Released January 13, 1964
Recorded August 6, 1963–October 31, 1963 at Columbia Studios, New York City
Label Columbia Records
Producer(s) Tom Wilson
The Times They Are a
' is Bob Dylan's 3rd album, released in 1964 by Columbia Records
Produced by Tom Wilson, it is the singer-songwriter's first collection to feature only original compositions. The album consists mostly of stark, sparsely-arranged story songs concerning issues such as racism, poverty, and social change. The title track is one of Dylan's most famous; many felt that it captured the spirit of social and political upheaveal that characterized the 1960s.
Some critics and fans were not quite as taken with the album as a
whole, relative to his previous work, for its lack of humor or musical diversity. Still, The Times They Are a
' entered the United States chart at twenty, eventually going gold, and belatedly reaching four in the United Kingdom in 1965.
Dylan began work on his third album on August 6, 1963 at Columbia's Studio A
in New York City. Once again, Tom Wilson was the producer, this time for the entire album.
Eight songs were recorded during that first session, but only one recording of "North Country Blues" was ultimately deemed usable and set aside as the master take. A
master take of "Seven Curses" was also recorded, but it was left out of the final album sequence.
Another session at Studio A
was held the following day, this time yielding master takes for four songs: "Ballad of Hollis Brown", "With God on Our Side", "Only a
Pawn in Their Game", and "Boots of Spanish Leather", all of which were later included on the final album sequence.A
third session was held in Studio A
on August 12, but nothing from this session was deemed usable. However, three recordings taken from the third session eventually saw official release: "master" takes of "Paths of Victory", "Moonshine Blues", and "Only a
Hobo" were all included on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961-1991 released in 1991.
Sessions did not resume for more than two months. During the interim, Dylan toured briefly with Joan Baez, performing a
number of key concerts that raised his profile in the media. When Dylan returned to Studio A
on October 23, he had six more original compositions ready for recording. Master takes for "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" and "When the Ship Comes In" were both culled from the October 23 session. A
master take for "Percy's Song" was also recorded, but it was ultimately set aside and was not officially released until Biograph in 1985.
Another session was held the following day on the 24 October. Master takes of "The Times They Are a
'" and "One Too Many Mornings" were recorded and later included in the final album sequence. A
master take for "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" was also recorded, but ultimately left out of the final album; it was eventually released on Biograph. Two more outtakes, "Eternal Circle" and "Suze (The Cough Song)", were later issued on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961-1991.
The sixth and final session for The Times They Are a
' was held on October 31, 1963. The entire session focused on one song, "Restless Farewell", whose melody is again, taken from an Irish-Scots folk song, "The Parting Glass", and it produced a
master take that ultimately closed the album.
The Times They Are a
' opens with its title track, one of Dylan's most famous songs and certainly one of his best-known song titles. Dylan's friend, Tony Glover, recalls visiting Dylan's apartment in September 1963, where he saw a
number of song manuscripts and poems lying on a
table. "The Times They Are
'" had yet to be recorded, but Glover saw its early manuscript. After reading the words "come senators, congressmen, please heed the call", Glover reportedly asked Dylan: "What is this shit, man?", to which Dylan responded, "Well, you know, it seems to be what the people like to hear".A
self-conscious protest song, it is often viewed as a
reflection of the generation gap and of the political divide marking American culture in the 1960s. Dylan, however, disputed this interpretation in 1964, saying "Those were the only words I could find to separate aliveness from deadness. It had nothing to do with age." A
year later, Dylan would say: "I can't really say that adults don't understand young people any more than you can say big fishes don't understand little fishes. I didn't mean ['The Times They Are a
'] as a
statement... It's a
Thirty years after it was first released, "The Times They Are a
'" created some controversy for Dylan when he allowed a
Canadian merchant bank to feature it in its advertising campaign.
"Ballad of Hollis Brown" was originally recorded for Dylan's previous album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. That version was rejected and the song was eventually re-recorded for The Times They Are a
'. Described by Clinton Heylin as a
"'tragic tale of independence and free will' culled from the folk idiom", it is a
grim, rural Gothic story of a
father killing his starving family ("There's seven people dead in a
South Dakota farm").
"With God on Our Side" was first performed at New York's Town Hall on April 12, 1963 (which also happened to be Dylan's debut appearance at that venue). Although Dylan claims it is an original composition, the melody to "With God on Our Side" bears a
striking resemblance to "The Patriot Game", the lyrics of which were written by Dominic Behan and the melody borrowed from the traditional Irish folk song, "The Merry Month Of May". Behan called Dylan a
plagiarist and a
thief, in an attempt to goad Dylan into a
lawsuit; Dylan made no response. "The Patriot Game" was originally introduced to Dylan by Scottish folksinger Nigel Denver. English folksinger Jim McLean recalls Dylan asking him in late 1962: "'What does it mean, 'Patriot Game'?'... I explained – probably lectured him – about Dr Johnson, who's one of Dominic's favourite writers, and that's where Dominic picked up [the] saying: 'Patriotism is the last refuge of a
scoundrel.'" NPR's Tim Riley writes: "'With God on Our Side' manages to voice political savvy mixed with generational naivete" as it "draws the line for those born long enough after World War I to find its issues blurry ('the reasons for fightin'/I never did get') and who view the forgiveness of the World War II Germans as a
Dylan follows "With God on Our Side" with a
soft, understated ballad: "One Too Many Mornings". "It's the sound of someone too smitten by love to harbor regrets, grown too independent to consider a
reunion," writes Riley. One of the more celebrated songs on The Times They Are a
', Dylan would dramatically rearrange it on his legendary 1966 concert tour for a
full electric band.
