Shelter From The Storm – Why Is This So Good?

Need a classic song or performance explained – we’ll try!

One day you stumble on the Internet with a seemingly innocent question … but that doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve an answer.

An image from a post from Facebook asking 'why is this so good' and a link to live version by Bob Dylan of Shelter from the Storm.

Now I’m no Dylanologist, I will make mistakes in explaining this, but let’s try.

Let’s start with the obvious, what looks like an over-large handkerchief poorly tied onto his head is not, I repeat, not what this is so good.

It could be the backing band, all great musicians able to fill the sound expertly, follow the lilt and passion of Dylan’s vocals. This version is full speed ahead rock ‘n’ roll, a contrast to the folksy guitar of the album version. It’s louder, brasher, quicker and angrier – all things that add up to classic rock.

This is peak Dylan from the mid-70s. There are several peak Dylans, depending on who you read and which of your ears you choose to believe. There’s early folk Dylan, there’s early electric Dylan, culminating in Blonde on Blonde, then some down years, with Blood On The Tracks, we get a mid-70s peak again. There are a couple more, even 2020 is peak Dylan!

And now let’s think about the actual song. Blood On The Tracks is in many ways a personal album, written on the back of his split from his wife. Shelter From The Storm puts that relationship in clear focus.

The song starts by describing a Dylan that was lost in a violent world , which he is saved from when “Come in,” she said, “I’ll give ya, Shelter from the storm.” A clear reference to the wife he is separating from. The song continues with him promising ‘I’ll always do my best for her,’ refers to the relationship that was ‘always safe and warm,’ and takes his ‘crown of thorns.

Now it’s not all good, they must be separating for a reason! ‘There’s a wall between us now, ‘the one eyed undertaker’ (mmh, what could that be?),’He blows a futile horn.’ Later he offers’ up his innocence and I got repaid with scorn.’ So yes, it seems her offer of shelter has gone mighty wrong!

Nonetheless, he concludes ‘If I could only turn back the clock, To when God and her were born.’ So he wished he could go back to the days before it all went wrong … or considers her a demon. One of those.

And that’s why this song is so good: if you combine a supreme lyricist, with supreme music and supreme musicians, and you stir it up a little, let it settle and then take a swig, you get this.

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