Monday, March 14, 2011

Musical Interlude ~ Idiot Wind

Idiot Wind appears on the 1975 album, Blood on the Tracks, Dylan's 15th. 

The lyrics of both versions of this song, the studio cut and the bootleg outtake, have been knocking around in my head for a long time. This video clip is the bootleg version, a much longer, less polished and also less abrasive take in my opinion. It's a full nine minutes long, but there are so many excruciating lines in such a stark deadpan delivery, punctuated by the man's antiphonal, insinuating, ancient-sounding harmonica that is almost another vocal, that it doesn't feel too long by any means--in fact, though there are no lyrics after the seven minute mark in this one, the studio take of seven and a half minutes seems rather edited and formal in comparison, though it contains some excellent lines not heard here, in particular, "I can't even stand to touch the books you read..." (--that one always gets me.) The first part of the first verse remains puzzling to me, and if anybody has any thoughts about why this very intimate song begins with a throwaway smartass punchline, feel free to expound in the comments.

Anyway, here it is, the quintessential crashed and burned anti-love poem.

"...Idiot wind, blowin every time you move your jaw,
from the Grand Coulee Dam to the Mardi Gras...

...You close your eyes and  part your lips, and slip your fingers from your glove.
You can have the best there is but it's gonna cost you all you love, 
you won't get it for money.."

Bob Dylan - Idiot Wind - Bootleg Series Vol.2 - MyVideo


  1. Well, I just somehow erased my comment, probably too long anyway, so here is just a link to an article about Dylan's single, "Hurricane", which he wrote to protest the conviction of the boxer, Ruben Carter, for murder:

    "Hurricane" leads me to question
    Dylan's judgment
    Column published in The Herald-News, Passaic-Clifton, N.J., 1975
    Herald-News Columnist (Wikipedia)

    Perhaps the first lines of Idiot Wind are a reference to the negative press he was getting at the time.

    I wonder too if "wind" might be understood as twist/twirl as well, which would allow an interpretation on one level (of the many he uses)as the description of a boxer, e.g.cross as in a cross-cut boxing move.The struggle for civil rights would join the environmental (Coulee Dam)in the lyrics as well as the supposed emotional conflict over his ex-wife.

    AND, I found a reference to an old signal(1812) used by boxers to surrender a match; they'd remove a glove and raise a finger --- not quite as erotic as your quote above but --- Thanks for the post.

  2. That's an interesting idea, Ann. I figured it was about his long term love-hate relationship with publicity/notoriety, as that's a familiar theme, I just wondered why he started this particular song with it. Maybe it was to cushion the approach to all the more painful and revealing details he then goes into in almost compulsive detail with some defensive sarcasm. He's said many times this album and this song aren't 'confessional" but I'm not buying it.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

Comment Moderation Has Been Enabled