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Bob Dylan — Ballad of a Thin Man
Album: Highway 61 Revisited
Avg rating:
7.2

Your rating:
Total ratings: 801









Released: 1965
Length: 5:51
Plays (last 30 days): 1
You walk into the room
With your pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked
And you say, "Who is that man?"
You try so hard
But you don't understand
Just what you'll say
When you get home

Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

You raise up your head
And you ask, "Is this where it is?"
And somebody points to you and says
"It's his"
And you say, "What's mine?"
And somebody else says, "Where what is?"
And you say, "Oh my God
Am I here all alone?"

Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

You hand in your ticket
And you go watch the geek
Who immediately walks up to you
When he hears you speak
And says, "How does it feel
To be such a freak?"
And you say, "Impossible"
As he hands you a bone

Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

You have many contacts
Among the lumberjacks
To get you facts
When someone attacks your imagination
But nobody has any respect
Anyway they already expect you
To just give a check
To tax-deductible charity organizations

You've been with the professors
And they've all liked your looks
With great lawyers you have
Discussed lepers and crooks
You've been through all of
F. Scott Fitzgerald's books
You're very well read
It's well known

Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Well, the sword swallower, he comes up to you
And then he kneels
He crosses himself
And then he clicks his high heels
And without further notice
He asks you how it feels
And he says, "Here is your throat back
Thanks for the loan"

Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Now you see this one-eyed midget
Shouting the word "NOW"
And you say, "For what reason?"
And he says, "How?"
And you say, "What does this mean?"
And he screams back, "You're a cow
Give me some milk
Or else go home"

Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Well, you walk into the room
Like a camel and then you frown
You put your eyes in your pocket
And your nose on the ground
There ought to be a law
Against you comin' around
You should be made
To wear earphones

Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
Comments (83)add comment
I love this song.  I've never tired of hearing it.
I do enjoy the strength of the opinions here, and I get it...
but dang is the following lyric a mood



You hand in your ticket
And you go watch the geek
Who immediately walks up to you
When he hears you speak
And says, "How does it feel
To be such a freak?"
And you say, "Impossible"
As he hands you a bone


 Cynaera wrote:
Okay, I've seen a lot of farcical pictures, and if I were new to this venue, I'd check out right away. But, I know the general ambiance of this place, so I just laugh and shrug.

Dylan can't sing. He talks his lyrics, mosty, but the important thing is that he writes LYRICS. He chooses to perform them himself, which is just better, because he takes responsibility for his work. Whether his voice is good or bad, it's always going to come back to his lyrics.

And lyrically, I just love this song. Dylan is a storyteller. If he were to become a street performer, spouting his poetry with an occasional guitar-chord, chances are, no one would throw a dime into his cup. I'm very glad that I know better. And should I encounter Mr. Dylan on a street corner, talking his lyrics, with maybe an old dog next to him, I'd surrender my entire wallet to him.
 
OK, fine.  Dylan apologists tend to point to his lyrical greatness as well as his influence on many artists who followed him,  but conveniently want a mulligan when it comes to his Christian music.  At the time his Bible-thumping rhetoric caused much consternation amongst Dylan followers.  Critics and concert goers panned his music, lyrics and performances during that three year period with vigor.  They welcomed him home once he quit preaching the Gospel and returned to the fold, so to speak, and after many years it's almost as if that phase of his career never happened.   Like it or not, he produced some very good work during that time and it deserves serious consideration when assessing his overall body of work.     
I may have been born too late as I was unborn when this album was released, but It's awesome to be able to hear this, and Dire Straits, and Dave Matthews, and all the artists from all the decades. So maybe being born too late is actually a gift. 9>10 today.
One of the great Diss'ing-of-the-Establishment songs. Wish it weren't still so prescient. As one of Dylan's girlfriends said back then, in her biography -- we had something to say, not something to sell.
Something is going on but you don't knwo what it is
do you....

There could hardly be a more accurate comment, regarding our present time.
Luckily I had to switch off  RP and go on a Teams call when this started. 
I don't mind BD but I really don't get the deification thing.

Glad he came along though...
 Bat wrote:
Does anyone know where the title came from?  Is Mr. Jones skinny?

I love the movie "The Thin Man" based on the book by Dashiell Hammett. Starring perhaps the best actor/actress combination of all time - William Powell and Myrna Loy.

I don't think there's any connection between the song and the movie.
 
My understanding is that this track was a general diss towards the 'pressmen' of the day, thin meaning 'no substance' and Mr. Jones may just be a generic name. 

