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Echoes in Time Out of Mind

In early 1997, the legion of fanatical Bob Dylan lovers were particularly excited, as news filtered through that the great man's latest recordings were of original compositions, the first since 1990's Under the Red Sky. And in September 1997, Time Out of Mind, containing 11 tracks over 72 minutes, was released, to positive reviews and general acclaim.

Now, some months later, and with three Grammy awards accrued, it is slowly dawning on everyone that Time Out of Mind is definitely one of Dylan's best albums (its hype proved true). In many respects it is a companion piece to Blood on the Tracks and Oh Mercy, a combination of those two albums' sensibilities. Time Out of Mind, indeed, could be the one profoundly spiritual album in existence whose subject matter is strictly earth-bound, carnal, corporeal.

One of the great strengths of Time is its evenness, its flatness even. It seems like one very long song, swirling endlessly, traversing (both in reality and in the mind) the same places, people, feelings, states, perhaps going nowhere, perhaps everywhere, who knows? This solitary traveller's baggage is deep and Proustian, but also gentle and flowing. It must surely be one of the great love albums of all time.

There are any number of ways this album can be studied or critiqued. For this short piece, I just want to map some of the "echoes" in the lyrics, where Dylan pairs off (it is usually in pairs) particular words, or places, or states. This deja vu effect is a particularly apt one for Dylan's canvas of the heart's eternal return.

Reference numbers for the songs -

Time Out of Mind

(1) Love Sick

(2) Dirt Road Blues

(3) Standing in the Doorway

(4) Million Miles

(5) Tryin' to Get to Heaven

(6) 'Til I Fell In Love With You

(7) Not Dark Yet

(8) Cold Irons Bound

(9) Make You Feel My Love

(10) Can't Wait

(11) Highlands


"I'm walking, through streets that are dead" (1)

"Gonna walk down that dirt road" (2)

"I'm walkin' through the summer nights" (3)

"I've been walkin' through the middle of nowhere" (5)

"I'm tryin' to walk the line" (10)

"Well, I'm strolling through the lonely graveyard of my mind" (10)

"I'm crossing the street" (12)


"Did I hear someone tell a lie?" (1)

"You told yourself a lie/
That's alright mama I told myself one too" (4)


"I see, I see lovers in the meadow" (1)

"I see people in the park" (11)


"They leave me hangin' on to a shadow" (1)

"But I'm looking at my shadow" (2)

"Shadows are falling and I been here all day" (7)

"When evening shadows and the stars appear" (4)


"I hear the clock tick" (1)

"Time is running away" (7)

"I wish someone'd come and push back the clock for me" (11)


"Just don't know what to do" (1)

"I just don't know what I'm gonna do" (6)


"I'd give anything to be with you" (1)

"Oh there's nothing that I wouldn't do" (9)


"Gonna walk down that dirt road/
Until my eyes begin to bleed/
'Til there's nothing left to see" (2)

"I got new eyes, everything looks far away" (11)


"I got no place left to turn" (3)

"Well I'm lost somewhere/
I must have made a few bad turns" (11)


"You left me standing in the doorway cryin'" (3)

"You left me standing out in the cold" (4)

"Tryin' to get to heaven before they close the door" (5)

"I'm breathin' hard, standin' at the gate" (10)


"The light in this place is so bad/
Makin' me sick in the head" (3)

"I need your love so bad/
Turn your lamp down low" (4)


"I'm strummin' on my gay guitar" (3)

"Well I been to London and I been to gay Paris" (7)


"I been ridin' a midnight train" (3)

"Some trains don't pull no gamblers/
No midnight/midlife? ramblers" (5)


"I can hear the church bells ringin' in the yard" (3)

"I went to church on Sunday" (8)


"And even if the flesh falls off of my face" (3)

"My eyes feel like they're fallin' off my face" (6)


"It always means so much/
Even the softest touch" (3)

"Nothing can heal me now/
But your touch" (6)


"I'm still a million miles from you" (4)

"I'm 20 miles out of town" (8)

"I could hold you for a million years" (9)


"I'm driftin' in and out of a dreamless sleep" (4)

"Feel like I'm driftin', driftin' from scene to scene" (11)


"Feel like talking to somebody but I just don't know who" (4)

"I'm talkin' to myself, in a monologue" (11)


"Well there's voices in the night trying to be heard" (4)

"I'm beginning to hear voices and there's no-one around" (8)


"Now you can seal up the book and not write anymore" (5)

"She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind" (7)


"I'm goin' down the river" (5)

"I followed the river" (7)


"Well my nerves are exploding" (6)

"Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb" (7)


"I've still got the scars that the sun didn't heal" (7)

"The sun is beginning to shine on me/
But it's not like the sun that used to be" (11)


"I ain't lookin' for nothin' in anyone's eyes" (7)

"I don't want nothin' from anyone" (11)


"One look at you and I'm out of control" (8)

"I'd like to think I could control myself/
But it isn't true" (10)


"Well the winds in Chicago have turned me to shreds" (8)

"The winds of change are blowing wild and free" (9)


"I'm thinkin' of you/
And all the places we could roam together" (10)

"Well my heart's in the Highlands, wherever I roam" (11)


"I'm listening to Neil Young" (11)

"I've read Erica Jong" (11)

Bill Mousoulis January 1998