The third song on Bob Dylan's Time out of Mind, "Standing in the Doorway" is, perhaps, the cornerstone of this heralded album. An album known for its melancholy darkness, it is also perhaps one of Dylan's most mysterious efforts.

Two curious theories about the Time Out of Mind album are the ideas that it focused much upon Dylan's relationship with Sara Dylan (his ex-wife) and/or his relationship with Raquel Welch. In the writeup below, I will attempt to examine the lyrics and provide some insight, however insignificant my analysis might be.

First, the lyrics:

Lyrics removed, per E2 Copyright Changes :(

Lyrics can be found here: http://bobdylan.com/songs/standing.html


As inferred before, the intensity behind this song cannot be overstated. As mysterious as the lyrics are, however, some interesting analysis can nonetheless be made.

Don't know if I saw you, if I would kiss you or kill you
It probably wouldn't matter to you anyhow

This sounds and looks like a humble, last-gasp effort at saving face -- at least, in one's own reckoning, convincing one's self about the futility of it all.

All the laughter is just making me sad
The stars have turned cherry red

Examining this snippet, two things come to mind. First, the immediate imagery that I consider is that of tearful sorrow, the literal, apparent visualisation of a nighttime sky, through dampened eyes, peering through bloodshot eyes, with red-rimmed eyelids.

Another alternate idea, however, is that of a Biblical reference; Three books of the Bible (Joel), Acts and Revelation) all refer to moon turning to blood. Two of these are considered prophetic books, and there's no doubt that a crumbled relationship might seem apocalyptic to many. This consideration might also imply the continued existence of Biblical references in Dylan's lyrics; such thoughts will be covered further on.

I'm strumming on my gay guitar
Smoking a cheap cigar

The latter of these two lines is an obvious nod to "Danville Girl"; This line is in Seeger's version of the song, and is no doubt a prevalent variation elsewhere in folk music circles. Considering that Dylan took some liberties with the traditional tune when penning "Brownsville Girl", it is no surprise that he once again makes references to it later in his career.

There are things I could say but I don't
I know the mercy of God must be near

Again, a quasi-Biblical reference. Quite often, the question comes up as to whether Dylan is still a Christian, following his apparent departure from such, several years after releasing his "Christian" albums. In reference to this idea, it has been said by a speaker currently unknown to this author that, (paraphrased) "He still is. Just listen to his lyrics, you can tell." Whether or not this is true, the parallels between this line and that of "But I know God is my shield and he won't lead me astray" in "Till I Fell in Love with You" are interesting, to say the least.

I can hear the church bells ringing in the yard
I wonder who they're ringing for
I know I can't win
But my heart just won't give in

Again, the first two lines elicit the possibility of a thinly-veiled reference to the church... but more likely just a reflection on the purity of marriage, as compared to his implied lonely funk. The latter two highly contrast this, however, and seem to imply the difficulty of maintaining a troublesome (Hollywood?) relationship... perhaps a reference to Welch? We'll never know for sure.

Last night I danced with a stranger
But she just reminded me you were the one

Two very powerful lines. Dylan continues on the theme that something lost just can't be so easily replaced.

I see nothing to be gained by any explanation
There are no words that need to be said
You left me standing in the doorway crying
Blues wrapped around my head

The first two lines here seem to echo Dylan's (much earlier) song, "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right", where he sings, "It ain't no use to sit and wonder why, babe / It don't matter, anyhow / An' it ain't no use to sit and wonder why, babe / If you don't know by now". Again, it's sheer humility, perhaps embarrassment or shame, whatever the situation, that keeps one from dwelling on something too long. The last line also seems to echoes an earlier song, "Tangled Up in Blue".

In the end, "Standing in the Doorway" is an extremely vivid, yet sorrowful lyrical composition whose imagery is both beautiful and painful. If the theories about Raquel Welch are true, this song would be a standing testament to that, a high (or low!) point on Time Out of Mind that sets the mood for the rest of the album. If it's not about Welch, who cares -- the bitterness herein is something we've all felt, and Dylan's ability to express this is just another reason why his lyrics have stood the test of time.

See Also: The E2 Bob Dylan Literary Analysis Project




Works Referenced: "Bob Dylan Who's Who - Raquel Welch": http://www.expectingrain.com/dok/who/w/welchraquel.html
Lyrics for "Standing in the Doorway" are Copyright © 1997 Special Rider Music
Lyrics for "Don't Think Twice, it's All Right" are Copyright © 1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music

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