Exhuming Bob XXIX: Dylan And His Blonde Problems

March 23, 2011

Exhuming Bob XXIX:  Dylan And His Blonde Problems

by

R.E. Prindle

An Examination Of Temporary Like Achilles

Searching For Inspiration

Temporary Like Achilles is another ’64-’66 piece.  It has the feel of being improvisational, out of focus.  I believe it is a companion piece to Visions Of Johanna while it might be connected to Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.

Dylan always said that he had no physical relations with the song’s subject Edie Sedgwick.  I’m certainly in no position to say but if this song is accurate then Edie for some reason played the virgin for him.  Either that or because she represented his mother to him it would have been an incestuous situation.  Edie did say she was pregnant by Dylan but then she says that she was in the psycho ward and that the doctor’s held her down and aborted the baby.  Of course she must have been delusional at that time having over dosed on amphetamines.  God, how she punished her mind.  I’m of the opinion that she probably was not pregnant by Dylan although there may be hospital records.

If one takes the last verse first:

Achilles is in your alleyway

He don’t want me here, he does brag

He’s pointing to the sky

And he’s hungry, like a man in drag.

How come you get someone like him to be your guard

You know I want your lovin’

Honey why are you so hard.

Warhol, the man in drag is obviously Achilles, perhaps meant humorously.  Achilles of course lived a short but glorious life.  Warhol is temporary because Dylan is moving in on Edie.

In answer to the refrain ‘you know I want your lovin, honey why are you so hard’, it is probably that Edie wanted to marry Dylan but in the way of women wanted to pose as a virgin so as to come to him pure.

When she was at Harvard in Boston she was known as a premier fag hag.  The men she knew were all gay so one presumes her chastity was safe there.  Of course, Andy Warhol, known here as Achilles here was gay.  Insofar as she associated with Andy, and he apparently really was smitten by her, as close to being in love as he could get with anyone, as he put it, her chastity was safe with him too.  Perhaps that is why Dylan has Achilles in Edie’s allegory, near but not close sexually.

As there was rivalry between Dylan and Warhol for Edie it follows that ‘he don’t want me here he does brag.’  The line

Her fogs, her amphetamines and her pearls.

would point to the situation as it stood in August or September of ’65.  He’s hungry like a man in drag may refer to his homosexuality which prevents him from satisfying his lust  I don’t know why he’s pointing at the sky but Dylan says disgustedly ‘how come you get someone (a fag) like him to be your guard.  Dylan was known to be macho at the time.

The first verse points to a period perhaps November-December of ’65.  Dylan, of course, married Sara in November of ’65 so that at this point Dylan would be playing with Edie as perhaps he thought she was playing with him before.

Hence:

Standing on your window, honey

Yes. I’ve been here before

Feeling so harmless

I’m looking at your second door

How come you don’t send me no regards?

You know I want you lovin’

Honey why are you so hard?

Here is a reference to Dylan and Edie’s first meeting in December of ’64.  And then in March Chuck Wein introduced Edie to the Factory although she had met Warhol a couple weeks after Dylan in January of ’65.   Dylan may have been too busy at the beginning of ’65 to actively pursue Edie, he also did have to pay attention to Sara who he was courting at the same time, plus engagements and whatever.

Andy

At any rate Edie teamed up with Warhol from March to about December of ’65.  At that point Dylan who was wooing Edie and Grossman his manager were promising to make Edie a star at something.  If as a star, she couldn’t sing, but then that didn’t stop Dylan from having a career.

Now, Andy had been trying to make Edie his movie star.  According to Ronnie Tavel who scripted many of Andy’s movies Andy saw Edie as his ticket to breaking into Hollywood.  That was one of Andy’s chief ambitions that was never realized.  Tavel says that he and Andy used to coach Edie in her lines.  When time to film came she always dosed herself with amphetamines before hand and, of course, uncoached herself.  Thus in Andy’s account of his appearance at the psychiatrists’ banquet in January of ’66 he remarks that it was futile for Dylan and Grossman to work with her because she was unable to concentrate long to get anything done.  Edie wouldn’t work hence no career.   Andy might have been able to get her something if she had.  He sounds rueful and hurt.

So in late ’65 this was Dylan’s second attempt to connect with Edie.

The second verse:

Kneeling ‘neith your ceiling

Yes, I guess I’ll be here for a while

I’m trying to read your portrait, but

I’m helpless, like a rich man’s child.

How come you send someone out to have me barred:

You know I want your lovin’

Honey, why are you so hard?

Kneeling ‘neath your ceiling fits in with standing in your window and looking at your second door.  Kneeling ‘neath your ceiling is probably somewhat like Paul Simon’s ‘One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor or Tony Orlando’s Stomp three time on the floor.  In other words Dylan is in the room beneath Edie unable to get to her unless she calls him.

Thus the addendum to verse two:

Like a poor fool in his prime

Yes’ I know you can hear me walk

But is our heart made out of stone, or is it lime

Or is it just solid rock?

In other words Edie knows he’s down there pacing anxiously back and forth but a hard hearted woman she refuses to call him to her, stomping three times on the floor.

The fourth verse:

Well, I rush into your hallway

Lean against your velvet door

I watch upon your scorpion

Who crawls across your circus floor

Just what do you think you have to guard?

You know I want your lovin’

Honey why are you so hard?

The ardent and frustrated would be lover can’t breach Edie’s window, door. ceiling, hallway, velvet door.  The scorpion/circus reference escapes me except that Edie may have appeared to be leading some circus life as does Ophelia in Desolation Row.

Apparently this was a throw away song for Dylan as other than recording it he has never played it in concert.  It was one of my favorites on the album however.  Perhaps after Dylan’s motorcycle accident the song became irrelevant to him.  Too topical, not universal enough as was its counterpart Visions of Johanna.

As far as Blonde On Blonde goes I’m tentatively of the opinion that Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 refers to Edie and his mother.  The only reference to Sara in the album would be Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands.

Your secrets are safe with me, Bob, of course you don’t have anything to hide.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s