Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Bob Dylan Song Meanings Post

For whatever reason, I've recently become focused on "Black Diamond Bay" from Bob Dylan's 1976 album Desire.

Black Diamond Bay - Bob Dylan on Vimeo.

Which has eventually lead me back to the comment section of its SongMeanings.com page. I wanted to highlight just a few of them.

The kind of meaningful commentary that isn't the norm:
Basically, this song is about irony. The Greek hangs himself even though everyone is about to die anyway, the loser wins in gambling right before he is about to die, the big "tough" soldier wants to have "forbidden love" with a tiny man, and the woman does find love but it's too late because they are about to die so she "sheds a tear and begins to pray." And finally, the ultimate irony is that the speaker saw all this on the 7 o'clock news and just shuts it off. It doesn't even matter to him... -StallionintheRift12

I think this is where I'm coming from:
Forget the symbolism. Dylan paints images and characters. This story feels like Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle." We watch the wild characters, laugh, and ultimately feel detached enough to switch it all off, while other peoples' lives go down. -manumoka

Hmmmmm, okay.
The "Bay" is the "Bay of Pigs", She is Jackie Kennedy and " the greek" is that Onassis guy! As watched in a delirium, Old Cronkite on the seven o'clock news. -MGAlpha

Oooooookay then...
Black Diamond Bay has long been my favorite Bob Dylan song. It is a song of the detachment that mankind feels for his fellow man and a warning for the consequences of that detachment and the consequences of simple sins of ommission and self-indulgence.
The woman in the song represents the individual who will ascend to heaven. Thus she is on the white veranda while everyone else in the song is consumed by the boiler in the basement, i.e hell
The lava from the mountain high above is symbolic of God's hand in the end of the world. [... more] -gkhd11a

One more cup of coffee, I think we could tie this into Apocalypse Now (1979) and the ill-fated 1987 Dylan & The Dead tour!
The specific reference of Black Diamond Bay is to the Conrad novel called "Victory". In the novel, Black Diamond Bay is a disused coal port/depot on an island in the far east (Indonesia/Borneo area). There are elements in the novel that reappear in the song (a hotel, a volcano, gambling, a somewhat enigmatic woman, BDB itself of course) but the song is not a 'song of the book' by any means. In some ways its a bit like a dream version of the book with everything mixed up and in the wrong places. -jtg76

Which are all much better than the most common interpretation by far: "I think this song is about being on drugs." But it's still just a popularity contest. What Bob Dylan song you think has the most (not necessarily best) user comments?

Like a rolling stone - Bob Dylan on Vimeo.

Yep, that one. Currently with 211, vs. 17 for "Black Diamond Bay." Did you see the recent interactive video for it? Pretty cool.

I wish the search function was more robust. Like, is there a thriving commentary community for Killdozer songs? Unfortunately not, but they do have the lyrics. You can access a most popular artists list, which I think is purely aggregate post-count.

As of now (artist / most commented on YouTube)...
1. Radiohead ("Creep"?! 665 comments)
2. Brand New ("Seventy Times 7", 651)
3. Bright Eyes ("Lua", 331)
4. Modest Mouse ("Float On", 540)
5. Coldplay ("Viva la Vida", 916?!?!)
6. Bon Iver ("Skinny Love", 249)
7. Death Cab for Cutie ("I Will Follow You into the Dark", 369)
8. Kings of Leon ("Sex on Fire", 214)
9. Mumford & Sons ("Little Lion Man", 224)
10. The Beatles ("Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds",
459 comments: "This song is about being on drugs.")

Maybe not 100% ranked by total posts - The Beatles looks like a hefty chunk.

A lot to untangle here, but the first point is that I had literally never heard of Brand New (#2!) before now. Just based on overall popularity & visibility, I won't re-hash Radiohead, Mumford & Sons, and The Beatles... maybe Coldplay too? But the rest of those point to a specific audience being very active on the site.

Yeah, it would be weird if late-'80s Touch & Go fans were more active on a lyric site than the early-'00s indie-pop of Bright Eyes-Modest Mouse-Death Cab. There's 128 comments for Butthole Surfers' "Pepper," but not too much else. I was trying to find anything somewhat comparable, but ridiculous - best I could do was Pearl Jam's "Black" (with 503).

Okay, that was weird - I'm done now.

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