Following are some of the comments the site has received from readers in the past. Please feel free to email me with yours.
I’ve been describing Layla as shimmering all these decades, and when I found the same word in your book, I was hooked. Your language and insights are extraordinary, and I look forward to using your site as a reference for my senior English students when we study poetry this coming school year.
Rohnert Park, CA, USA - Wednesday, July 13, 2005 at 11:02:34 am (EDT)
Herb, congratulations on a great site! I found it when looking for some info about Bob Dylan. (I was reading a newspaper article about the impact of “Like a Rolling Stone” that failed to mention what the song was actually about. I hope the fact that I’m 26 and didn’t grow up in that era will excuse my ignorance/rock blasphemy!) I’d just like to thank you for all of your insightful work. I particularly enjoyed your pieces on “White Room” and “The Kinks” which have reminded me about the magical lyrics that are works of art alone. I’ll be listening more attentively from now on!
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia - Saturday, May 28, 2005 at 12:07:52 pm (EDT)
Fascinating ..the selection of best artists and songs was very good...even more fascinating was the analysis of the songs and their structure. Since about 80% of the artists were amongs my personal favourites I was able to conclude the few I had not heard of must be worth looking up.
Adelaide, Australia - Friday, January 28, 2005 at 11:01:04 pm (EST)
Hello Herb, I found your webpage about Jimi Hendrix’s song “All along the Watchtower,” while looking for the lyrics of that song. It’s a great page! But I miss something specific about this song: as many, you overlooked the fact that it’s writen as a sonnet. The song is built up out of 12 lines grouped into 4 verses: 4 - 4 - 3- 3 lines, with rhyme scheme: aabb aabb cdc cdc. The change in the song everyone finds is located between the first two and the second two verses, as it should be in a sonnet.
Hilversum, The Netherlands - Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 05:50:23 pm (EST)
This is a great book, especially for us of about your age, I’m close to it at 50, so have been listening to some of this music for many years. I first read it about 18 months ago and have come back to it several times and thought about it many more times. It has shown me some new artists and greatly expanded my understanding of some classic great songs. While I’ve always loved “Turn the Page,” “Along the Watchtower,” and some others you’ve written about, your interpretations have taught me much more about them than I could have understood by myself. Thanks, George
Lexington, KY, USA - Monday, June 7, 2004 at 04:22:41 pm (EDT)
I’ve been trying to find a site like this for years. You’ve made me appreciate Rock and Roll all over again, and to me there’s no greater gift than that. Thank you.
San Antonio, Texas, USA - Sunday, May 23, 2004 at 12:09:13 pm (EDT)
Went looking for the chords and lyrics to Cream’s “White Room,” and stumbled over your site.
Your insightful commentary led me to explore further, and yes, they were all there: Kinks, Stones, Hendrix, etc.
I grew up during those times, and I’ll buy the book.
— Dave, whose heart beats to 4/4 time
Gosford, NSW, Australia - Friday, May 21, 2004 at 11:09 PM
I’m Diane from the University of the Phillipines. I just want to show how much I appreciate the author of this website cause the contents helped me a lot in my report in my Humanities Class about the art in rock: I was really blessed to come across this site ... more power to the author.
— Diane Marie
Quezon, Philippines - Thursday, April 22, 2004 at 03:43:18 am (EDT)
Excellent writing about Bruce Springsteen. You’ve captured his brilliance perfectly. Thank you for saying it so well.
Atlanta, GA, USA - Wednesday, November 19, 2003 at 12:46:03 pm (EST)
Great website! There are so many songs I listen to that drive me to search out more information about them on the ‘Net. But all I find are lyrics pages, with little appreciation for the themes of the track like I find on this site. Keep it up!
Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, USA - Friday, September 19, 2003 at 06:08:24 am (EDT)
It’s interesting how many of us were drawn to your site because of our desire (need?) to comprehend the symbolism of All Along the Watchtower. Count me among that number. Your interpretation seems right on, especially the references to Dylan and businessmen. Indeed, could the Thief have been a businessman, too, or even perhaps Dylan’s agent acting as a guide through the world of commercialism? Your other essays are just as entertaining, and I hope that you will continue your endeavors by adding new classics. Your inclusion of audio clips is brilliant, and takes me back to seventh grade when my teacher tried to instruct us in classical music by playing short snippets of instrumental masterpieces from warped, but still cherished, vinyl spun on an old turntable.
