Sunday, February 8, 2015

Crash on the Levee (Down in the Flood)

Bob warns his woman
About a flood and suggests
That they leave, or else.

It's hard to capture the spirit of "Crash on the Levee," one of Bob Dylan's stranger songs from the 1960s. Its main appearances in his catalogue are in the 1975 album "The Basement Tapes," which was taken from the 1967 Saugerties recordings, as well as a different arrangement added to the end of the 1971 album "Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol. II." It's a quirky song based, in part, on the "James Alley Blues" of many years earlier, particularly the line about "sugar for sugar and salt for salt, if you go down in the flood it's gonna be your fault." That echo aside, it's one of the most creative and original blues songs that Dylan wrote, and is filled with the same kind of concrete-yet-mystical imagery that gives his music from the late 1960s such a rural, but spooky air. Generally, it goes like this:

1. Floodwaters will overflow the levee. Whatever you do, including rocking the joint and going to Williams Point, won't help much. If you do that, you'll lose your best friend and will have to find a new one. (I've always assumed that Bob's the best friend)
2. You can't "move" Bob, presumably change his mind about escaping the flood. If you go into the flood, it's your own fault. Cue the line about the best friend again.
3. You need to pack up and leave because this is going to be the meanest flood ever. It's king for king and queen for queen, as Bob notes. And then the best friend routine again.

Here's a chuggy version from a live performance with the Band. It's not a swampy-creepy as the album versions, but it's fun.



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