Bob Dylan Countdown #142: “Political World”

According to Bob, the tumultuous recording process for this opener to Oh Mercy led to the unfortunate demise of a dobro, smashed to the ground by producer Daniel Lanois in a fit of frustration. Eventually, they figured it out, creating a track that’s all forward momentum and no let-up. Give credit to drummer Cyril Neville and drummer Willie Green in that regard.

That momentum is necessary to cut through the BS in the world that Dylan has depicted here. Anybody who thinks he’s talking about a “Political World” in terms of Republicans and Democrats is probably misguided. The politics to which he is referring seem to me to be the kind that dissuade people from all walks of life from serving mankind first instead of their own best interests.

Not that Dylan is placing all of the blame on the regular folk. He suggests that the game has been rigged (“it’s all a stacked deck,”) leading us to put self-preservation above all else. The domino effect is even more insidious because we don’t even recognize its existence as we live through it (“We live in a political world/The one we can see and feel.”)

Dylan throws in concrete lines that have a way of coming around in relevancy from time to time. (“Life is in mirrors, death disappears/Up the steps into the bank” sure rings true, these days, doesn’t it?) Yet it’s the general deception affecting the world that overrides everything else, leading us all to fall for it:  “As soon as you’re awake, you’re trained to take/What looks like the easy way out.”

I would even go so far as to say that this song isn’t all that dissimilar in message to those released during Dylan’s religious period. The only difference is the perpetrators in “Political World” often use a religious screen to mask their selfishness:  “Everything is hers or his/Climb into the frame and shout God’s name/But you’re never sure what it is.”

In Dylan’s world, being political suggests something far sinister than taking the party line on health care or national security. The “Political World” he sees is nothing less than Hell on Earth.



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