Bob Dylan Countdown #128: “Standing In The Doorway”Posted: February 13, 2012
The guitars moan, the organ whines, and the drums stagger. If there could be a physical manifestation of the phrase “blues all around my head,” which are the final lines uttered in “Standing In The Doorway,” this would be it.
Bob Dylan professed his admiration for the crooner Johnny Ray in the documentary No Direction Home, how he would practically burst into tears as he sung. This is the kind of song Ray would have loved, although Dylan’s voice betrays no tears, just a lot of weariness.
Much has been made of Bob using clichés and popular idioms in his songwriting since his resurgence with Time Out Of Mind. Songs like this one are filled with these familiar turns of phrase, but they are strung together in unexpected ways, each little koan timed perfectly to make maximum impact. To me, this is a skill every bit as impressive as the dazzling, torrential lyrical ability he flashed with regularity in the mid-60’s.
By doing it this way, the songs often hit home with impact unhindered by cloudy meanings. It also gives Dylan the chance to show off his interpretive powers. It’s like he’s creating brand new standards by rearranging these words that we’ve heard in other contexts. Just a simple couplet like “Last night I danced with a stranger/But she just reminded me you were the one” takes on surprising power when added to the end of Bob’s moonlight musings about his feelings of disorientation and disconnect.
In other words, you’ve heard it all before, but, on “Standing In The Doorway” and other late-period Dylan songs, you’ve never heard it quite like this.