MUSIC: Man in the Long Black Coat – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan release the album Oh Mercy at
September 18, 1989 by Columbia Records.

As we read in wikipedia:

“One of my favorites is ‘Man in the Long Black Coat,’ which was written in the studio, and recorded in one take”, recalls Lanois. Praised by author Clinton Heylin as a “powerful reinterpretation of The Daemon Lover motif”, “Man in the Long Black Coat” also contains some prominent use of apocalyptic imagery, evoking a place where the “water is high” and “tree trunks uprooted”. In his own assessment of “Man in the Long Black Coat”, Dylan wrote that “in some kind of weird way, I thought of it as my “I Walk the Line”, a song I’d always considered to be up there at the top, one of the most mysterious and revolutionary of all time, a song that makes an attack on your most vulnerable spots, sharp words from a master”.

Or let’s read what Tony Attwood said about this song:

“What sort of world is this, where each beat is like a boot sinking into the mud and the only relief is a feeling of being haunted?  Dylan calls it “something menacing and terrible,” and that does it for me – although that comes through more strongly on the album version than on stage.  Daniel Lanois called it “something to do with the pulling and pushing of the moon.”  I’ll go with that.

The effect of menace, when it does emerge, is achieved by the undermining of the four beats in a bar each divided into three concept.  Each start of the three beat process is of equal importance here; normally in rock the second and fourth beat of the bar have an extra emphasis to give the music its swing.  There is no swing.  We are stuck.  There is no escape.

This is a song of atmosphere; the atmosphere of despair.  The lover has gone, for the man left behind, everything is mud or possibly even glue.  There is no way to follow, there is no way out.  We cannot even lift a foot from the floor to try and find the exit.

The third line makes it all so clear.  A straight descriptive line “Window wide open African trees” which has four heavy laden beats on Win / op / Af / trees.   How on earth can one go forwards in this sort of state?

Everything is useless in this experience, “every man’s conscience is vile and depraved”.  There is not even the chance of a way out through which one can push one’s own life forward.  Nothing is possible, because what will be will be.  There is no decision to be made.  We are trapped.

The masterstroke in the songwriting comes with the “middle eight” where the music varies and at last, at long long last, Dylan takes us out of the plodding, stuck world…

There are no mistakes in life some people say
It is true sometimes you can see it that way
But people don’t live or die people just float

Oh the horror.  For two lines we think he is offering us a solution.  The music is far more up beat.  The emphasis on every beat has gone.  And yet…

Full article here

For us here at Collybia this recording is an audiophile one.

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