Tangled Up In Blue

Album: Blood On The Tracks (1975)
Charted: 31
  • This is a very personal song for Dylan. In an oblique narrative, it deals with the changes he was going through, including his marriage falling apart. A predominant theme is trying to escape the past.
  • Dylan wrote this in the summer of 1974 at a farm he had just bought in Minnesota. He had been touring with The Band earlier that year.
  • Blood On The Tracks was Dylan's first album under his new contract with Columbia Records. He left the label a year earlier to record for David Geffen's label, Asylum Records.
  • This was influenced by the art classes Dylan was taking with Norman Raeben, a popular teacher in New York. Dylan credits Raeben for making him look at things from a nonlinear perspective, which was reflected in his songs.
  • Dylan sometimes introduced this on stage by saying it took "Ten years to live and two years to write."
  • First recorded in New York with producer Phil Ramone, Dylan delayed the release and re-recorded it in Minnesota while visiting his brother, David, for the holidays. David organized the sessions and helped produce the version that went on the album.
  • At the Minnesota sessions, the key was changed from G to A at the suggestion of Kevin Odegard, a local singer and guitarist who was brought in to play with Dylan.

    Odegard told Artful Living about his contribution to "Tangled Up in Blue."

    "The second night, December 30," Odegard said, "we started with 'Tangled Up In Blue.' It was an OK song in G. After we recorded it, we sat there for a minute. Bob lit a cigarette, turned to me and asked, 'What'd you think?' I could tell he felt like something was missing.

    By this time, I was comfortable, just like the guys on the steps of the armory. So I turned to him and said, 'It's passable.' He said, 'Passable? What do you mean passable?' And I said, 'Well, I think it would great if we all pitched up a key, from G to A. I think it would have more power, more urgency, more tension.' He looked down for a minute, and my heart kind of stopped. Finally he said, 'Let's try it.'"

    From there, the rest is history. Odegard was not credited on Blood On The Tracks, but he credits the experience with launching his successful career in music.
  • Among the musicians who recorded this in Minnesota were Billy Peterson, who became the bass player for Steve Miller, and Bill Berg, who became an animator for Disney. Some of the films Berg has worked on include Beauty And The Beast, The Little Mermaid, and Hercules.
  • Dylan's brother, David, came up with the idea for the hi-hat cymbals at the beginning.
  • This was the basis for the 1995 Hootie & the Blowfish song "Only Want To Be With You." It is a tribute to Dylan, but he still sued the band for stealing his song.
  • Dylan and his first wife, Sara Lowndes, divorced in 1977. As part of the settlement, she got half the royalties from the songs Dylan wrote while they were married, including this one.
  • The session musicians in Minnesota were not credited on the album because the packaging had already been printed.
  • Regarding the lyrics, "I lived with them on Montague Street, In a basement down the stairs," Montague Street is in a nice area in Brooklyn, where there was a music venue called Capulet's, where Dylan would sometimes hang out. Montague is also Romeo's last name in Shakespeare's Romeo And Juliet.
  • When Dylan performs this song in concert he uses the third person perspective (He and She) that is on the version found on The Bootleg Series Vol 1-3 album instead of the first person perspective that is on Blood On The Tracks. He also alters some of the lyrics, for instance: "One day the axe just fell" is changed to "One day it all went to hell."
  • The book Simple Twist Of Fate by Andy Gill and Kevin Odegard, documents the recording of Blood On The Tracks (in particular the genesis of this song). It explains how two different sets of musicians were used in New York and Minnesota but the Minnesota musicians not only did not receive credit, but also have never received royalties. Obviously, they are not happy about this since the album has sold millions of copies. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brian - Massapequa Park, NY
  • Dylan mentions the titles of two Beatles songs in the lyrics: "Pouring off of every page like it was written in my soul, From Me to You," and "There was music in the cafes at night and Revolution in the air." Dylan and The Beatles shared a great deal of mutual admiration. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Chris - Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
  • Dylan on Blood on the Tracks: "A lot of people tell me they enjoy that album. It's hard for me to relate to that. I mean, it, you know, people enjoying the type of pain, you know?"
  • Polyphonic observes that the music is made to mirror the lyrical content. "The nature of these lyrics are reflected in the rolling chord progression that drives the song. Behind the first half of the verse, we have two chords repeating, the second of which retains the root of the first. In this way the music is symbolizing the play with time, too. Just as the past is even there when we're looking into the present, so is the root of the first chord when we're playing the second. At the end of the verse, when we find ourselves in a more certain present day with a determined course, the music shifts into a more definitive chord progression."

