Interpreting What Bob Dylan Has To Say About Houston

Categories: Stage
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Bob Dylan's new album, Together Through Life, is out, featuring a song called "If You Ever Go to Houston."

We haven't gotten it (don't know whether we'll add "yet" to that sentence; we've been drifting away from Dylan fanhood for a while now). And the lyrics don't seem to be on the usual sites, but we have found one that's made an attempt at deciphering what Bob's withered voice is croaking.

So what does the most important songwriter of our time have to say about us? Not all that much.

The first three verses seem to be the only ones dealing directly with H-Town.

Says the first:

If you ever go to Houston better walk right
Keep your hands in your pockets and your gun-belts tight
If you're asking for drama, if you're looking for a fight
If you ever go to Houston, boy you better walk right


So the proper way to walk in Houston contains two key details: a) Keeping your hands in your pockets, and b) Keeping your gun-belts tight. Doesn't sound to us at all like a comfortable way to walk. Plus, he doesn't mention whether or not you need a concealed-handgun license, which is a deplorable omission for someone who's giving advice on such matters.

Perhaps the gun-belts don't contain actual guns, and are merely an efficient method of holding up your pants. But really, if your hands are always in your pockets, it's pretty easy to hold up your pants. So the first two lines: Not making sense.

Then come three hypotheticals: First, are you asking for drama and/or asking for a fight? Frankly, if you're attending a drama (The Farnsworth Invention starts next month at the Alley), you're probably not looking for a fight. Unless by "fight" you mean an energetic, high-spirited discussion of whether Aaron Sorkin is too glib by half or instead trenchantly exposing the dark underside of the American hope machine. In which case, for some reason, Dylan once again asks that you walk correctly.

Next verse:

If you're ever down there out back to your loving ma
You better watch out for the man with the shining star
Better know where you're going or stay where you are
If you're ever down there out back to your loving ma

OK, you're visiting your mother in Houston. Look out for the law. Got it.

(Important Note: Check the comments section below for a lengthy examination which includes the theory that Dylan actually sings "If you're ever down there on Bagby and Lamar." Why Dylan is singing about the downtown public library, we have no clue. And we still think you should look out for the law while visiting your loving ma, but that's just us.)

Finally:

Well I know these streets I've been here before
I nearly got killed here during the Mexican War
Something always keeps me coming back for more
I know these streets I've been here before


"During the Mexican war"? Did Aaron Sorkin write The Farnsworth Invention a long, long time ago? Geez, this Dylan-intepreting is confusing.

Anyway, he then goes on to mention Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth and San Antonio, so it's not like he's treating us like anything special.

Bottom line: "If You Ever Go to Houston," you're no "Galveston."




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