"North Country Blues" tells a
story involving the devastating effect of a
mining company's decision to outsource its labor to other countries. (Dylan would return to this theme in "Union Sundown" on his 1983 album, Infidels.) It also marks the first time Dylan wrote a
song exclusively from the point-of-view of a
woman, in this case, the wife of an unemployed blue-collar worker.
Dylan first performed "Only a
Pawn in Their Game" at a
voter registration rally in Greenwood, Mississippi. The song refers to the murder of Medgar Evers, who was the Mississippi leader of the NAACP. Civil rights activist Bernice Johnson would later tell critic Robert Shelton that "'Pawn' was the very first song that showed the poor white was as victimized by discrimination as the poor black. The Greenwood people didn't know that Pete [Seeger], Theo[dore Bikel] and Bobby [Dylan] were well known. (Seeger and Bikel were also present at the registration rally.) They
were just happy to be getting support. But they
really like Dylan down there in the cotton country."
The melody for "Boots of Spanish Leather" was inspired by Martin Carthy's arrangement of the English folk song "Scarborough Fair" (which was also the melodic source of an earlier Dylan composition, "Girl from the North Country"). Dylan learned Carthy's arrangement during his first trip to England in late 1962. After finishing his obligations in England (including a
brief appearance in a
BBC drama, Madhouse on Castle Street), Dylan traveled to Italy looking for his girlfriend, Suze Rotolo, apparently unaware that she had already returned to America (reportedly the same time Dylan left for England). While in Italy, Dylan created an early draft of "Boots of Spanish Leather".
The song tells the story of a
woman who is going abroad, and she asks her lover if there's anything she can send back to him. Her lover refuses to answer, even when she insists on sending back something as he is too distraught over her imminent departure; he only wants her to be with him. After she leaves, she eventually writes him a
letter where it's implied that she may never return. Her lover believes that her love for him is either fading or already gone, and in the last line of the song, he asks her to send him "Spanish boots of Spanish leather." Salon.com critic Bill Wyman called the song "an abstract classic and one of the purest, most confounding folk songs of the time."
According to Heylin, "When The Ship Comes In" was written in August 1963 "in a
fit of pique, in a
hotel room, after his unkempt appearance had led an impertinent hotel clerk to refuse him admission until his companion, Joan Baez, had vouched for his good character." Heylin speculates that "Jenny's Song" from Brecht and Weill's Threepenny Opera was also an inspiration: "As Pirate Jenny dreams of the destruction of all her enemies by a
mysterious ship, so Dylan envisages the neophobes being swept aside in 'the hour when the ship comes in'." Dylan's former girlfriend Suze Rotolo recalls that her "interest in Brecht was certainly an influence on him. I was working for the Circle in the Square Theater and he came to listen all the time. He was very affected by the song that Lotte Lenya's known for, 'Pirate Jenny'."
"Possibly the most focused and precise and persuasive of [Dylan's] protest songs", according to Wyman, "'The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll' tells the story of a
rich tobacco-farm owner (William Zantzinger, who is called "William Zanzinger" in the song) who kills his African-American servant (Hattie Carroll). Based on actual events, the song portrays Zantzinger as a
privileged individual who kills Carroll by striking her with his cane at a
society gathering, escaping with a
nominal sentence because of his political connections.
The actual incident occurred at a
society ball at the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland on February 9, 1963. Twenty-four-year-old Zantzinger was intoxicated and began striking people with a
wooden carnival cane. One of the people he struck was Carroll, then a
fifty-one-year-old barmaid with an enlarged heart and severe hypertension. When she questioned his need for another drink, Zantzinger became verbally abusive. He succeeded in upsetting Carroll, and on returning to the kitchen she complained about Zantzinger to a
co-worker. Carroll then collapsed, and she was taken to a
hospital where she died the following morning. Though there were no severe marks reported on Carroll's body, no autopsy was performed to determine the exact cause of death.
Zantzinger was charged with involuntary manslaughter since his actions, according to the courts, contributed to "a
tremendous emotional upsurge" that ultimately killed her; on August 28, 1963, Zantzinger was sentenced to six months in prison, which he began serving on September 15, and paid $25,000 in damages to Carroll's family.
"The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" suggests that Zantzinger had political connections that came to his advantage during sentencing. His father, Richard C. Zantzinger, had served a
term in the Maryland legislature and on the state planning commission.A
few critics like Clinton Heylin would take issue with the facts portrayed in the song, but even Heylin himself conceded that the song is "a
brilliant evocation of the kind of miscarriage of justice the color of a
woman's skin could bring...[it is] Dylan's 'Vanity of Human Wishes'...a
masterpiece of drama and wordplay..."http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Times_ ... Changin%27
East Laredo Blueshttp://files.eocfu.com/uploads/10-EastLaredoBlues.mp3
Eternal Circle 1http://files.eocfu.com/uploads/-Eternal ... mplete.mp3
Eternal Circle 2http://files.eocfu.com/uploads/04-Etern ... ersion.mp3
Percy's Song(Not released version)http://files.eocfu.com/uploads/14-PercysSongVersion.mp3
New Orleans Raghttp://files.eocfu.com/uploads/NewOrlea ... mplete.mp3
Farewellhttp://files.eocfu.com/uploads/09-Farew ... mplete.mp3
That's Alright Mamahttp://files.eocfu.com/uploads/tMama-Sa ... ndEasy.mp3
Favorite Song: Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol/ Boots of Spanish Leather
Least Favorite: North Country Blues
Overall Album Rating: 7.5/10
false clock tries to tick out my time
To disgrace, distract, and bother me.
And the dirt of gossip blows into my face,
And the dust of rumors covers me.
But if the arrow is straight
And the point is slick,
It can pierce through dust no matter how thick.
So I'll make my stand
And remain as I am
And bid farewell and not give a