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 Post subject: Track Talk 102: Jokerman
PostPosted: Sat October 24th, 2009, 02:13 GMT 

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This one is wierd to The MEZ. I really love the tune, but could someone tell me what the hell it's about?? Also, Iv'e never heard a live rendition that's done the song justice or topped the original. Is The MEZ wrong about the fact that it doesn't go over well particularly well? I'd love a post of a great version, or some possible dates, plus general comments on this track. MEZ


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PostPosted: Sat October 24th, 2009, 02:55 GMT 
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About: I suppose fall out from the religious phase?

Live: Woodstock '94 sounds pretty good to me.


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PostPosted: Sat October 24th, 2009, 03:09 GMT 
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From the Paul Zollo interview in Song Talk magazine in 1991:

ST: "Standing on the water casting your bread/while the eyes of the idol with the iron head are glowing..."

Dylan: [Blows small Peruvian flute] Which one is that again?

ST: That's from "Jokerman."

Dylan: That's a song that got away from me. Lots of songs on that album [Infidels] got away from me. They just did.

ST: You mean in the writing?

Dylan: Yeah. They hung around too long. They were better before they were tampered with. Of course, it was me tampering with them. [Laughs] Yeah. That could have been a good song. It could've been.

ST: I think it's tremendous.

Dylan: Oh, you do? It probably didn't hold up for me because in my mind it had been written and rewritten and written again. One of those kinds of things.

Live standouts:
The Letterman show performance in 1984
The Hammersmith show in London 2003


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PostPosted: Sat October 24th, 2009, 03:10 GMT 
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Like the Street Legal songs, it's more self-parody. The kind of song Dylan imitators used to write.

It may be the single most annoying vocal he's ever done. Especially the "WOOOOOOAAAAAAHHHHHHOOOOOOOO, OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO,AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO,OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Jokerman" part


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PostPosted: Sat October 24th, 2009, 03:46 GMT 
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IMHO, a masterpiece. Definitely my favorite 80's Dylan song.


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PostPosted: Sat October 24th, 2009, 03:52 GMT 
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A very elusive song. Often brilliant.

The Letterman performance is outstanding. Pure punk.


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PostPosted: Sat October 24th, 2009, 05:00 GMT 

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I love Street Legal and the Woahhh's of Jokerman. : (

For me one of the highlights from Infidels with Sweetheart Like You and Don't Fall Apart on Me Tonight.


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PostPosted: Sat October 24th, 2009, 06:22 GMT 
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Letterman is a lot of fun, the alternate vocal on the original is still my favorite, LJ's whoo-oh-oh-ooh's come off wonderfully.. I wonder what he'd do with this song now...


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PostPosted: Sat October 24th, 2009, 06:27 GMT 
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smoke wrote:
I wonder what he'd do with this song now...


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOcough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough cough dokerman!


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PostPosted: Sat October 24th, 2009, 07:34 GMT 
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John B. Stetson wrote:
The Hammersmith show in London 2003


Yes, absolutely - also the performance at Brixton Academy the following night. I was lucky enough to be at Hammersmith and Brixton and I thought both those performances were (and I'm choosing the word carefully) mesmerising.


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PostPosted: Sat October 24th, 2009, 09:21 GMT 
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I love the Letterman version
but the song is Bob trying to be both a pop star and a mystic
at the same time.
t's nothing
It's something he learned over in England.


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PostPosted: Sat October 24th, 2009, 10:35 GMT 
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John B. Stetson wrote:
From the Paul Zollo interview in Song Talk magazine in 1991:

ST: "Standing on the water casting your bread/while the eyes of the idol with the iron head are glowing..."

Dylan: [Blows small Peruvian flute] Which one is that again?


This scene sounds a lot like the one in "Kill Bill II," where David Carradine is telling Uma Thurman the tale of Pei Mei.


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PostPosted: Sat October 24th, 2009, 11:41 GMT 
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Nappy wrote:
A very elusive song. Often brilliant.

The Letterman performance is outstanding. Pure punk.


