Sunday, June 7, 2015

Highlands

All done with the world,
Paradise so far away,
Bob pretends he's there.

"Highlands" is the last song on the 1997 album "Time Out of Mind," and is Dylan's longest studio recording. It is an enigmatic 16 minutes and 32 seconds, and one of his most interesting streams of consciousness. I say that with reservation, because "Highlands" enmeshes the surreal aspects of the song into ordinary events. It's impossible to summarize, and probably would take a series of haiku to do it justice. At its most general -- and I had to sacrifice so much to make this one work -- the singer longs to be somewhere else because everything where he lives is conspiring against him. By this, I mean other people, life, the idea that the good times have passed. People complain about this and that, other people seem to be in far more enviable positions. His conscience would trouble him if he had one. He wanders, nowhere to go, and lets things happen to him. It would be better if he could be in the highlands where none of this would matter. He concludes that he's there in his mind and that's good enough for now. I'm not crazy about my work on this. I would happily put yours in its place.

Verse by verse:
- Heart's in the highlands. Gonna go there when he's ready to go.
- Lots of changes and wind in his dreams, but everything's the same on waking. Rat race and cage.
- Wishes he were younger. Doesn't want favors. Doesn't know a real blonde from a fake.
- He wants to listen to loud Neil Young, but "Someone's always yelling turn it down." What does life mean?
- Insanity rising. He's not on a roll. He'd be mad if he had a conscience, but if he did have one, he'd pawn it.
INTERLUDE STORY: Bob and the Waitress -- A tale of Boston
- Bob goes to Boston, sits in an empty restaurant.
- It might be a holiday. The waitress is pretty. She asks him what he wants. Boiled eggs.
- They don't have any. She asks him to draw her picture. He says, "I would if I could, but I don't do sketches from memory."
- She says she's right here. He doesn't have his book. She gives him a napkin. He says he doesn't have his pencil.
- She gives him one. He relents and draws her picture. She says it doesn't look like her.
- He says it does. She says it doesn't and he must be joking. "I wish I was!" he says. She says he probably doesn't read women authors. 
- He says it doesn't matter, but she's wrong. He's read Erica Jong. She goes away for a minute and he leaves.
BACK TO THE ORIGINAL STORY:
- Bob's lost in life. He feels further away than ever before.
- Young people looking fine are having fun in the park, drinking and dancing. He wishes he were one.
- He avoids a mangy dog, talks to himself, thinks about buying a full-length leather coat. Someone asks him if he's registered to vote.
- The sun shines on him, but it's not the same sun. Party's over. Nothing to say. Everything looks far away with his new eyes.



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