Comments: 40

  • John from Catskill Mountains, Sullivan County, NySong has nothing to do with Joni Mitchell's "Blue"
    One thing about Bob's writing you should know is that he substitutes the word "blue" for love. It's why you hear the word blue in a lot of his songs.
    Basically TUIB is about the subject of the song having his head all f--ked up because of a lost love affair he just can't get over. The breaking up, the taking back, on again, off again, carrying a torch with the tiniest of flickers and never totally severing those emotional ties.
    The subject of the song like many of us never fully gets over this first true love. Something permanently breaks when it ends that never gets repaired "as good as new". That's because we are so naive we lay it all out on the line 100% believing love with this person is forever. After all she told you many, many times in the heat of passion she will love you forever and it becomes creed, etched in stone. When it ends you are devastated to the point that you never lay it all 100% on the line with anyone else again.
  • Ken from New YorkIt's funny how you hear things. Like most, I guess, I'd heard the song countless times and eventually learned the words, but not necessarily in sequence..I apparently didn't listen closely enough and since I remembered "workin' for a while on a fishing boat right outside Delacroix" I had the waterfront in mind. With that in mind, even though the verse precedes the verse with working on a fishing boat, I always assumed it was "split up on the docks that night" instead of "a dark sad night".
    Now, even though I know it's "a dark sad night", I still sing "on the docks that night".
  • Bill from St. Louis, MoThere is a theory that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were lovers.
    'Tangled Up in Blue' may be the story of Jesus and the Magdalene reincarnating together over and over.

    'Wond'rin' if she'd changed at all
    If her hair was still red'

    The Magdalene's hair is traditionally said to be red.

    'Split up on a dark sad night
    Both agreeing it was best'

    The best what? Incarnation together?

    'She turned around to look at me
    As I was walkin' away
    I heard her say over my shoulder
    "We'll meet again someday on the avenue"

    Reincarnation; meeting up again.

    'So I drifted down to New Orleans'

    Orleans, France is an area of Magdalene worship.

    'Right outside of Delacroix''

    Delacroix means 'Of the Cross"

    '…she never escaped my mind, and I just grew'

    Memory of the Magdalene never leaves him.

    'She was standing there in back of my chair'
    'Said to me, "Don't I know your name?"
    '…She studied the lines on my face…'
    '…she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe'

    Luke 7:38 : 'As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears.'

    Magdalene was the 'Power behind the throne'; Gnostic Gospels: 'Why does he love her more than he loves us?'

    Studying the lines of the face to see what the person has been through; to see the personality.

    Magdalene bent down to wash the feet of Jesus.

    'Then she opened up a book of poems
    And handed it to me
    Written by an Italian poet
    From the thirteenth century'

    Some thirteenth century Italian poets lauded the Magdalene

    '…revolution in the air'
    There was revolution in the air in Jesus' time.

    'Some are carpenters' wives…Don't know how it all got started
    I don't know what they're doin' with their lives'

    According to the myth, Jesus and the Magdalene married; Jesus was a carpenter. How did the cycles of reincarnation get started?

    '…We always did feel the same
    We just saw it from a different point of view'