I love it when he goes to find the harmonica, fumbles around, ten seconds, twenty seconds, you can see the band getting a bit confused and nervous, but they keep on vamping, Dylan picks up an harmonica, but it is the wrong one so he goes back and then, at last comes up to the mike and blows aimlessly on the harp for a couple of seconds. This what Dylan is capable of and willing to do ON LIVE TELEVISION. Amazing!

It's like watching a balancing act. The arrogance! The balls! Will he fall or will he make it to the other side?
Pure performance art.


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PostPosted: Sat October 24th, 2009, 15:34 GMT 
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"You've gone to Soddom and Gommorah
but what do you care
ain't nobody there
would want to marry your sister"

I've read some people interpret these verses as potentially homophobic.
Personally I'm not entirely sure they are. Than again I'm not entirely sure they're not either.
Truth of the matter is that it's not really clear from the texts we have that it was homosexual acts that angered God so much that he send fire and brimstone upon them - one of the countless examples if you want for God being a much more dangerous being in the Bible than the Devil, who usually doesn't really bring more harm than seduction.

I don't really understand why he chose to us the word 'sister' when a better reference to this biblical tale would have been 'daughter' (Lot offering his unmarriedd daughter to the angry mob outside his door who want to 'know' his angelic visitors).

All in all this seems to be an 'empty' Biblical reference, it holds very little meaning if you ask me.


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PostPosted: Sat October 24th, 2009, 15:41 GMT 
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I like the outtake better than the released:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c42cUqFTJPc


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PostPosted: Sat October 24th, 2009, 16:32 GMT 
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Hard to argue with this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWcIVUX1 ... re=related


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PostPosted: Sat October 24th, 2009, 16:55 GMT 
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andy1983 wrote:
"You've gone to Soddom and Gommorah
but what do you care
ain't nobody there
would want to marry your sister"

I've read some people interpret these verses as potentially homophobic.
Personally I'm not entirely sure they are. Than again I'm not entirely sure they're not either.
Truth of the matter is that it's not really clear from the texts we have that it was homosexual acts that angered God so much that he send fire and brimstone upon them - one of the countless examples if you want for God being a much more dangerous being in the Bible than the Devil, who usually doesn't really bring more harm than seduction.

I don't really understand why he chose to us the word 'sister' when a better reference to this biblical tale would have been 'daughter' (Lot offering his unmarriedd daughter to the angry mob outside his door who want to 'know' his angelic visitors).

All in all this seems to be an 'empty' Biblical reference, it holds very little meaning if you ask me.


The British have the perfect word for songs like this: "Shite."


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PostPosted: Sat October 24th, 2009, 17:03 GMT 
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I know to a lot of you, this song pales in comparison to many of his other songs, but this song was my Dylan gateway drug and has a very special place in my heart. It was the song that, even though he and a lot of you don't think it's very good, gave me a glimpse into his genius as a songwriter and a poet. It made me want to see what else he's written and learn more about him, so I definitely will never discount this song ever. :wink:


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PostPosted: Sat October 24th, 2009, 17:27 GMT 

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Michael Gray's good on the way the opening line melds Jewish and Christian imagery (Christ on the water; the casting of breadcrumb sins) - and it's interesting that this is the first line after the religious trilogy has been completed. I think there's some reference to Reagan in the song, and an element of self-portraiture. Infidels is an album which uses the word man over and over : and in Jokerman we have the rifleman, the preacherman, the rich man without any name, the punning man-ipulator of crowds (reminding me of Dignity's fat, thin, hollow, wise, young, poor, blind, drinkin' and English men). The album version's great, the outtake's great, and the Letterman performance is great.


