Dylan’s Angelina like you have never heard it before: the most beautiful rendition

by Jochen Markhorst

The first German officer who’s shot by Vassili Zaytsev in Enemy At The Gates (Jean Jacques Annaud, 2001) is standing beneath an improvised shower in the remains of a house in the ruins of Stalingrad, which is underneath siege and continuously being bombarded. The officer’s transport has simply arrived and is ready in the combat zone, between the bomb craters and the particles: a black Mercedes 170V Funkwagen. Not a genuine one, by the approach, however the Props Division has achieved its greatest.

Often it is a extra glamourous Mercedes. The Mercedes-Benz 200 Lang in Inglorious Bastards (Tarantino, 2009), for example, though in the opening scene SS officer Hans Landa arrives at Perrier LaPadite’s cottage in additionally an (open) Mercedes-Benz 170V. But preferably the prime Nazis, from Hitler to Goering and from Himmler to Colonel Stauffenberg (Valkyrie, Bryan Singer, 2008), both privately and on the battlefields, to concentration camps and execution sites, are transported in the Mercedes-Benz 770 Okay Special -Tourenwagen 7-sitzer. That’s der Große Mercedes, the luxurious automotive through which Hitler took the parades (a dark blue one, in this case), the automotive he gave Franco as a present, through which Himmler visited the Konzentrationslager and Goering his Luftwaffekameraden. Emperor Hirohito was given a purple one, Pope Pius XI a white one, but the Nazis usually most popular black, typically khaki.

And black are, consequently, virtually all Mercedes in warfare movies.

It is subsequently a loaded, darkish image, that the poet Dylan evokes in this one verse line of “Angelina”: There’s a black Mercedes rollin’ by means of the fight zone.

It does not stand alone, this darkish brooding line. Blood dryin’ in my yellow hair as I’m going from shore to shore, for example. Incidentally, also a picture that without much digging summons up associations with World Warfare II and blond Nazis in Argentina, thus pushing fragments akin to marching, stars and stripes, explode and tree of smoke also in the direction of the battlefield.

Nevertheless, regardless of this correlation, no coherent, unambiguous story or temper emerges from the lyrics; “Angelina” stays an enigmatic, threadless track.

Plainly an preliminary inspiration must be attributed to Harry Belafonte. Dylan writes the music when a Caribbean wind blows around his head, a number of weeks after his schooner Water Pearl is launched. Reggae and calypso are in the air, there on these paradisiacal Little Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, and Dylan writes songs resembling “Caribbean Wind”, “I And I”, “Heart Of Mine” and “Jokerman”, songs through which the sounds of the Windward and Leeward Islands echo.

It must have taken Dylan again to his first steps in the music enterprise, to his harmonica contribution to “The Midnight Special” on Harry Belafonte’s eponymous 1962 album.

The expertise does one thing with the young Dylan. He’ll honour the King of Calypso and “The Midnight Special” in the twenty-first century, in Chronicles and in “If You Ever Go To Houston”.

Belafonte’s album also options “Gotta Travel On”, which is already in his repertoire and which he will document later (Self Portrait, 1970) and apparently he additionally listens to Belafonte’s report earlier than this one, Bounce Up Calypso (1961). Its ultimate number is launched as a single: “Angelina”, with the refrain

Angelina, Angelina,
Please convey down your concertina
And play a welcome for me
‘Cause I’ll be coming house from sea

There are more echoes of the music in Dylan’s oeuvre, by the approach. Harry’s from Curacao as much as Tokyo turns into from Tokyo to the British Isles (“Caribbean Wind”) and a Dylanesque couplet like

Yes it’s so lengthy since I’ve been house
Seems like there’s no place to roam
Nicely I’ve sailed around the Horn
I’ve been from San Jose as much as Baffin Bay
And I’ve rode out many a storm

… appears to resound in “Bob Dylan’s Dream”, “Lo And Behold!”, “Santa Fe” and “Heart Of Mine” – by way of the poetic vein of songwriter Lord Burgess (real identify Irving Louis Burgie) flows the similar blood as Dylan’s, and Dylan, hopping from Antillean islands to the West Indies, connects routinely. The bounce to Belafonte and calypso isn’t that far, in any case.

The strongest set off is the chorus. Dylan started with the rhyme Angelina / concertina, presumably wrote a row of unrelated rhymes on a scrap paper (subpoena, hyena, Argentina, area) and thought: we’ ll see what occurs. Additionally a technique that he shares with Belafonte’s fundamental supplier Lord Burgess, who also jumps by means of the weirdest hoops to squeeze meaningless rhymes into a music. Like in “Gloria”, the B-side of the single “Angelina”:

Please marry me Gloria,
Darling can’t you see Gloria
With all of your faults,
I would like you like an extended dose of Epsom salts

Or, a minimum of as bizarre,

So please marry me Gloria,
Darling can’t you see Gloria
My stomach does boil,
I would like you like a nasty dose of castor oil.