Another theme that I see in your work is one that every aficionado of great rock and roll preaches: all music is connected. One of the joys of rock is to listen to one song, then immediately crave another that connects because of similar subject matter, or because one of the band members played in another group, or because a cherished memory is brought to the fore, or because... whatever.
Thanks again for a very special website. Please let me know when your book is published. There will be a book, no?
Riverside, CA, USA - Saturday, August 23, 2003 at 12:23:57 am (EDT)
Wow! Just got started with “White Room” and I am very impressed. I’m not a musician or writer, just a tremendous admirer of both. I’ve always had a very difficult time interpreting poetry (and even “simple” song lyrics), but have great admiration for those who can. Thanks for sharing... and rock on!
Benicia, CA, USA - Sunday, July 13, 2003 at 12:35:47 pm (EDT)
I absolutely enjoyed the Bob Seger article. I have been a huge fan of this man’s music for years.
Oklahoma USA - Wednesday, May 07, 2003 at 05:50:39 (EDT)
I’ve been a rock and roll fan for a long time, and I had not read an article so illustrative as this. It has expanded my vision and knowledge of rock as an art form. Now I can say I enjoy even more (if that’s possible) listening to this precious music.
Have you considered to expand the book and include the bands of the 80s and 90s??
Thank you very much for making available this book for free.
Monterrey, Nuevo Leon Mexico - Saturday, May 03, 2003 at 21:11:20 (EDT)
I loved the article on All Along the Watchtower. I was curious whether I could find something online that would help me gain some insight, and I actually found something that did. Thanks!
USA - Tuesday, January 07, 2003 at 17:30:08 (EST)
Derek and the Dominos and their only album has to go down as one of the best. I was at Madison Square Garden for Cream’s final concert in 68 and have followed Clapton since. You’re website gives credit to a great group of under-rated musicians. Thanks.
Rye, NY USA - Saturday, December 14, 2002 at 23:25:50 (EST)
Wow. I never thought I’d see a good explanation of All Along the Watchtower. I didn’t even think it was possible until now! This site is most excellent.
Cincinnati, Ohio USA - Wednesday, December 04, 2002 at 18:56:40 (EST)
Excellent site! I enjoyed it very much. :-)
USA - Tuesday, December 03, 2002 at 14:57:31 (EST)
You’ve got some great background stuff on the gods of rock ‘n roll. Thanks loads!!!
Panama - Friday, November 29, 2002 at 15:36:21 (EST)
USA - Friday, November 22, 2002 at 20:58:35 (EST)
All Along the Watchtower; I am a professional musician (I program computers so I can eat) and played the song for years, but never understood it.
Your perceptions and understanding enthralled me, and never again will I perform this song without thinking of what I learned today. Thank you, Mr. Bowie, for the light you have shined on this much loved song; I will love it now even more.
Huntsville, Ontario Canada - Friday, September 13, 2002 at 15:52:32 (EDT)
I came in via a search for lyrics to All along the Watchtower and went on to read about Cream and White Room, then bookmarked the site for further reading. The analyses of the lyrics and symbiosis with musical performance appeal to me. I really dig this kind of site, I have previously discovered one giving a line by line explanation of Don McLean’s American Pie (Comment 1: featuring Dylan as the jester = joker. Comment 2: McLean is said to have been questioned about what the song means to him and answerered “It means that I don’t have to work.” Comment 3: some items are left hanging in that analysis, I congratulate you on the congruence of yours) and one analyzing Mamas and Papas’ Creeque Alley, teaching me a bit about their history and the connection with Loving Spoonful. At its best Rock really is an art form - keep rocking!
Uppsala, Sweden - Thursday, August 15, 2002 at 18:19:33 (EDT)
Loved this site, think you are a genius. I often feel that today’s music has lost its purpose, but then I wonder what the purpose was to begin with. In search of the answer to this question, I found this site and am so glad. It has given me a new appreciation for and understanding of true art (film, poetry, and of course, music). Thank you.
