Highlands = Lowlands + 30

by T. M. Madigan

September 1999

Anybody that's seen "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" on the "Blonde On
Blonde" (BOB) LP album remembers it. The single long groove was
hypnotic, but so was the repetitive melody. CD's have done away with
grooves, but "My Heart's In the Highlands" on "Time Out Of Mind"
(TOOM) is another epic length song that also has a repetitive and
hypnotic melody

"Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" has always seemed incomplete, but the
long wait ended in 1997 with the release of the "Time Out Of Mind"
(TOOM) album. "My Heart's in the Highlands" is Part 2 of "Sad Eyed
Lady of the Lowlands".

Some obvious similarities are: one is "Low" while the other is "High"
and both are long songs with hypnotic melodies. But Bob Dylan's words
"I wouldn't know a real blonde from a fake" are nothing less than a
'bright flashing neon arrow' directing attention to "Blonde on
Blonde". That line alone demands closer scrutiny of both songs
(Lowlands and Highlands) and both albums (BOB and TOOM).

Some critics implied that Dylan was 'straining' to make 'fill in'
lyrics when he sang about the waitress in Boston. Those comments are
misleading nonsense. Closer scrutiny of the lyrics reveal that Dylan
and the waitress already know each other! At first she 'studies him
closely' and 'knows he's an artist', while he 'doesn't do sketches
from memory'. He's not talking about 'waitresses in general' because
this particular waitress ACTUALLY IS the "Sad Eyed Lady of the
Lowlands"! Her existence has been transformed from having been a
powerful and glorious icon to now being a waitress in a deserted café.
They had both gone their separate ways and 30 years had passed. At
this unexpected reunion they didn't recognize each other at first. Bob
had warned us from the beginning about the sadness in her eyes, didn't
he? And he's referred to people as 'some on the way up, some on the
way down' (Can't Wait/TOOM). Isn't life full of coincidence and deja
vu, with numerous twists, turns and double back flips? Hasn't he so
eloquently stated "Blame it on a simple twist of fate" ('Simple Twist
of Fate'/Blood On the Tracks).

"My Heart's in the Highlands" is replete with comments that seemingly
allude to Bob's heart problems but it's reported that the music had
been recorded prior to his hospitalization. I don't doubt it. We all
know that Bob is truly prophetic.

This subject is prone to over analysis. That's probably why Bob
ignores critics who fail to understand what his fans already know.
Listen to both songs. The truth is in the music.

Facts can sometimes be twisted to prove everything by nothing. Lyrics 
are only part of a song, and music provides feelings that words can't 
express. Please cut at the dotted line and throw this lower part away 
if the following analysis gets out of hand.

Compare these phrases from 'Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands' (BOB)
'Your prayers like rhymes' compared to (opposite) 'Don't even hear the
murmur of a prayer' ('Not Dark Yet'/TOOM).

'Your silver cross' and 'Holy Medallion' compared to "The Egg" 
('Highlands'/TOOM). (The egg being a symbol of renewal and Easter).

'Who among them do they think could bury you?' compared to 'The guilty
undertaker' ('I want You'/BOB), also 'I'm strollin' through the lonely
graveyard of my mind.' ('Can't Wait'/TOOM)

Another name for 'Lowlands' is 'Meadow', compared to 'Lovers in a
meadow' ('Lovesick'/TOOM).

'With your silhouette' compared to 'silhouettes in a window'

'Warehouse eyes', 'sad eyed', 'eyes like smoke', 'into your eyes where
the moonlight swims' compared to 'I've been to the bottom of a
whirlpool of lies, I ain't looking for nothin' in anyone's eyes' ('Not
Dark Yet'/TOOM) and also 'I got new eyes, everything looks far away'

'But with the sea at your feet' compared to 'the storms are raging on
the rolling sea' ('Make You Feel My Love'/TOOM).

'Streetcar visions' compared to 'drifting from scene to scene'

'Sunlight dims' and 'moonlight swims' as compared to the opposite
phrases: From 'Highlands' (TOOM): 'woke up this morning', 'break of
dawn', 'the sun is beginning to shine on me, but it's not like the sun
that used to be', 'Well, my heart's in the highlands at the break of
day'. And also from 'Standing in the Doorway' (TOOM): 'Midnight moon',
'When the last rays of daylight go down', and 'In the dark land of the

'Should I leave them by your gate, or sad-eyed lady should I wait?'
compared to 'I'm breathing hard standing at the gate, and I don't know
how much longer I can wait.' ('Can't Wait'/TOOM), 'You left me
standing in the doorway crying.' ('Standing in the Doorway'/TOOM),
'Trying to get to heaven before they close the door.' ('Trying to Get
To Heaven'/TOOM), 'Open up the gate for you.' ('I Want You'/BOB), and
'Well, your railroad gate, you know I just can't jump it.'
('Absolutely Sweet Marie'/BOB)

Regarding 'Bob and the Waitress', listen to the following lines from
'Cold Irons Bound' (TOOM): 'there's too many people, too many to
recall', 'and my love for her is taking such a long time to die',
'some things last longer than you think they will', 'I found my one in
you, but your love just hasn't proved true.' And these lines from
'Highlands' (TOOM) 'She studies me closely' and 'She looks at me'. 'I
know you're an artist' and 'I don't do sketches from MEMORY' An empty
restaurant in Boston is the answer to the 30-year-old question: 'Who
among them do you think would employ you?' ('Sad Eyed Lady'/BOB).

'Same old rat race, life in the same old cage' ('Highlands'/TOOM)
compared to 'We see this empty cage corrode' ('Visions of
Johanna'/BOB) compared to 'But deep inside my heart, I know I can't
escape.' ('Stuck Inside Of Mobile'/BOB).

'Time will tell just who has fell, and who's been left behind, when
you go your way and I go mine.' ('Most Likely You'll Go Your Way'/BOB)
compared to 'She goes away for a minute and I slide up out of my
chair' ('Highlands'/TOOM)

'Blonde on Blonde' was released on 16 May 1966, while 'Time Out of
Mind' was released on 30 Sep 1997.

Amid all these quotations and analogies, some obvious ones may have
been overlooked, but 'too much of nothing can make a man feel ill at
ease'. ('Too Much Of Nothing'/The Basement Tapes)

To call Bob Dylan a master artist is an understatement.


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