Because something is happening here / But you don't know what it is / Do you, Mister Jones?

Of course, as with most Dylan tunes, the guessing of the meaning is half the fun!  Long Live RP and figuring out what these deep lyrics mean!!  
"There ought to be a law
Against you comin' around"

One of my favorite Dylan lyrics.
 rhlrstn wrote:
I'm not of the Dylan generation, so he is an automatic PSD for me.. (sorrynotsorry)
 
I guess you don’t know good music
 Canadese wrote:
The best of classic Dylan. My favourite. It's what Dylan is all about.
How can anyone not admire those incredible lyrics, sung in his own inimitable style?
 

A post that one might expect from an RP listener named Canadese.      Great post BTW.  

Are there rough edges?  Probably, I don't notice them.  This was so out of sight brilliant, so insightful.  
I'm not of the Dylan generation, so he is an automatic PSD for me.. (sorrynotsorry)
Does anyone know where the title came from?  Is Mr. Jones skinny?

I love the movie "The Thin Man" based on the book by Dashiell Hammett. Starring perhaps the best actor/actress combination of all time - William Powell and Myrna Loy.

I don't think there's any connection between the song and the movie.
God!
The best of classic Dylan. My favourite. It's what Dylan is all about.
How can anyone not admire those incredible lyrics, sung in his own inimitable style?
My first Dylan LP.  
 Chumbawamba-1984 wrote:
Dam'it there is no zero or minus values on the rating scale!! You know for these "songs" that we would live better if they were never shitted down. Probably a(nother) bombastic verbal diarrhea of The Poet(-Poet). This is at the best something to put in writing in a local newspaper to fill the blanks of Sunday edition, no more.

 
Yet you rate the Hendrix version of Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" a 10.  Granted it is quite a departure from Dylan's version.
woah - there's a blast from the past!!  
 dwlangham wrote:
What the fuck is so great about this guy?
 
A fucking lot!!
 Sasha2001 wrote:
For those of you who hate Dylan - that's fine, you're entitled to like or dislike whoever you chose, it's popular art. But know this: Dylan inspired at least 100 other artist that you DO like to pick up guitars and sing, which is why we pay homage to him. I personally don't choose to listen to Elvis in my down time but I'm damn glad John Lennon did. Ditto to the Velvet Underground and all the great acts they inspired.  Music is as much about generational respect as a Chinese family. We worship the ancestors whether or not we liked them.
 

So very well stated, nearly exactly the sentiment I would have tried to produce....and damn if this one isn't a 9 for me!!  Nearly a 10....Long Live RP!
For those of you who hate Dylan - that's fine, you're entitled to like or dislike whoever you chose, it's popular art. But know this: Dylan inspired at least 100 other artist that you DO like to pick up guitars and sing, which is why we pay homage to him. I personally don't choose to listen to Elvis in my down time but I'm damn glad John Lennon did. Ditto to the Velvet Underground and all the great acts they inspired.  Music is as much about generational respect as a Chinese family. We worship the ancestors whether or not we liked them.
What the fuck is so great about this guy?

Bob Dylan - Ballad Of A Thin Man
  

Bob Dylan Live 1986 - Ballad Of A Thin Man (With Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers).

Amazing!!   10

Thank you Dell for having the foresight to put a mute button on my keyboard.
Okay, I've seen a lot of farcical pictures, and if I were new to this venue, I'd check out right away. But, I know the general ambiance of this place, so I just laugh and shrug.

Dylan can't sing. He talks his lyrics, mosty, but the important thing is that he writes LYRICS. He chooses to perform them himself, which is just better, because he takes responsibility for his work. Whether his voice is good or bad, it's always going to come back to his lyrics.

And lyrically, I just love this song. Dylan is a storyteller. If he were to become a street performer, spouting his poetry with an occasional guitar-chord, chances are, no one would throw a dime into his cup. I'm very glad that I know better. And should I encounter Mr. Dylan on a street corner, talking his lyrics, with maybe an old dog next to him, I'd surrender my entire wallet to him.

Doctor of Dylan-ology By skipgoforth
https://www.flickr.com/photos/shaman683/

" Bob Dylan was awarded an honorary degree by Scotland's oldest university in 2004.
The University of St Andrews made Bob Dylan a Doctor of Music ."
Bob looks very distinguished here...I want to get my doctorate in Dylanology...Now THAT'S a degree!

