Blog post 9/20

Bob Dylan’s song “All Along the Watchtower” has been covered by many bands throughout the years, including the Jimi Hendrix version, which you heard for class. Hendrix’s version was recorded just six months after Dylan first released the song. There are only three verses, and the lyrics end just as Dylan seems to be setting the mood. Why do you think the lyrics end so abruptly? What is the point of having a so-called “incomplete” song? Why do you think it has been so popular that more than fifteen versions have been recorded? You can address one of these questions in your response.

16 comments on “Blog post 9/20

  1. Will Adams says:

    In “All Along the Watchtower,” Dylan cleverly ends his song immediately after setting up his scene. This allows his audience to analyze what they think the joker and thief were referring to. Also, the question regarding the princes in the watchtower remains unanswered. Dylan did this to make his song meaningful to each one of his fans. Without an ending, his enthusiasts can create their own ending that makes sense to them. With this, Dylan forces his listeners to answer specific questions such as, is it better to be a spectator or be someone who dares to go against the status quo? This ending has a unique way of probing the audience to think deeper into the song, something Dylan mastered in his songs.

  2. Rafe Mosetick says:

    I think that All Along The Watch Tower has been such a popular song for many years because of the ambiguous nature of it. It challenges the listeners to try and interpret its meaning. For example, Dylan sings,”There must be some way out of here.” I couldn’t help but wonder where they are and why they wanted to escape it. It allows the listeners to make the story their own. I think this also why at the end he abruptly stops the song. It is like he has started you on this journey now you have to decide it will take you. This forces the listener to think critically instead of blindly listening to the music. The fact that their are so many ways to interpret this piece, causes many artists to want to make different versions of it since the song hits people in different ways.

  3. Dalila Vazquez says:

    The song “All Along the Watchtower” by Bob Dylan has a distinctive aspect of how the lyrics end abruptly. The song starts describing a dialog between two characters, but this conversation cannot be rapidly understood because we as readers don’t know what the characters are talking about. These two characters, the joker and the thief, are different but they seem to have joined for a cause despite their differences. The cause seems to be that other people are taking advantage of people like these two characters, so they want to confront them. The people taking advantage of them seem to be powerful because princes and servants are mentioned. Next, the two characters reappear in the form of two riders and suspense rises, and the song ends here. After giving an indirect but powerful description, the author leaves the ending to the judgment of the reader.

  4. Jen Chung says:

    An “incomplete” song leaves the audience hanging onto a story with no ending. It forces the audience to create their own version of the ending, which in most cases only temporarily satisfies the listener. in time, curiosity overtakes them once again to leave us in search of another version of the ending. This repetitive cycle keeps attracting listeners back to the song in order to find a more fulfilling ending. I watched a clip on ted.com in which Tracy Chevalier gave a speech on gallery fatigue. She proposed an idea of first scanning the entire gallery and revisiting the pieces which interest us the most. Then, asking questions such as “how did the artist meet the model” or “what is her expression a response to,” Chevalier creates her own story of the painting. However, she found that she was never completely satisfied with each of her stories because she would never know the truth behind that particular piece. In the same way, Bob Dylan draws the attention of his audience with the same strategy. We will never know what truly happened to the joker and the thief. Because it is in our nature to find a solution to a problem, the lyrics and the sudden ending in “All Along the Watchtower” keeps the audience hooked.

  5. Lyons Li says:

    As far as I am concerned, the song “all along the watchtower” has a glamour because of its distinctive lyrics. The song has only three verses, and it seems that none of these three verses has some connection to each other. “There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief. Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth”. The lyrics’ meaning is so abstract that every audience would have his own comprehension when listening to the song in different place with different mood. And I believe this is why there are so many bands and singers decided to cover this classical song for every version has its larruping feeling. When we look at the lyrics, we can find that Bob Dylan just set up the environment but did not tell us what had happened. “Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl, two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl”, this sentence give the audience a mood of bleak and desolate. And what was going on there? Maybe Bob Dylan want we audience to find it ourselves.

  6. Monica Poleway says:

    Dylan’s, “All along the watchtower,” ends right after the mood of the song is created. I believe that Dylan is trying to make the listener think about the lyrics and what they truly mean. I also feel that he wants the listener to make up his own interpretation of the words and what they mean to each individual person. Different bands such as Jimi Hendrix have recreated this song, I believe because of the open ended ties which allow every person to interrupt the lyrics the way they want to.

  7. TonyHuang says:

    From my perspective, the song “All along the watchtower” owe its popularity to its unique lyrics and many different ways to interprete them. As we can see, the song has only three verses and none of them seems to relate to each other directly. As a result, when listening to the song, everyone audiences will respond differently. I think that’s also why so many bands and singers create their own versions of the song under different social environment or even their own feelings. I also want to share my own interatation of the song. Maybe Dylan use the joker and the theif to refer to the “lower” class of people. They were the riders near the end of the song, and were going to start a revolution against the upper class. Well, that’s about my understanding of the song.

