Freewheelin’? More like a stick in the spokes. A big stick…

  Several weeks ago Terri Gross interviewed Suze Rotolo on NPR’s “Fresh Air”.  Rotolo’s book: A Freewheelin’ Time has just been published.  It recounts her relationship with Bob Dylan which began in 1961 when she was 17 and he 20.  They appear together on the cover of the album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” which was his second studio album and held, among others, “Blowin in the Wind”.

  The discussion, during the interview, of the song: “Boots of Spanish Leather” (from the album “The Times They are A-Changin’ 1964) induced me to listen to it again for the first time in many years.  Rotolo called it a fictionalized version of her sabbatical from their relationship which took her not to Spain, but to Rome.  She had become nearly overwhelmed by the attention and adulation attendant to Dylan’s rise in Greenwich Village. 

  The song is antiphonal alternating between first, the fictionalized Ms Rotolo with Dylan in response: 

“Oh, I’m sailin’ away my own true love,
I’m sailin’ away in the morning.
Is there something I can send you from across the
sea,
From the place that I’ll be landing?  
 
No, there’s nothin’ you can send me, my own true
love,
There’s nothin’ I wish to be ownin’,
Just carry yourself back to me unspoiled,
From across that lonesome ocean.
 
Oh, but I just thought you might want something
fine
Made of silver or of golden,
Either from the mountains of Madrid
Or from the coast of Barcelona.
 
Oh, but if I had the stars from the darkest night
And the diamonds from the deepest ocean,
I’d forsake them all for your sweet kiss,
For that’s all I’m wishin’ to be ownin’
 
That I might be gone a long time
And it’s only that I’m askin’,
Is there something I can send you to remember me
by,
To make your time more easy passin’.
 
Oh, how can, how can you ask me again,
It only brings me sorrow.
The same thing I want from you today,
I would want again tomorrow.
 
I got a letter on a lonesome day,
It was from her ship a-sailin’,
Saying I don’t know when I’ll be comin’ back again,
It depends on how I’m a-feelin’.
 
Well, if you, my love, must think that-a-way,
I’m sure your mind is roamn’.
I’m sure your heart is not with me,
But with the country to where you’re goin’
 
So take heed, take heed of the western wind,
Take head of the stormy weather.
And yes, there’s something you can send back to
me,
Spanish boots of Spanish leather. 

  In the recounting at least, Ms Rotolo’s departure seems to have been instinctual.  Only after some reflection at sea does her emotional tone catch up to her position and does she realize how revitalizing a break promised to be – whatever the cost.  In contrast, Dylan was pained and cognizant of possible ramifications of her journey from the moment she announced her intention to him.

  His final response to her repeated request was an effort to ensure that she be fully conscious of him at least one last time.  In searching for the proper pair of boots, she’d have to take her mind back to him and reconsider the nature of his body, soul, and spirit.     

  The song is both achingly beautiful as well as illustrative of Jung’s description of an artist:  “Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument.  To perform this difficult office, it is sometimes necessary for him to sacrifice happiness and everything that makes life worth living for the ordinary human being.”

  Even though it must have been crystal clear to Mr. Dylan why his “own true love” had left, he was unable to restrain himself from putting the story out there for all the world to know.  He does not evince bluster and swager like his besequined cod-pieced brethren.  More like cauterized torment.      

  It’s Dylan alone on acoustic guitar.  The repetitive pattern of his picking seems to procure the rasp of his voice like hot firing  synapses do obsessive thought. 

  It’s unforgettable.

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One Response to “Freewheelin’? More like a stick in the spokes. A big stick…”

  1. andrew gierke Says:

    Youre analysis of the song is equally well done. Some one is going to read your stuff sooner or later and publish you.

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