Copyright All rights reserved

To get some understanding of this song, see andrewimft's post of July 15, 2008 - 20:14.
 Chumbawamba-1984 wrote:
Dam'it there is no zero or minus values on the rating scale!! You know for these "songs" that we would live better if they were never shitted down. Probably a(nother) bombastic verbal diarrhea of The Poet(-Poet). This is at the best something to put in writing in a local newspaper to fill the blanks of Sunday edition, no more.
 
Bobcat1963 wrote:

(edit) . . . don't criticize what you can't understand. . . .

That's it exactly. People can post whatever they want I suppose, no matter how bitter, ignorant or hateful. No one has to like Dylan or any other artist; just try to dial down the vitriol a little (I mean really, it's only music).


I am not troubled by Dylan's voice in this rendition ... it's a breakthrough! (for me as a listener, anyway)
 Chumbawamba-1984 wrote:
Dam'it there is no zero or minus values on the rating scale!! You know for these "songs" that we would live better if they were never shitted down. Probably a(nother) bombastic verbal diarrhea of The Poet(-Poet). This is at the best something to put in writing in a local newspaper to fill the blanks of Sunday edition, no more.

 
something happening but you don't know what it is ;-))

so listen to it twice & don't criticize what you can't understand


Dam'it there is no zero or minus values on the rating scale!! You know for these "songs" that we would live better if they were never shitted down. Probably a(nother) bombastic verbal diarrhea of The Poet(-Poet). This is at the best something to put in writing in a local newspaper to fill the blanks of Sunday edition, no more.

All you haters just had your goat smoked.
 
one time i read a detailed line by line description of why this song is about being a homosexual, and homosexual acts, and it has kinda made listening to it, not as cool for me.
 jnhashmi wrote:
I clearly do not get this.
 
This Bob's for you 
 DaveInVA wrote:
One of my all time favorite Dylan songs {#Music}
 

Same here and there are a lot of great ones to choose from!{#Yes}
One of my all time favorite Dylan songs {#Music}
 MannAudioltd wrote:
dont get Dylan  live aid 1985 confirmed it to me
 
Dylan's first album was released in 1962, so as I am writing this in 2009, that means Dylan's career is at least 47 years old.

And you judge him on one shambolic performance < albeit a cringe-worthy one>?

Phil, should we write off Elvis for a series of schmaltzy films, or for crooning Las Vegas ballads instead of sticking to rock 'n roll?

When it comes to doing surprising things, surely Dylan has no peer in not only confounding expectations, but doing what he felt he wanted to do at that time, rather doing what others wanted him to do, or what would sell more records. So suggesting diverting money from starving Africans to farmers in (what was then) the richest country on earth was utterly crass. But it takes its place in a long list of idiosyncratic acts, from changing his name, visiting Woody Guthrie in hospital, turning electric, 'dropping out' in the mid-1960s, not playing Woodstock, appearing at the Concert for Bangladesh, turning Christian, and then not, attending a public tour around John Lennon's house, wandering the streets late at night, right the way to releasing a Christmas album.

None of these acts warrant you appreciating his music any more, but they might highlight the dangers of judging him based upon one incident, any more than you or I would like to be judged based upon one act. But just as listening to 'In the Garden" was a cathartic experience for you, listening to this track inspires me every time I hear it.

Vive la difference! as they might say in Worcester. If they spoke French.
 
 jnhashmi wrote:
I clearly do not get this.
 
I clearly do get this, although I prefer the live version on:
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live, 1966: The "Royal Albert Hall Concert"
 andrewimft wrote:
No, it's well known and documented that this song is about a reporter named Jones from Time Magazine who interviewed Dylan before the Highway 61 sessions and then wrote an ignorant hit piece on him. This song is all about how a reporter can be a propagandist when he has an agenda rather than an open mind reporting the facts. If you watch "Don't Look Back" a documentary about Dylan, you'll see Mr. Jones, this uptight guy in a suit and tie, trying to interview Dylan and asking him incredibly stupid questions, but basically in that scene Dylan just rips into him and tells him he doesn't understand anything about him. This song is amazing, because it's of course relevant today and describes quite well, as it did then, the self righteous reporter who thinks they're a good guy as they give to charity and such, but the way they do their job is as an arrogant propagandist for a corrupt establishment. That's what this song is about and has always been about.
 
Great Post! Thanks Andrew.

dont get Dylan  live aid 1985 confirmed it to me
 df1489 wrote:

I'm with you...

 
me too - please stop it... the man can't even bloody sing (well I know he can, but it doesn't seem like it on this track) - it's painful....


 jnhashmi wrote:
I clearly do not get this.
 
I'm with you...

