"Blood in My Eyes" is Dylan's rendition of the Mississippi Sheiks song, "I've Got Blood in My Eyes for You," which was written in 1931. Dylan doesn't change the lyrics at all, but his version is played at a considerably slower tempo and is more melancholy than the original.
"Blood in My Eyes" is one of two Mississippi Sheiks songs that Dylan covers on World Gone Wrong, the other being "World Gone Wrong." One year earlier, on Good as I Been to You, Dylan had covered the Sheiks' "Sittin' on Top of the World."
This song tends to stir up debate among Dylan fans, because many are opposed to the notion that the song is about a prostitute, even though an objective appraisal of the lyrics would seem to clearly indicate that is exactly what it is.
The second line of the song asks a "good-lookin' girl, can I make love to you?" If that "good-lookin' girl" isn't a prostitute, then it's one hell of a bold line to approach a lady with.
There's more evidence than just that opening line, though. Most unambiguously, the narrator declares that he's, "Gonna get that girl that money will buy." From there, the final two stanzas of the song return to the theme of money exchanged for a date. "You got my money, now you're trying to break this date," and "You don't want me, give my money back."
Also, in the chorus, there's the repeated promise, "I don't care what in the world you do." In the wider context of the song, it sounds like the narrator reassuring the woman that he's not judging her profession. This sweetness may in fact be the reason so many people have a hard time reconciling it with being about a man paying a woman for sex, a relationship that is generally not considered "sweet" at all.
The Sheiks version is sped up and has a sense of humor appropriate to the silly subject of a man and a woman bickering over a sexual financial transaction. It's a fitting perspective for a band whose music Dylan characterized as, "Rebellion against routine."
Dylan's version of the song is sadder and more tender than the Sheiks. This version explores the pathos of the situation, telling the story of a poor man gathering together what he can to get some affection from a woman he's enamored with.
The meaning of the term "blood in my eyes" is often debated. The most obvious interpretation - literal blood filling the narrator's eyes - doesn't seem to make much sense. So, many listeners have suggested that the saying is simply a metaphor for the man's love and lust.
A third possibility is that "blood in my eyes" refers to blood rushing into someone's eyes when they see something they want. As comically exaggerated in cartoons for decades, our eyes get big and bulge out when we see something that excites us. This can be likened to having "blood in our eyes."
The song was recorded in May 1993 in the Bob Dylan Garage Studio in Malibu, California.
Dylan performed the song live only twice. Both performances were at the Supper Club in New York City, with one performance of it on the nights of November 16 and 17, 1993.
The video for the song has Dylan in a top hat and coat, carrying a cane around the city and greeting fans. He also juggles.