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PostPosted: Mon October 26th, 2009, 03:16 GMT 

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A powerhouse of a song. Easily in my top five songs of his career. The more you listen to it, the more mysteries unfold. Full of symbolic Biblical imagery, it's a song that speaks of Christs and their importance in society. By recontextualizing the original text and amalgamating that with other mystical figures, the song stands on its own as a declaration of a new type of faith. He himself is the Jokerman, just as Jesus, Reagan and anyone else can be the Jokerman if they share these abilities. And the song does not cast blame upon them. In fact, they're significantly altered in my perception by the chorus which lovingly depicts dancing & flying high above, untouched by the events he controls & consequently controlled by. And the wail let out before every last Jokerman is a cathartic one. LJ, I'm not sure what you mean by your comment about self-parody. So you're saying he inadvertently ridiculed himself when he wrote this song? What song is this one like in his canon? The closest I can think of is Mr. Tambourine Man, a song which describes Mr. Dylan and the way he may see himself (or ho the audience may see him) at that point in his life. Like that song, the song seems as of it is pouring out of his subconscious, but it's not. This is actually one of his more intimate self-portraits, detailed mysterious sketches enriching ideas about where the Jokerman may see life right now. And like Mr. Tambourine Man, the song is the intersection where the public figure and the private figure meet. And like Mr. Tambourine Man, the chorus is the intersection where the listener's thoughts & introspective feelings toward the singer take place. The apocalyptic visions of each verse coalesce and form a landscape of empathy and compassion when placed in the contexts of the choruses. As always, the song does not work on paper.
Of course, it's Christian based. It's where he's been for the past four years. But it's also a move away from the dogma of organized religion and a move toward the more self-reliant aspects of work of the 60's & 70's. For me, it's a song that strengthens the journey he'd been throughout the years previous. And like all great Dylan openers, regardless of its enigmatic nature, it boldly declares where the man is in 1983.

That said, as much as I disagree with most on the (I think) excellent production of the album, the song did not reach its true potential until a decade later.
The arrangement of the song in 94 in Woodstock is the beginning of an amazing run for the song. Live, Bob explores the song fully through the combination of music and lyric. It's easily one of my favorite melodies rendered by Bob. He and the band in 94-95 forever seem to love to dive into the deep end on the song yielding a rich playfulness only hinted at in 83. The song flows like a lovely stream.
My favorite version is from Berkeley in 95, one of his greatest shows ever IMO. Everything clicks this night and they find nooks and hooks galore all throughout allowing for a texture that just makes the song shine. For me, it's the unforgettable high point of this night & also this unforgettable song.

May 26 1995
http://www.sendspace.com/file/y1lziv


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PostPosted: Mon October 26th, 2009, 08:25 GMT 
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Long Johnny wrote:

It may be the single most annoying vocal he's ever done. Especially the "WOOOOOOAAAAAAHHHHHHOOOOOOOO, OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO,AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO,OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Jokerman" part



It is indeed.

I find it unlistenable.

Can't stand this song....


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PostPosted: Mon October 26th, 2009, 10:42 GMT 

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It is an epic track, difficult to break down into something comprehensible. I feel like i have an understanding of certain verses, others not so much as a clue.

There are some wonderfully awkward lines squeezed in:

Well, the Book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy,
The law of the jungle and the sea are your only teachers


I think it is great, and certainly falls into the category of Dylan song which should be allowed to swim around the brain rather than broken down too much.


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PostPosted: Mon October 26th, 2009, 11:59 GMT 
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I see that those who praise don't wish to adress the issue of the potental homophobia in this song ...


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PostPosted: Mon October 26th, 2009, 12:04 GMT 
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andy1983 wrote:
I see that those who praise don't wish to adress the issue of the potental homophobia in this song ...


So "sister" is supposed to mean transvestite? Gays in drag? I just can't see the alleged homophobia in that song.... But ambiguity is Dylan's middle name, so what do I know..


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PostPosted: Mon October 26th, 2009, 12:30 GMT 

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andy1983 wrote:
I see that those who praise don't wish to adress the issue of the potental homophobia in this song ...


See - http://74.54.108.222/discussions/viewto ... 7a659620cf

(this thread was locked because it became pretty hideously childish)

Twomules writes in the above that:

"at the london '03 gig, he changed the lyrics of jokerman to this:

you've been to sodom and gomorrah
way out west
looking for somebody who will love you the best
and call you mister"


I would suggest that points to a realisation on Dylans behalf that the original lyric could be seen as homophobic by merely mentioning Sodom and Gormorra. If we understand Dylan thinks that homosexual practices should be punished so brutally with "fire and brimstone" , then that of course would suggest a homophobic view.

I dont belive that he ever felt that way.


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