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Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands by Bob Dylan

Album: Blonde On BlondeReleased: 1966
  • This song is about Sara Lownds, who was Dylan's wife at the time. The title of the song was created from her name: SAd eyed lAdy of the LOWlaNDS.
  • On the song "Sara" from the album Desire, Dylan sings: "Staying up for nights in the Chelsea Hotel writing Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands for you." In his book Revolution in the Air: The Songs of Bob Dylan 1957-1973, Clinton Heylin writes that most of the song was written in an 8-hour stretch in a Nashville studio while the musicians waited for Dylan to finish it. Said Dylan: "It started out as just a little thing, but I got carried away somewhere along the line."
  • This took up the whole fourth side of the album, but it didn't need to as it is just under 11-minutes long. But if Blonde On Blonde had not been a double album, some other album would hold the title of first double album ever released. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Ed - Perth, Australia, for above 2
  • When Dylan finally called the band members he hired in to record this song, it was 4 a.m. Typical of Dylan, he didn't tell them much about the song - he just had them play. They were surprised when the song kept going for 11 minutes, and more surprised when Dylan was happy with the first take.
  • The video to the right is from "The Denver Tapes," recorded March 1966. In this recording, Dylan calls this "The best song I ever wrote." (Thanks, Edna - Madrid, Spain) >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Edna - Madrid, Spain
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Comments: 22

Don in Portland and David in Cambridge I have just one question for you. What galaxy are you two really from?R. H. - Pauls Valley, Ok
Is it possible that one fabulous Dylan cynicism has been overlooked?
"with your Mercury mouth in the missionary times" could be a slash at early whites and missionaries spreading syphilis along with the gospel and "civilization"., Syphilis treatment then included rubbing liquid Mercury into the gums and mouth of the afflicted. As strange as this sounds today, massive dosage of Mercury and sweat boxes was the best treatment and sort of worked.
The irony of Dylan playing with "Mercury mouth" cannot just be that of the messenger: The Church ALWAYS betrays the Common Man, SEE "Ballad of Frankee Lee and Judas Priest"
And while it likely is a song to his then dear Wife, nothing would stop Dylan from a few pointed jabs at a glaring Historic hypocrisy.
David - Cambridge , Ma
Well, I am not a native speaker,so forgive me if I choose the wrong words. My feeling of this song is that of a deep love song. If you ask, why? Well, he knows her, he loves her, and he is about to loose her. He describes her crueless, knows every one of her mistakes, knows very well that her beauty will open her every door, also knows that every man who would look at her, would become her slave. But what he also knows is that she loves him. Love ain't that easy. It's not enough. So he sings just for her, beggs her not to leave him, tells her that all the others are no better than him. And tells her, as if she understood, that the one man who understood her, and still loved her, between all the others, was him.Anja - Izmir, Turkey
Sara Lownds worked in the Times, so I think "With your mercury mouth in the missionary times", refers to her eloquence in writing for the ideologically driven Times. Her "face like glass" might mean both it is cold to the touch and "see through", that she is sincere/faithful/transparent. In another song "Love minus Zero/No Limit" (also said to be written about her), he says the same thing "Yet she's true like ice, like fire". "Warehouse eyes" might be connected to "worn out" eyes, she is a sight for sore eyes, ie beautiful. According to Al Aronowitz, Bob reportedly "depended on her advice as if she were his astrologer, his oracle, his seer, his psychic guide. He would rely on her to tell him the best hour and the best day to travel", which I think explains the cult/religious imagery about her. There is a reference to the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28, which says to him in verse 13 "You were in Eden, the garden of God." A number of his songs dealt with the theme of Eden at this time, such as "Gates of Eden", so maybe "my arabian drums, Should I leave them by your gate?" is a reference to her as a kind of Eve, a temptation, which causes him to leave the Arabian "Eden" behind at the gate. Perhaps, "Warehouse Eyes" might be a reference to his soul. The eyes are the window to the soul, the store his soul, like a warehouse? She in other words is directing the path of his soul, which is an interpretation that probably makes sense of some of the song. Bob probably would laugh at this and say "no, i just liked the sound of the words!"Mel - Roscommon, Ireland
Sad Eyed Lady is about many women including Sara but it is mainly about Mary Magdalene. It tells the story of her relationship with Jesus. The child of the hoodlum is his child with her. Jesus was considered a hoodlum by the Jews at the time. Dylan was transitioning to Christianity. Anyone who has studied his Biblical references knows that he was well read. Perhaps he had seen the Book of Mary. Mary escaped to France to start the Merovingian dynasty in the lowlands of Gaul.Don - Portland, Me
I believe that the opening lines are an erotic description of his muse's special qualities.
"With your merury mouth in the missionary times."
The "missionary position" of lovemaking is the conventional and commmonplace way of making love.
But someone with "a mercury mouth" evokes to me a woman who delights in the art of oral lovemaking.
Peter, West Brunswick, Victoria Australia
Peter - Melbourne, Australia
The hoodlum child is MariaAndy - Shoreham-by-sea, United Kingdom
The words seem quite straightforward to me.

Warehouse eyes is about Dylan's emotional life as a big void with nobody in it, until he met Sara if the story is to be believed that this song is about her. And if so, who is the child of the previous lover?
Andy - Shoreham-by-sea, United Kingdom
What are the two missing cards, including the suits?