But then again; Belafonte and Burgie don’t have the slightest ambition to recommend depth, in fact – Belafonte is a music and dance man par excellence, definitely in these early years of his career.

The poet Dylan, on the different hand, does have some aspiration to be profound. And Biblical references is certainly one of his methods to insinuate any literary cachet. The New Testomony, and especially the four Evangelists, this time. Matthew in the first verse (“do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” 6:3), Mark in the third (as he walked via the crowd, the similar scene Dylan refers to in “Scarlet Town”: I touched the garment), Luke 6:29 in the following (“If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also,” from the Sermon on the Mount) and Peter’s denial from John (No, I have heard nothing about the man that you search).

And that is on no account the whole lot – “Angelina” is full of delicate and less oblique Biblical photographs and references. The last two verses quote Matthew and seem to check with Armageddon, the pale horse can also be from Revelation, the tree of smoke is an indication of the cloud during which God covers Himself when He speaks to Moses (Exodus, which can also be the supply for milk and honey) and the angel with four faces Dylan borrows from Ezekiel, from chapter 10, describing the cherubim: “each had four faces.”

All very expressive and most mysterious, but a coherent picture nonetheless doesn’t rise. In the end, as Dylan says in “Up To Me”, the lyrics don’t come together: We heard the Sermon on the Mount and I knew it was too complicated / it didn’t quantity to something greater than what the damaged glass reflects – and the proximity to again the Sermon on the Mount might be not a coincidence.

Simply like “Up To Me”, “Angelina” is rejected. Beautiful recording, beautiful melody and thrilling rigidity, that’s not the drawback. However Dylan’s commentary on yet one more dropped masterpiece, on “Caribbean Wind” appears to be applicable to “Angelina” one on one:

“That one I couldn’t quite grasp what it was about after I finished it. Sometimes, you’ll write something to be very inspired, and you won’t quite finish it for one reason or another. Then you’ll go back and try and pick it up, and the inspiration is just gone. Either you get it all, and you can leave a few little pieces to fill in, or you’re trying always to finish it off. Then it’s a struggle. The inspiration’s gone and you can’t remember why you started it in the first place.”

(Biograph, 1985)

Neither does the “Tangled Up In Blue”-artifice, the shuffling of private pronouns and verb occasions, assist. Just like in Tangled, there’s a subcutaneous surmise of a triangular relationship, with aside from that unapproachable Angelina and the I-person, one other man – but that “he” can just as properly be the I-person himself, in fact. Dylan himself doesn’t have a transparent picture either, or so it appears. The two variations of the third verse do illustrate that lack of readability. The official, second version (the one on The Bootleg Collection 1-3) describes the male antagonist (or the I-person):

His eyes have been two slits, making a snake proud
With a face that any painter would paint as he walked via the crowd
Worshipping a god with the physique of a lady nicely endowed
And the head of a hyena

… however in the first version Dylan nonetheless sings about Angelina:

Her eyes have been two slits, making a snake proud
With a face that any painter would paint and well-endowed
Praising the lifeless as she rode a donkey by way of the crowd
Or was it a hyena?

Implementing that hyena stays considerably troublesome, however no less than in this first model we escape from that alienating wink at Egyptian mythology (although there are actually no gods with the head of a hyena – jackals, sure). The Jesus reference is maintained, but this time refers to a different scene: the entry into Jerusalem, the place Jesus, seated on a donkey, makes His means by means of “a great crowd.” It is, incidentally, the chapter after the elevating of Lazarus, so perhaps that should not have been praising the lifeless, but elevating the lifeless.

There are hardly any covers, regardless of the success of The Bootleg Collection 1-Three (1991),  the official release of the track. The only noteworthy model is from an previous good friend: Ashley Hutchings, the bassist and co-founder of Fairport Convention. At the time, in the late summer time of ’67, Hutchings was one among the fortunate ones who have been allowed to rummage around in the Basement Tapes (after which chose “Million Dollar Bash”) and his dowsing rod nonetheless finds gold twenty years later; Hutchings’ “Angelina” is admittedly beautiful. He modifies Jerusalem into God’s country and fiddles with personal pronouns too (He’s surrounded by God’s angels becomes She’s surrounded), but the indecisive bard certainly won’t mind (on the assortment The Guv’nor Vol. 1, 1993, which also consists of the Fairport Convention outtake “Dear Landlord” and a Steeleye Span recording of “Lay Down Your Weary Tune”).

Dylan himself never plays the music. Not even when he performs in Berlin on April 4, 2019, at the Mercedes Benz Area. The place a glittering black Mercedes is proudly displaying off in entrance of the entrance.

Ashley Hutchings:

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