Bob Dylan Countdown #163: “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat”Posted: February 4, 2012
With delicious sarcasm dripping off every word, Dylan tales aim at a socialite with a taste for fashion that overrides her common sense. “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” is a blues track only in the structural sense, because Bob’s biting wit overrides any negative emotions.
The song is a prime showcase for the off-the-rails quality of Dylan’s backing band for Blonde On Blonde, and a pretty close approximation of the thrillingly wild sound that permeated his live shows around that time. Robbie Robertson’s solos on the song are all force and no finesse, squalls of notes that seem to have utter disregard for all other instruments. And yet it all holds together.
Dylan is the leader of this motley crew, puffed up enough by the company of his gang to lob some verbal darts at a wayward girl and her chapeau of choice. Of course, the hat is just a symbol for the cultural divide that has grown up between these two former lovers. Look at the comparison: The girl has the most stylish hat around, while Bob has his belt wrapped around his head.
What’s hilarious is that Dylan can handle her cheating with other men; it’s the presence of that damn hat that gets his goat. Still, he gets a good laugh when he sees her sophisticated affair consummated in, of all places, a garage. Very classy. His parting shot: “You might think he loves you for your money/But I know what he loves you for/It’s your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat.”
The anonymous girl was on the receiving end of this diatribe, whoever she might have been, probably learned the following lesson: You should never mistreat a songwriter with a bully pulpit and a sharp tongue. Others would be faced with that lesson as Dylan’s career progressed.