Thursday, June 13, 2002 at 04:11:37 (EDT)
This is a great site and looks like an excellent book! As you mentioned in your introduction, quite a bit of this information has been covered in other sources, but you have synthesized them well, and the presentation is appropriate for almost anyone, in that experienced listeners and neophytes alike will be able to gain insight and understanding from your well-written prose. Very well researched, very well referenced... as a musician, producer, music journalist, and educator I am very, very impressed. I would love to use this material with some of my students— is a hard copy of the book coming out? When will it be available, where, and for how much? If it is, you’ve made one sure sale already...
Wednesday, June 12, 2002 at 12:19:00 (EDT)
I just wanted to tell you that “Reason to Rock” is one of the best music sites I have seen in quite a while. I am very glad to see an internet site that is taking rock serious as an art form, and studying it closer, without just mentioning plain facts. It is very nice to see enthusiasm over a music that has changed many lives. Keep up the good work. It is much needed. Yours sincerely,
— Torbjørn W.
Sunday, May 19, 2002 at 14:08:29 (EDT)
I discovered your site while searching for lyrics for All Along the Watchtower. As I’m uneducated and very ignorant of symbolism in literature, I found your analysis of the lyrics to be amazingly eye-opening. It doesn’t change my instinctive feeling about the song, but it expands my intellectual appreciation tremendously. Additionally, the way you describe Hendrix’s rendition is also generous food for thought.
I have some questions about the meaning of the lyrics: is the joker actually supposed to be someone who sells wine and hires plowmen? I’d never given it any thought, but I had felt the joker was talking about insensitive people taking things from him and destroying what was valuable to him. Plowing the earth represented destruction of nature. Otherwise, why isn’t the character a peasant farmer or some such? The lyrics suggest that the joker is past the frivolity that his moniker implies, but it’s still hard to imagine he could be so established as to be a vintner. And why would he denigrate plowmen - men who work for him - anyway?
You also say that the two riders approaching are the joker and the thief, but if the joker is looking for a “way out of here,” then isn’t he going in the wrong direction? Doesn’t his confusion imply a kind of powerlessness that would prevent heading for a confrontation?
I hope my points don’t seem silly. I don’t want to over interpret the lyrics, just make sense of them. Blame yourself. :)
Anyway, I plan to consume your entire site - which looks great, and I completely agree with your purpose of validating rock as an art form. I didn’t quite realize that no one has done this - it’s way overdue.
— Phil Coffey
Tuesday, March 26, 2002 at 01:57:23 (EST)
Thanks for your comments. Glad you are enjoying the site.
I should explain that I don’t believe in the absolute accuracy of any particular literary interpretation — although I do believe that we can distinguish and often agree on better or worse interpretations. The questions I most often ask myself are: What intellectual interpretation best resonates with the emotional impact the song has on me? What makes the most sense in the context of the rest of the song, the rest of the artist’s work, and the artist’s life?
You ask some good questions. In regards to the reference to the plowmen, I don’t necessarily see them as destructive, so much as insensitive. I recently re-watched the Dylan documentary “Don’t Look Back,” and it now strikes me more than ever that the joker is an image for Dylan himself. Dylan at that time in his life was very much playing the role of the joker: he wouldn’t give straight answers to any question, he was always avoiding literal, logical, official interpretations of his work and his intentions. In the context of the song, I think the term “joker” is being used in the traditional sense of a jester or trickster, rather than a more modern sense as someone who jokes around. The role of the joker, like that of the artist, is to show his audience alternate views of reality.
In this context, the plowmen could simply refer to people who are working for Dylan. These could be roadies, workers in the hotels where he stayed — even the members of the Band were on retainer to Dylan for a while, so that he could use them whenever he wanted. And there is nothing insulting about the reference to them — all he is saying is that the people who work for him don’t fully understand what “any of it is worth.”
In terms of the riders approaching the castle, I think that the “here” the joker is seeking a way out of is a state of confusion, not necessarily a geographical location. And so heading toward the castle — and a possible confrontation with authority — could well be a way out of the confusion and meaninglessness that he has been experiencing.
I hope this helps some. And again, thanks for your thoughtful note and your support.
Thanks for your reply. It underscores what I have to learn about how to think about literary symbolism. Meanwhile it occurs to me that the details aren’t as important as the gist of the words, and that perhaps even Dylan himself didn’t define things exactly.
Just wanted to say I loved your breakdown of All Along the Watchtower-
This one’s been haunting me for years.
Ann Arbor, MI USA - Wednesday, December 12, 2001 at 17:31:00 (EDT)
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