Bob Dylan Countdown #171: “Open The Door, Homer”

As amiable as it is enigmatic, “Open The Door, Homer” is The Basement Tapes in microcosm. On the one hand, the warmth of the music pulls you in. On the other, the weirdness of the lyrics keeps you at arm’s length. That dichotomy has kept fans enthralled by those recordings for all these years.

The Band plays a bog part in the specialness of this song. Had Dylan saved this for John Wesley Harding, and it does resemble the nature of the inscrutable parables on that album albeit with a lighter tone, it’s unlikely he could have pulled the same kind of magic from it. Even with the muddled nature of the Big Pink recordings, individual flourishes like Garth Hudson’s ethereal organ fills sneak to the surface before subsuming back into the beautiful whole. The chemistry between The Band and those songs is undeniable.

With that solid musical footing, Dylan could afford to take things in unexpected places and not lose the audience. Hence, the curveballs like calling the song “Open The Door, Homer” when Homer is nowhere to be found in the lyrics, or referring to a 40’s novelty song (“Open The Door, Richard”) despite no other real  connections to it.

Even within the course of a single song, Dylan has a way of subverting expectations. The first two verses are light and somewhat silly, marked by verbal wordplay and pun-like tricks. Yet the third verse is almost cosmically profound:  “‘Take care of all your memories” said my friend, Mick ‘for you cannot relive them/And remember when you’re out there tryin’ to heal the sick that you must first forgive them.'”

The harmonies of the chorus kick in at that point, those warm feelings rush in again, and any doubts about this strangely comforting track are swept away. And remember:  No housing flushes.

 

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