14 thoughts on “Pete Hamill on Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks”

  1. Born in 1935 in Brooklyn to Belfast immigrants who arrived in New York the same day the stock market crashed in 1929, Hamill had artistic ambitions from a young age, attending the School of Visual Arts and, following a 4-year enlistment with the U.S. Navy, studying painting in Mexico City before becoming a writer. He joined the staff of the New York Post in the summer of 1960 as a night reporter and subsequently spent time at most of the major New York City daily tabloids, including the Village Voice, the Daily News, the Herald Tribune, and Newsday. In the 19, he served as the editor of the Post and as editor-in-chief of the Daily News. His feature articles and essays have appeared in publications such as the New Yorker, Esquire, New York, Playboy,Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair. He also won a Grammy Award for his liner notes on Bob Dylan’s 1975 album Blood on the Tracks. In 1994, Hamill published A Drinking Life, a memoir about his childhood and early years reporting, focusing on his embrace of drinking and eventual decision to abstain, which brought him national acclaim. Among his other books include, Forever, a novel about the history of New York; Snow in August, which follows the unlikely friendship between an 11-year-old Irish Catholic boy and an elderly Jewish rabbi in 19 Brooklyn; and Why Sinatra Matters, which has recently been reissued with a new introduction by Hamill in honor of Sinatra’s 1h birthday.

  2. In September, 1997, when Pete Hamill, who died on Wednesday, was fired from his job as the editor of the s to right the ship and to remind us why we had wanted to get into this business in the first place.

  3. you were silly like us;your gift survived it all. dylan is a poet extraordinaire. like yeats or kipling et al., do not expect political luminence from him.

  4. I first heard this song 30 years ago, sung by Sheena Wellington. The title at the time was, ‘The Last Leviathon’. I cried then and I cry every time I hear this song no matter who sings it and many people have. For me Sheena Wellington’s translation is the most moving and most important. Sheena said it was a difficult song to sing. ‘We’ destroy everything and anything for profits! I like Whales a lot and man has disgraced them as well as our sons and daughters!

    The Last ‘Leviathon’ of the Great Whales

    My soul has been torn from me
    And I am bleeding
    My heart it has been rent
    And I am crying
    All the beauty around me fades
    And I am screaming
    I am the last of the great whales
    And I am dying

    Last night I heard the cry
    Of my last companion
    The roar of the harpoon gun
    And then I was alone
    I thought of the days gone by
    When we were thousands
    But I know that I soon must die
    The last leviathan

    This morning the sun did rise
    Crimson in the north sky
    The ice was the colour of blood
    And the winds they did sigh
    I rose for to take a breath
    It was my last one
    From a gun came the roar of death
    And now I am done

    Oh now that we are all gone
    There’s no more hunting
    The big fellow is no more
    It’s no use lamenting
    What race will be next in line?
    All for the slaughter
    The elephant or the seal
    Or your sons and daughters

    My soul has been torn from me
    And I am bleeding
    My heart it has been rent
    And I am crying
    All the beauty around me fades
    And I am screaming
    I am the last of the great whales
    And I am dying

    1. Thank you so much, Joseph, for these lyrics. They caused me (and many, I’m sure) to drop my eyes in sorrow over what we have done to our precious brothers and sisters–not only of other colors and cultures but of other species. In so many ways, we have been a walking genocide since we learned to stand upright. I pray we’re living through the time when this horror begins to come to an end, but how many will no longer be here to celebrate our belated awakening? And given what we’ve done, how long will we ourselves have to assume our proper place in creation?

    1. Yeah that’s a dolorous rabbit hole, to be sure:
      “In 1961, Dylan, 20, was “made” by a favorable New York Times review of his short set before 10 people at ‘Gerde’s Folk City.’ He had been performing for only six months, and had no original material…Charlie Rothschild was the booking agent for ‘Gerde’s’ at the time.”
      Goes back (at least) to Irving Berlin and the “Great American Songbook.”
      I don’t agree with Kevin Barrett on some things, but he is very knowledgeable on this subject, and talks about Jim Morrison’s father. George Morrison was commander of the U.S. naval forces in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Gulf of Tonkin Incident of August 1964, which sparked an escalation of American involvement in the Vietnam War.

    2. I like Ken Adachi’s site, though I haven’t looked at it much for a while, and it covers a lot of topics I know little or nothing about, and certainly can’t vouch for the accuracy of them. The Dylan article is interesting – quite a contrast after reading the tribute on the back of the Blood On the Tracks album. I know people who have sworn off Dylan since his excursion into car commercials. I haven’t listened to him much for a very long time, though there are some good songs on BotT and some later albums.
      Once again, I am at a place in Ed’s book which talks about something he is writing about currently – Dylan and the Rolling Thunder Review and the movie they made at the time. Ed was, I think, somewhat critical or at least ambivalent about Dylan the person at that time, though still appreciative of the poetry. This kind of information is difficult to digest for those of us who grew up on these “counter-culture” icons and rock legends. But signs do seem to point to certain people being elevated by elements in the establishment, as opposed to working their way into the spotlight and succeeding by their talent and hard work alone. My own impression in the 60’s and 70’s was that most of the earlier singers had sung songs written for them (with many exceptions), and that the newer ones, like Dylan and the Beatles, were better because they wrote their own songs. Given the information gathered by people like the late Dave McGowan (whose work Ed cited earlier in his book), it would not be surprising to learn that Dylan was provided with his material, or some of it. I have read that the Monkees were unfairly maligned in the music press as being a “manufactured” band made for TV, as many of the groups at the time were likewise constructed and supported by outside elements. Joni Mitchell, who calls Dylan a plagiarist in the linked article, was also a Laurel Canyon resident, but she had already had some success before she arrived there. I don’t recall if Dylan spent much time in LC, but that was the epicenter of the later folk-rock movement – as well as the Lookout Mountain facility, which produced films for the military and intelligence services. It was a strange scene, indeed!

