(1975)
I was thinking about Bob Dylan’s 1975 album Blood on the Tracks today. The album is one of Dylan’s very best, made at a period of transition in his life. The cultural decade of the 60’s had come to a close the year prior and turmoil was in the atmosphere. Along with this, Dylan’s first marriage to Sara was coming to a close and divorce was imminent. These difficulties can be heard in the album. My criticism of the album was always that it had two closing songs where only one was needed. Both “Shelter from the Storm” and “Buckets of Rain” work as solid closing songs. It seemed to me that Dylan had two great closures and had not wanted to choose just one. However, as I was thinking about the album again today, I realized that the third to last track, “If you see her, Say hello” also works as an excellent closer for an album. For that matter, “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts” could end the album. It would be a happy ballad to end an album full of turmoil. Then it dawned on me: Blood on the Tracks is an album full of endings. There are no beginnings to any of the songs, only ends. “Tangled up in Blue,” is a song about reminiscing on the past and an uncertain future. “Simple Twist of Fate” and “Idiot Wind” discuss the uncertainty of the future while still in the past. People get blown around through life with little control over themselves or others. “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts” doesn’t even begin at the start of the story. “Everyone with any sense had already left town,” so the lyrics go. The party ended before the song began. These realizations made me quickly realize that my criticism of the album had been one of its strengths. A good friend of mine describes the album as being the perfect picture of a disintegrating marriage. In terms of Dylan’s life, this could not be more true. However, this is just one reading of the album, which also works as a look back on nostalgia and seeing its pros and cons. I am reminded of that infamous William Faulkner quote: “the past is never over, it’s not even past.” Blood on the Tracks is Dylan at his most personal. It may be the most personal album ever recorded.