    The different points of view are views from various incarnations together.
  • Nicole from Massapequa, NyI think it was ridiculous for Dylan to sue Hootie & the Blowfish for using "Tangled up in Blue"....That song itself was named that after Dylan repeatedly listened to Joni Mitchell's "Blue" album. Such a hypocritical move on his part.
  • Greg from Las Vegas, NvStefan, the Italian poet may be Cecco Angiolieri, as Si Fosse Fuoco has a powerful punch like Tangled Up in Blue; however Cecco was a 14th century poet. Otherwise maybe it was Franco Sacchetti or Leon Battista Alberti, which are from the 15th century, but neither has the punch of Cecco.
  • Lee from Clearwater, Fl, Flhere's the quote: "People get that way about Joni Mitchell songs. Bob Dylan once told me that he'd written "Tangled up in Blue," the opening song of the much-celebrated Blood on the Tracks, after spending a weekend immersed in [Joni Mitchell's] Blue (although I think he may have been talking about the whole album, not just the song)." http://bit.ly/35pOlBx
  • Lee from Clearwater, Fl, FlI'm a little surprised no one has mentioned this, but I read that the title refers to the fact that Dylan was really into the Joni Mitchell album "Blue" at the time. My two cents.
  • Ron from Pittsburgh, Pa"some are carpenter's wives" is a reference to Laura Nyro who was part of the New York music scene in the late 60's. Nyro admired Dylan and made sure he knew it whenever they ran into each other at parties. She abruptly retired and disappeared for a few years from recording music and married carpenter David Bianchini in 1971.
  • Mike from Brooklyn, NyThe sixth verse is a direct reference to John Lennon. Lennon moved into Ringo's Montague Square apartment with Yoko after Cynthia kicked him out. John and Yoko were working on the "Revolution 9" sound collage for the Beatles' "white album" at that same time.
  • Stefan from Campinas, BrazilDoes anyone knows which italian poem does he refers to in the middle of the song??
  • Lestrad from No, LaIt's in the Uppre Ninth. think that's the one you're referring to, Dave.
  • Lestrad from No, LaThere is a Montegut St. in New Orleans.
  • Gimel from Miami, FlThis good fellow Bob Dylan is, presentless, wrapped in a demeanor which is truly like the wind which cannot be contained nor avoided. A real genius, who in spite of all his fame and wealth, is, quoting Soren Kierkegaard, "one against the crowd!"
  • Jim from Dayton, OhAll this talk about Dylan being a chump or coward over suing Hotties is'nt fair to Bob (I'm not sure its even true) It's true that Jimmi Hendrix had a great admiration for Bob Dylan and Dylan lated admited he like Jimmi's arrangement of All Along The Watchtower better than his own and from then on when Bob would play All Along The Watchtower he always played it with Jimmi's arrangement of the song. Thats respect going both ways.
  • Hans from San Jose, Ca"I lived with them on Montague Street
    In a basement down the stairs" might refer to Ringo's basement place in London where Lennon/Ono lived.
  • Nathan from Grant, AlI don't know that it has any actual basis on anything besides my own interpretation of this song, but it seems like it's a sort of love story. It always makes me see sort of a couple who fall in love while the woman is married and maybe the new man kills the husband or beats him up after a divorce. Afterwards the man and woman drive as far as the gas tank will take them. Then they just abandon the car and walk away from a deserted roadside. They promise they'll meet again one day, but they have to leave so they don't go to jail. The story continues to tell each of their individual paths. Neither of them EVER forgets the other no matter what they have to do. Years later they end up back together and don't realize it at first. They go back to the woman's place and talk for a bit. The man resorts to "slavery" or pimping the way I think about it, and the woman has to sell herself to make money. Except maybe the stripper wasn't the first woman mentioned. At any rate, the man decides he has to get back to his love no matter what and leaves to find her in some bar somewhere out across the world. He plans to continue until he finds the woman he fell in love with.
  • Apeek19 from Atlanta, GaDylan can be a coward capable of things like sueing hootie 9despite my love for him
    ). However, there is no legal record that a suit happened so it could just be an internet rumor.
  • Henry from Baltimore, MdThis is the song that makes people say that Like A Rolling Stone is perhaps Dylan's greatest song.
  • Tony from Toledo, OhI think of songs like this and Paual Simon's THE BOXER when I remember getting out into the world like joining the US Army at 17. I was the youngest kid in my HS class, I'll bet.
    At Aberdeen Proving Grounds, a group of soldiers invited me to go with them to an enlisted bar. And there was this topless and very lovely cigarett girl. I know I did not even smoke but she looked so sexy that I bought a pack of Camel's from her just because I liked her so much. She stood in front of me just like the girl in the song here and started staring at me. And with TANGLED UP IN BLUE in mind, I wodered if she was going to bend over and tie the laces of my boots?! It was kind of like life imitating art. But I never got a date with her. But I can remembere how shameless and un self conscious she seemed parading around the NCO club with nothing on but a g-string! She did not have a care in the world!
  • Angie from Jacksonville, FlI have to agree with Jared from Westmont, NJ. I mean, it's not like Hootie and the Blowfish were maliciously ripping off Dylan; they were paying tribute. It kind of sucks that a guy like Bob Dylan gets off on suing people that admire him.
  • Erik from Bloomfield Hills, MiBlood On The Tracks is such a great album, Dylan's best. Way to stick it to Hootie, Bob! They don't belong anywhere NEAR a Dylan song.
  • Linda from Brooklyn, Nyi'd just like to point out that there are many nice places in Brooklyn, not just montague strret is THE nice area
  • Dave from New Orleans, LaThe Montague St mentioned in this song is not a reference to an area in New York. It's a street here in New Orleans, in the now-famous 9th Ward (courtesy of Katrina). I've seen no proof that Dylan ever actually lived on Montague St., but it's known that he used to spend a lot of time here in the French Quarter.