      1. thanks for some of those jumping-off points. When you said, “This kind of information is difficult to digest for those of us who grew up on these “counter-culture” icons and rock legends,” it reminded me of Mark Crispin Miller’s informal definition of “conspiracy theory: information that, if true, we couldn’t handle.”
        However, we rarely hear pushback on this cabalist analysis of music and musicians, and some resistance might be in order. There’s either wild conspiracy or cabalist satanism, with a Grand Canyon of variation in between. Debussy was a Grand Master of the Priory of Sion, but who cares? His music is other-worldly and impossibly beautiful. Haydn was hired by the Esterhazy Family to basically do nothing but compose for ten hours a day. Chaucer was hired by the king as a resident poet and was paid well for it, plus given a flagon of wine every day (which he apparently drank himself lol). Are all of these artists corrupt because they had rich benefactors?
        Also, just because someone’s great-uncle was a Zionist doesn’t mean he’s into cabalist rituals and sacrificial whatever. We get into gray area when David Lee Roth is on Joe Rogan criticizing Sammy Hagar for writing about love instead of hate. Or ostentatious displays of satanic ritual with Marilyn Manson, etc. and even then it’s a hazy line between “rebellious music sells to rebellious teenagers” and intentional culture smashing.

      2. I should clarify. Ed’s essay on Dylan also includes the recent release of Murder Most Foul, which obviously Ed rightly appreciates and that seems to indicate that Dylan is a truth teller. I’m glad Dylan released the song, though of course the meaning of the song has been obscured or demeaned in the press. I can still make an argument that Dylan, if information on the educate yourself website is correct, may still serve an establishment purpose, and the song may be a way to convince people that he has been on the side of the angels all along, despite his forays into commercials. Although it is good to see, the song is dealing with events of over 50 years ago, as important as they are. It would be encouraging to see Bob expose more recent examples of government perfidy, of which there are many to choose. (After all, the false flag of 2001 was also murder most foul.) Perhaps he has, and someone could point that out.

  5. Thanks Ed! The first Dylan album I bought after moving back to Cleveland. Phil Ochs thought it was one of his best too. Iv’e had my share of beautiful woman tangled up in blue. What would life be without it?

  6. Thanks Ed!
    The first Dylan album I bought after moving back to Cleveland. Phil Ochs thought it was one of his best too. Iv’e had my share of beautiful woman tangled up in blue. What would life be without it?

    Early one morning, the sun was shining
    I was laying in bed
    Wondering if she’d changed it all
    If her hair was still red
    Her folks, they said our lives together
    Sure was gonna be rough
    They never did like mama’s homemade dress
    Papa’s bankbook wasn’t big enough
    And I was standing on the side of the road
    Rain falling on my shoes
    Heading out for the east coast
    Lord knows I’ve paid some dues getting through
    Tangled up in blue
    She was married when we first met
    Soon to be divorced
    I helped her out of a jam, I guess
    But I used a little too much force
    We drove that car as far as we could
    Abandoned it out west
    Split up on a dark, sad night
    Both agreeing it was best
    She turned around to look at me
    As I was walking away
    I heard her say over my shoulder
    “We’ll meet again someday on the avenue”
    Tangled up in blue
    I had a job in the great north woods
    Working as a cook for a spell
    But I never did like it all that much
    And one day the axe just fell
    So I drifted down to New Orleans
    Where I’s lucky for to be employed
    Working for a while on a fishing boat
    Right outside of Delacroix
    But all the while I was alone
    The past was close behind
    I seen a lot of women
    But she never escaped my mind and I just grew
    Tangled up in blue
    She was working in a topless place
    And I stopped in for a beer
    I just kept looking at the sight of her face
    In the spotlight so clear
    And later on when the crowd thinned out
    I’s just about to do the same
    She was standing there in back of my chair
    Said, “Tell me, don’t I know your name?”
    I muttered something underneath my breath
    She studied the lines on my face
    I must admit I felt a little uneasy
    When she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe
    Tangled up in blue
    She lit a burner on the stove and offered me a pipe
    “I thought you’d never say hello, ” she said
    “You look like the silent type”
    Then she opened up a book of poems
    And handed it to me
    Written by an Italian poet
    From the thirteenth century
    And every one of them words rang true
    And glowed like burning coal
    Pouring off of every page
    Like it was written in my soul from me to you
    Tangled up in blue
    I lived with them on Montagüe Street
    In a basement down the stairs
    There was music in the cafés at night
    And revolution in the air
    Then he started into dealing with slaves
    And something inside of him died
    She had to sell everything she owned
    And froze up inside
    And when finally the bottom fell out
    I became withdrawn
    The only thing I knew how to do
    Was to keep on keeping on like a bird that flew
    Tangled up in blue
    So now I’m going back again
    I got to get her somehow
    All the people we used to know
    They’re an illusion to me now
    Some are mathematicians
    Some are carpenter’s wives
    Don’t know how it all got started
    I don’t what they do with their lives
    But me, I’m still on the road
    Heading for another joint
    We always did feel the same
    We just saw it from a different point of view
    Tangled up in blue

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