Andy
http://soredragon.blogspot.com/
There's a Hole in Reality through which We Can Look if We Wish
Andy - Shoreham-by-sea, United Kingdom
The more I look at this song, the more allegorical it seems to be. There may be a surface meaning about Sarah Lownds or Edie Sedgwick, but it goes much deeper than a love song about a particular woman. Is the woman real or an ideal or imaginary woman who is the true subject of the song? Much of the imagery is religious in nature and begs for a deeper inspection than saying it is a ballad about loving a girl.

"With your mercury mouth in the missionary times,
And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes,
And your silver cross, and your voice like chimes..."

Missionary, prayers, cross, chimes....all are words that evoke Christianity. Bells, hymns, ceremonies, words...magical words. What is a mercury mouth? This is an allusion to being "silver tongued" or eloquent, one who speaks with great emotion and meaning. A missionary has to be eloquent in order to make converts. The allusions go on and on: gypsy hymns, the sad-eyed prophet, holy medallion, saint-like face...

I have to give this much more thought but the deep religious meaning in this lovely and marvelous song has not yet been uncovered. I'm working on it.
Vance - Fairfax, Va
This song is definitely about Sara Lownds. His one real, true love. Sara and Dylan met in '62 and were married from '65 to '77. The song "Sara" from Desire tells this. The correct words are:

"I can still hear the sounds of those Methodist bells. I had taken the cure and had just gotten through stayin' up for days in the Chelsea Hotel
writing 'Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands' for you"

Most of the songs on "Blood on the Tracks" are also about Sara. That album was being produced during their break-up. The farm incident is something he goes into detail about in his book "Chronocles: Volume One". A book any real Dylan fan needs to read.
R.h. - Pauls Valley, Ok
continued re Saint Helena versus sad eyed lady: Every detail corresponds between the saint and dylan's lady - regardless of if a woman of his real life is supposed to have been aimed at - i mean between the life and cult of the saint AND the descriptions of dylan's lady. i'll study this song-text furthermore...Benedictus - Stockholm, Sweden
hi. i have studied the religious development of the cult of Elene/Helena from thousands of years bc up to today - id est from Greece to Sweden, and this morning when i listened to Sad Eyed lady Of The Lowlands, a supernatural "fact" dawned upon me: WOW Bob Dylan has unawares written this song about saint Helena "of Sweden"(1102-1140)! Every little detail matches.Benedictus - Stockholm, Sweden
There clearly is a layer of meaning surrounding Sara Lowndes with this song. But what about all the imagery about death and burial? "Who among them do they think could bury you?...Who among them do they think could carry you?" - as in carry the body perhaps.

There is clearly a retrospective on the life of the "sad eyed lady" e.g. "they wished you'd accepted the blame for the farm". The whole song can be seen as a history of her life. So what if "warehouse" as in "warehouse eyes" means material life and "arabian drums" means exotic possessions in the material life. "Should I leave them by your gate" could mean - shall I discard my eye for the material world and my possessions here and join with your soul in the afterlife - "where the sad eyed prophet says that no man comes". So on one level it is possibly a song about death and the afterlife?

Also - this is perhaps really far out - "they wished you'd accepted the blame for the farm" - could farm be a code word not for fire - post above - but for "fall". As in the Judaeo/Christian heritage women take the blame for the fall in the book of Genesis...

RA
Richard - London, England
George Harrison's "Long Long Long" on the Beatles' White Album.
I agree with Dylan. This is his best song ever. And the best love song ever written if you ask me.
I don't think that there are any details with no sense. I think they are inside jokes which we can't understand, only Sara and Bob.
It's not about Edie. The ex-husband of Sara was an editor of a magazine. Haven't you heard "Sara" of his 1976 "Desire" album?
"Stayin' for days in the Chelsea Hotel
writin' Sad-eyed lady of the Lowlands for you"
Alvaro - Santiago
The Rolling Stones used this chord pattern as an influence for one of its songs. Can anybody help me with this one? or was it George Harrison?Brian - Sydney, Canada
Dylan secretly married Sara Lownds in late 1965. This song was released on Blonde on Blonde in 1966. As another poster mentioned, Lownds is similar to Lowlands.

I've also heard discussion about the 1997 song Highlands relating to this song, perhaps as much as being a second part to the song.
Blake - Rock Island, Il
In response to Ed's comment, had Blonde on Blonde not been a double album, the Mothers of Invention's Freak Out! would have been the first ever.Jordan - Moorhead, Mn
I dont think this song is about Edie Sedgwick, as Dylan said that he wrote the sonmg for Sara- Sara had a magazine husband, who actually worked for a magazine. Some of the details dont make much sense, but Dylan said that Sad Eyed Lady was the best song he ever wrote, and considering how his relationship went with Sedgwick, even an enigmatic figure like him would likely be proud of a ballad written for his wife. Although it is possible that the sad eyed lady is a composite of women he knew, and in the end, she stands with her thief and is on his parole(I think thats Dylan).Alex - New York, Ny
I'm not sure about the timelines of when dylan and sara met, but i can see at least one thing that makes me believe this song was actually written for her. Lowlands is almost practically the same word as her last name "Lowndes"; give it an "la" and take away the "e".Joe - Mesa, Az
This song was definetly about Edie Sedgwick! I know a lot about her and the things he mentions in the song like " and your silver cross" Edie wore a silver cross. "and your magazine husband who one day just had to go." Edie dated a guy at the factory called Paul America who looked like a pin up boy or a "magazine husband." "you wished they'd accepted the blame for the farm" Farm could be a code word for fire cause Edie set the Chelsea hotel on fire. There are more but i can't think of them right now...Christa - Seattle, Wa
A boy once quoted lines from this song when he wrote me a love letter.
It was so sweet, yet corny.
Julie - Chicago, Il
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