Bob Dylan Countdown #164: “Everything Is Broken”Posted: February 3, 2012
Do you get the feeling that Dylan could have written about 100 verses for this rumbler off Oh Mercy? In Chronicles, which details the making of the album, he seems to have an extra set of lines for just about every song. It’s a testament to his skill that he can do this and not have the extras seem like throwaways. It also says something about his editing ability that the final recordings don’t feel any weaker for the absence of the discarded lyrics.
“Everything Is Broken” may sound like Dylan is just making a list of everything he sees and adding the word “broken” to it. But there is sly wordplay at hand throughout, and a bevy of images that catch you unaware when you really think about them. For instance, “People sleeping in broken beds” hints at a preponderance of marital strife across the land. Meanwhile, the imagery conjured by “Broken voices on broken phones” is downright chilling.
Dylan brings it down to a personal level in one of the bridges: “Every time you go off and leave someplace/Things fall to pieces in my face.” It adds another dimension to the song, suggesting that the narrator loses his rose-coloured glasses when his love is away, suddenly seeing what the world is really like.
As Dylan scats above Tony Hall’s Peter Gunn-style bass line, producer Daniel Lanois blurs the picture with some tremolo effects. The end result is propulsive and ominous all at once. It could have gone on forever, but “Everything Is Broken” expertly paints its broken picture at any length.