    "Delacroix" is Delacroix Island, a small fishing community just outside New Orleans, probably wiped out from the hurricane (man, what irony). :-( Bob pronounces it as "Dellacroy" in the song, but the correct pronunciation is "Dellacro" (long O).

    Great song.
  • Keir from Aberystwyth, WalesCheck out the version he plays on Real Live (I think a recording at Wembley Stadium in '86), it just blows you away. Bob himself (in Cameron Crowe's interview for the sleeve notes on Biograph) said he didnt think he had it right when he recorded it for Blood, but the Real Live version was how he really wanted it to come across.
  • Miles from Vancouver, Canadasimply a wonderful tune!
  • Doug from Balintore, Scotlandthis is my second favourite Dylan song next to "you're gonna make you lonesome when you go" -the lyrics are great, it's basically a poem
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaNathan gets a laugh from me. This song does have great lyrics, it is not one of my favorite Dylan songs. Jared, Bob Dylan doesn't care about the money. he was just mad that someone "stole" his song. Maybe he didn't see it as a tribute? I don't know. This song is very good lyrically and musically.
  • Jared from Westmont, Njomg...im beyond shocked right now...Dylan's all about the music but he sued someone when the did a tribute, to himself nontheless. I don't know, I'm a bit hurt as a fan right now, killing music for money...that hit hard, Bob.
  • Ashley from Yarmouth, CanadaOh my, Bob Dylan sued someone? He seems like a savage man. I dont know why, but I get the feeling he was... not just cause he sued someone. He just seems savage. In a loving way. I love this song... it makes me sooo sparkley. I just LaLaLaLova Bobby D. <3
  • Ralph from Middletown, NyMatthew, that is true on Dylan's construction of the song. However, I don't think it is a direct storytelling on his life but a series of images to evoke a mood. John Herdman years ago wrote an excellent book called "Bob Dylan: Voice Without Restraint". This book basically stated that Dylan's lyrical method was more about mood and emotion than it was in being literal. So, for "Tangled..", while the specific moments he sang about might have never really happened, they did evoke a mood, a place, an atmosphere. I think paintings can do the same thing.

    I must say that the slower version of this song is just as interesting. I am glad the Bootleg 1-3 series was released years ago to let people hear the first version of this song, which is the slower version.
  • Nathan from Defiance, OhDon't trust anybody named Hootie.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScHeah. the verses are in a random order. That's if your listening to the song for the first time. Dylan wants you to figure out what it's about after you've listened to it.
  • Christian from Richmond, WiThe Alternate version of this is even better
  • Kate from Armidale, AustraliaThe Whitlams did an absolutely awesome cover of this on Eternal Nightcap. Check it out!
  • John from Waterville, MiIm from Hibbing Minnesota.
  • Hugh from Kansas City, MoHey Joe of Weatherly, PA,
    Learn some punctuation, will ya?
    How did this entry make it paste the "bad grammer" aspect of the 'Comment Guidelines'?
  • Joe from Weatherly, PaYeah hootie did steal that but listen I am no hootie fan but if i remember correctly their song and tangled up and blue song the same not the lyrics but the sound and tone but I can't remember that much they weren't any good hootie that is dylan is a lyrical genious
  • The D Man from Saint Petersburg, Flbest Dylan tune ever!!!
  • Matthew from New York, NyThis song was supposed to be musical painting. Dylan had been painting a lot at the time and marvelled at how the eye doesn't look at the picture as a whole, but rather glances randomly from section to section of the pianting until a mental image of the full piece has been created. He wanted to write a song that connected random verses in an unsequential order that allowed the listener to piece together the full "picture" after the song was completed. Tangled Up in Blue was supposed to be a picture of his first marriage. Mixed in were stories of how he and his wife first met, their financial struggles, their emotional struggles, their happy times, and their divorce. Once the song is finished you can have a pretty good idea of what Dylan's marriage to his first wife was like from Dylan's point of view. Because of this technique, I consider this to be among Dylan's finest lyrics.
  • Shaggy from Bristol, CtHootie stole the lyric from Idiot Wind. I said I shot a man named gray... took his wife to italy... she inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me... I can't help it if I'm lucky
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