I clearly do not get this.
This "you" person he sings about in almost every song must be a tremendous idiot, compared to himself.
bachbeet wrote:
Always dug this song and this album. Dylan's surrealistic period where the lyrics basically meant anything you wanted them to. I (and I think others) took this to mean that there was a lot happening at the time that a lot of the older generation just didn't get. Love that part where he says "And you know something's happenin ... Really shows that Jones is so clueless as to his surroundings.


I always took it as his "hm what rhymes with and sounds cool?" period. It's like a child's fingerpainting being sold for thousands at an art gallery.



F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of my favorite writers...  Dylan is so deep...


The thing I like best about playing Bob Dylan playing on RP is it gives me an opportunity to make sure my MUTE button is working.

Yep, WORKING!
This is one of the few Dylan songs I like but I like it a lot. There's no denying his artistry, especially his lyrics... I just like "regular" singing rather than the style he seems famous for. Most of his stuff turns me off because of that style.
Always dug this song and this album.  Dylan's surrealistic period where the lyrics basically meant anything you wanted them to.  I (and I think others) took this to mean that there was a lot happening at the time that a lot of the older generation just didn't get.  Love that part where he says "And you know something's happenin ...  Really shows that Jones is so clueless as to his surroundings.
{#Puke}
Paul_in_Australia wrote:
Here is Mr Jones obituary and here are some Dylan interviews. it seems uncharacteristic that his Bobness dealt with the encounter with the journalist in such a literal way when so much of his work is shrouded in figurative language and imagery. But I guess we shouldn't shovel the glimpse into the ditch of what each one means
That would require a giant shovel, but it could be pretty interesting... figurative language and imagery, especially Dylan's, can take people to so many different places.
Paul_in_Australia wrote:
Here is Mr Jones obituary and here are some Dylan interviews. it seems uncharacteristic that his Bobness dealt with the encounter with the journalist in such a literal way when so much of his work is shrouded in figurative language and imagery. But I guess we shouldn't shovel the glimpse into the ditch of what each one means
Thanks for the interesting links and post. It seems like Mr. Jones changed to drop out of the stifling role of his square job and pursue his real dreams in life... a great story. Great clip of Dylan with the Time reporter (that's Mr. Jones, and similar or the same as the Don't Look Back clip), which shows Dylan's views on Time Magazine and establishment journalism.
andrewimft wrote:
No, it's well known and documented that this song is about a reporter named Jones from Time Magazine who interviewed Dylan before the Highway 61 sessions and then wrote an ignorant hit piece on him. That's what this song is about and has always been about.
Here is Mr Jones obituary and here are some Dylan interviews. it seems uncharacteristic that his Bobness dealt with the encounter with the journalist in such a literal way when so much of his work is shrouded in figurative language and imagery. But I guess we shouldn't shovel the glimpse into the ditch of what each one means
rachlan wrote:
Wow! I just spent a little bit of time reading peoples interpretation of this song... I always thought it was about the closed-minded intellectual...
Didn't mean to criticize your post, but clarify. Your interpretation on all points was pretty good and has plenty of validity beyond the original meaning of the song, certainly it's valid to say the words describe an arrogant intellectual etc., but your interpretation only missed the original subject matter of the song, which is (was, back in the day) very well known, and Dylan has reiterated it in many an interview.
rachlan wrote:
Wow! I just spent a little bit of time reading peoples interpretation of this song... I always thought it was about the closed-minded intellectual who doesn't get how the times are changing and looks down on those who don't fit his idea of normalcy, but find this way of being is biting his ass without knowing why. But there are a lot of posts claiming that every line is some sort of homosexual allusion. They seem to be very strong in their idea that this is what the song is really about.
No, it's well known and documented that this song is about a reporter named Jones from Time Magazine who interviewed Dylan before the Highway 61 sessions and then wrote an ignorant hit piece on him. This song is all about how a reporter can be a propagandist when he has an agenda rather than an open mind reporting the facts. If you watch "Don't Look Back" a documentary about Dylan, you'll see Mr. Jones, this uptight guy in a suit and tie, trying to interview Dylan and asking him incredibly stupid questions, but basically in that scene Dylan just rips into him and tells him he doesn't understand anything about him. This song is amazing, because it's of course relevant today and describes quite well, as it did then, the self righteous reporter who thinks they're a good guy as they give to charity and such, but the way they do their job is as an arrogant propagandist for a corrupt establishment. That's what this song is about and has always been about.
