Bob Dylan Countdown #197: “Talkin’ John Birch Society Paranoid Blues”

I was a bit surprised to find out while researching this song a little that the John Birch Society still exists. They don’t talk much about Communism on their website, instead espousing some of the limited-government views that have been come to the forefront of political discussions the past few years. I’m not sure if this fact legitimizes the Society somewhat or diminishes the argument; I guess your own political views will determine how you feel about that.

It is somewhat ironic that Dylan’s own freedom of speech was threatened by a song about a group that espouses the tenets of the Constitution above all else. This was the song that the producers of The Ed Sullivan Show did not want to hear, thus causing Bob to tell them thanks, but no thanks. While that choice may have limited Dylan’s mainstream exposure back in the day, it certainly didn’t hurt his credibility with the folk crowd, so it was probably a wash.

Dylan makes things as absurd as possible in this satire to play up what he obviously feels is a pretty absurd organization. This was also a chance for him to improvise each night in concert, adding little one-liners and asides to the malleable lyrics as the mood struck him.

In the middle of a pretty heated presidential race here in 2012, which has been filled with a lot of “Which side are you on?” posturing even within the same party, it’s easy to see why a song like this remains pretty relevant. While the enemies, at least the perceived ones, may change, the paranoia never quite dies down. Good God, indeed.


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