  8. Abby says:

    “There must be some way out of here” is the first line of the song All Along the Watchtower. Hendrix/Dylan almost seem as if they want the song to end just as it starts. Knowing a little history about Bob Dylan, his songs captured the feelings of rebellion and unity. The song represents feeling trapped by the norms of society. “All Along the Watchtower” was popular, because it united those who wanted to be different. It conveyed the message of individuality which translated into different covers that showed the singers’ own styles. When listening to Hendrix and Dylan, their interpretations sound like two completely different songs. The song ends rather abruptly to show that the song is not conventional. It will not follow the formula of verses and a chorus, but the singers will create the song however they see fit.

  9. Naeem says:

    In the song All Along the Watchtower, Bob Dylan intentionally ends the song in a very abrupt, incomplete manner. Dylan ends the story with a mysterious description: “Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl, /Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.” By ending the song in such a manner, Dylan leaves it up to the listener to interpret the meaning of the last few lines. Dylan wants the listener to think deeply, and analyze the compositing and lyrics of the song, and then create his or her own meaning out of the song. For this reason in and of itself has the song become so popular. There are many interpretations to the song and each listener can interpret the lyrics in a unique manner.

  10. Haoyue Ma says:

    The reason for Bob Dylan to cut the lyrics so abruptly is that he tries to allow the listener to fill in his or her own blanks uniquely and particularly. He gives more room for listeners to comprehend and accomplish this song in their characteristic in order to cause people unconsciously to realize the deep meanings buried inside the song. Also this is why there are so many singers liking rerecording this song for “more than fifteen versions”. For Jimi Hendrix, when he recreated the song in his own version, he kept saying to his engineer of his album “I think I hear it a little bit differently.”. This is the magic of the song—“All Along the Watchtower” to fascinate people deeply.

  11. danmann7 says:

    Incomplete lyrics give “All Along the Watchtower” an air of mystery, intriguing listeners with its vague, yet interesting lyrics. Like Beethoven’s eighteenth symphony, possibly Dylan wanted to let other musicians fill in the lyrics with their own music, as many musicians did. All of them put their own flair on the song, which was easy to do since it had only three verses with such an abrupt ending and was very open to various interpretations. Artists must have been curious about the true significance of this piece of music, which is why they all tried to interpret it in their own way. Jimi Hendrix recorded one of the most famous versions of the song and truly made it his own, filling in the lyrics with the crazy guitar work that is his style. Bob Dylan’s peace feels really powerful just through curiosity over the lyrics and its abrupt ending, leaving the listener wanting more.

  12. Z says:

    The song “All Along The Watchtower” presents a depressed and bleak scenario towards the listeners. The incomplete lyrics allows listeners and readers to come up with their own endings which make sense to themselves. On the other hand, the incomplete lyrics illustrates the weariness of the author and he did not know what would happen next, introducing the hopeless and sad atmosphere to the listeners. The author addresses the growl of the cat and howl of the wind to end this song, re-embroidering the repressive mood. Furthermore, this sadness is somewhat enhanced by incomplete lyrics, indicating this scenario will be repeated again and again.

  13. Aamina Ahmad says:

    Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” is definitely an incomplete song. It begins with a joker and a thief talking about the bad times they live in and it ends with two riders “approaching” as the wind “howl[s].” It seems like Dylan wrote an unfinished song but I think that is the entire point. With an incomplete song, Dylan leaves the listener at a cliffhanger. The listener has no idea what is to come; whether the riders bring salvation or leave the joker and thief in their current situation. Whatever happens next is up for the listener to decide. I also think this is why the song has been recorded so many times. With it so open to interpretation, one artist can sing the song to portray a specific feeling, while another can sing it about something completely different.

  14. Melody Carter says:

    “All Along the Watchtower” starts off with lyrics that are dialogue between two characters, the joker and the thief; however, Dylan’s lyrics do not explain where these two characters are, what they are talking about, or why they want to escape. The idea of an “incomplete” song allows each listener to have their own take on what they think the song is supposed to be about. This is also the reason why the song is so popular and has more than 15 recorded versions. Artists enjoy remaking this particular song because of the fact that they are able to have their own interpretation of it.

  15. Robbie Katz says:

    The incomplete lyrics of “All Along the Watchtower” forcer the listeners to be fully engaged in the song. It feeds off of people’s innate curiosity to know what happens after the abrupt ending and forces them to come back and listen to the song again. I also feel the reason that there are so many covers of the song is because it is so open for interpretation not only by the listeners but by musicians as well. I personally very much enjoy the Dave Mathews Band version which has an extremely different feel than Jimi’s which is also different from Bob Dylan’s original. Each song conveys a unique perspective and brings about different interpretations from the audience.

  16. chenxiyu says:

    The song “Along the Watchtower” looks to be incomplete because it wants the audience to fully think about what the song author is saying. The verses are used to tell a story and then break abruptly so that the listener can think about what may happen next. The listener is forced to make his/her own assumptions of how the story follows. This technique works to bring the audience closer to attention of the song. The three verses also have the same way of rhyme at the end. They have two pairs of ending rhymes, then a break. This allows some harmony to the listener and allows there to be a connection between the verses even though they are abruptly cut off. The rhyme is used to flow well with the listener and the abrupt breaks allow the listener to fully think and adapt their interpretation to the song. Both these traits make it a classic.

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