Love this song, but prefer the live version on No Direction home
evvai Bob! "> :dancingbanana: :dancingbanana_2: :bananajam: :cowboy: :drummer:
jadewahoo wrote:
This could be, in my estimation, the best Dylan song ever. But, damn, don't hold me to it...
I'll not only hold you to it, i'll second it. Dylan from 1965-66 was just ridiculous. The fact that he and the Beatles worked side-by-side in real time is stupefying.
:rolleyes: :roflol: :guitarist: :notworthy:
lmic wrote:
Hey, this must be where the Cold War Kids got their line about giving to "tax deductible charitable organizations" in their song "We Used to Vacation." Without a doubt, when it comes to pop songwriting, Dylan lurks behind every corner...
Good one... :yes: :clap:
nigelr wrote:
'Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?' Damn right Bob.
Like what the devil is up with my wife...
ThePoose wrote:
The Bob is playing at the Bluesfest here in Ottawa, capital of Canada, tomorrow night: July 5, 2007. Meantime, tonight, we will have to settle for Van Morrison. I can't wait until they trot out the REAL legends later in the week--or at least performers who look at the audience instead of shitting on them.
I love The Van but I didn't go see him at Bluesfest because the whole scene there is pretty chaotic. If you stand the people in chairs, and face it kids, our generation needs'em these days, get pissed and vice versa. There is actually a Van bootleg out there that consists solely of VM getting pissy with audiences and interviewers. Very entertaining.
Simply an Outstanding song.
Hey, this must be where the Cold War Kids got their line about giving to "tax deductible charitable organizations" in their song "We Used to Vacation." Without a doubt, when it comes to pop songwriting, Dylan lurks behind every corner...
ThePoose wrote:
The Bob is playing at the Bluesfest here in Ottawa, capital of Canada, tomorrow night: July 5, 2007. Meantime, tonight, we will have to settle for Van Morrison. I can't wait until they trot out the REAL legends later in the week--or at least performers who look at the audience instead of shitting on them.
Oh boo hoo. I've seen Van live and he was great. No he didn't blow me any kisses, but he sounded great! And it's doubly strange that you would hold Dylan up as an example of a crowd-friendly performer. I haven't seen him but I hear different.
The Bob is playing at the Bluesfest here in Ottawa, capital of Canada, tomorrow night: July 5, 2007. Meantime, tonight, we will have to settle for Van Morrison. I can't wait until they trot out the REAL legends later in the week--or at least performers who look at the audience instead of shitting on them.
Good choice Bill & Rebecca!
'Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?' Damn right Bob.
birdland wrote:
A milestone. And brilliant motivation for the greatest tribute to Dylan recorded - Mr. Jones - Counting Crows. I love time. It speaks about immortality. The two song-subjects of this post have made themselves immortal at their inception, and again by existing as mirrors across time. Wow.
Whoa, man.... :meditate:
jadewahoo wrote:
This could be, in my estimation, the best Dylan song ever. But, damn, don't hold me to it...
Know whatcha mean; so many to choose from. Let's just say it's in the top 10.
Wow! I just spent a little bit of time reading peoples interpretation of this song... I always thought it was about the closed-minded intellectual who doesn't get how the times are changing and looks down on those who don't fit his idea of normalcy, but find this way of being is biting his ass without knowing why. But there are a lot of posts claiming that every line is some sort of homosexual allusion. They seem to be very strong in their idea that this is what the song is really about.
nah!
This song goes on and on, yet at the same time goes nowhere. (Musically anyway).
BPenni wrote:
Nine for merit. Ten for the memories!
Yeah, what he said.
Love this song....never hear it enough (even on RP)
shayborg wrote:
I think I'd like it more if it made sense to me. An 8 as is.
Please think a bit deeper. Maybe some of it will come to you.
A milestone. And brilliant motivation for the greatest tribute to Dylan recorded - Mr. Jones - Counting Crows. I love time. It speaks about immortality. The two song-subjects of this post have made themselves immortal at their inception, and again by existing as mirrors across time. Wow.
I think I'd like it more if it made sense to me. An 8 as is.
I tripped over Bob Dylan back in high school and was blown away by this album and "Bringing It All Back Home." It was like finding a hip new friend who pointed out all the crap and hypocrisy of that educational prison. (Someone had spraypainted "Welcome to San Quentin" on of the walls just before my freshman year. How fitting). I know many people hate Dylan. But for my friends and myself, he spoke hidden truths that got us through the day.
This could be, in my estimation, the best Dylan song ever. But, damn, don't hold me to it...
Nine for merit. Ten for the memories!
Nice to hear a Dylan song I'm not sick of.