A song by Bob Dylan, originally released on Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Volume II. He's also released live recordings of it, and versions with The Band. Some of these may have a slightly different set of lyrics - the version available on bobdylan.com is not the version released on Greatest Hits 2. The lyrics below are to the studio version from Greatest Hits 2, and the changes made in the bobdylan.com version are in the footnotes.

I love this song. Dylan's guitar is accompanied by piano on the studio version in a nicely understated way, but one that gives a certain bounciness to the song - I think it would come across as far more serious without it. His vocals bounce along with it, and he has a way of extending and truncating words in this song that I can't really depict in text.

The lyrics, aside from his weird tale of a European journey, seem fairly straightforward. He describes a feeling I know well; you go on, and on, trying to do what you want, and all along it feels like your whole life will be fixed if you accomplish that one big goal. But it never really happens, because there's always more to do - that one probably wasn't your masterpiece anyway. You can't live expecting one big accomplishment to change your life, especially if it makes you minimize what you're accomplishing now. That doesn't keep me from thinking of "everything's gonna be different when I paint my masterpiece" as a rallying cry, though. You gotta try hard at something :)

Length: 3:23

Lyrics:


Oh the streets of Rome
Are filled with rubble
Ancient footprints are everywhere
You can almost think
That you're seein' double
On a cold dark night on the Spanish stairs

Got ta hurry on back to my hotel room
Where I've got me a date with Botticelli's niece
Yup, she promised that she'd be right there with me
When I paint my masterpiece


Oh the hours that I've spend inside the Coliseum
Dodging lions, and wasting time
Oh those mighty kings of the jungle, I could hardly stand to see 'em
Yes, it sure has been a long hard climb

Train wheels runnin' through the back of my memory
As the daylight hours do increase1
Someday, everything's gonna be smooth like a rhapsody
When I paint my masterpiece

2

I left Rome, and landed in Brussels
With a picture of a tall oak tree by my side
Clergymen in uniform and young girls pullin' muscles
Everyone's there and nobody tried to hide3

Newspapermen eatin' candy
Had to be held down by big police
Someday, everything's gonna be different
When I paint my masterpiece


1: Alternately, "When I ran on the hilltop following a pack of wild geese"

2: Some versions may have two extra lines here, which are wonderful examples of Dylan's sense of humor, but in my opinion break up the rhythm of the song and the tone of the lyrics:
"Sailin' 'round the world in a dirty gondola.
Oh, to be back in the land of Coca-Cola!"

3: Alternately, "Everyone was there to greet me when I stepped inside"

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