They Drink My Wine

I selected a Bob Dylan song that was made famous by Jimi Hendrix. I thought that this song was going to be easy to explain as it is a short song containing only 185 words, but I was wrong, as after spending several hours in research, I am still confused, or should I say there is too much confusion.  I stopped my research after I read that this song was about Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, as even though the writer made valid points to argue his case, that is totally ridiculous because ‘All Along the Watchtower’ came out in 1967.  A year after his motorcycle accident, Dylan made a radical turn toward cryptic, austere country-folk while hanging out with the Band in the basement of ‘Big Pink’ near Woodstock.

I did find one explanation of this song that I liked and that is the way I will try and explain the meaning behind this song to you.  First I will introduce all of the characters in this ballad.  There is a joker, a thief, Business men, a Plowman, Princes, the women, Barefoot servants and Two riders.  Most people seem to agree that the two riders are the joker and the thief.  Just about everyone also agrees that the last part of this song is the beginning of this song and it should start out with “All along the watchtower” and the riders approaching.  The version that made the most sense to me was that this song is about the record industry.

The joker is a performer, a musician maybe Bob Dylan and he is speaking to his manager, the thief who at this time is Albert Grossman.  The joker is looking for a way out, maybe he wants a new record deal because of the confusion and he is getting no relief.  The businessmen drink his wine and the plowman digs his earth, which means that a lot of people in the record industry are riding on his coattails and benefiting from his success without making any contributions.  He thinks that he is stuck in a bad contract saying that “None were level on the mind, Nobody up at his word.”  Next the thief tries to calm down the joker, telling him not to take things so seriously, as this is just a job and they are both in it together to make money.  The musician and his manager have been through a lot of stuff and the manager tells the musician that it is not their fate to go up against the record companies, they must just keep doing their thing as the hour is getting late.

The watchtower is the record company and it is run by record moguls, who are the Princes that watch over everything. They were known for having their women coming and going, “While all the women came and went.”  The barefoot servants are the workers that are stuck in their jobs, doing all the work to make their superiors look good.  They can’t leave as they have no shoes.  Dylan wants to shake things up, “A wildcat did growl, Two riders were approaching And the wind began to howl.”

There must be some kind of way outta here
Said the joker to the thief
There’s too much confusion
I can’t get no relief

Business men, they drink my wine
Plowman dig my earth
None were level on the mind
Nobody up at his word
Hey, hey

No reason to get excited
The thief he kindly spoke
There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke
But, uh, but you and I, we’ve been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us stop talkin’ falsely now
The hour’s…

No reason to get excited
The thief he kindly spoke
There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke
But, uh, but you and I, we’ve been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us stop talkin’ falsely now
The hour’s getting late, hey

All along the watchtower
Princes kept the view
While all the women came and went
Barefoot servants, too
Outside in the cold distance
A wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl

Written for 8/5/18 Helen Vahdati’s This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time Song Lyric Sunday Theme where the prompt is “drink”.

21 thoughts on “They Drink My Wine

  1. It’s a great song, of course (and one I’ve used for Song Lyric Sunday before – when prompted to post a cover version). Your interpretation of the meaning is very interesting and makes a lot of sense, but I’m not wholly convinced that the joker and the thief are the two horsemen. It might be a different matter if the last verse really was the first, but In my superficial way I’ve always simply thought that those last four lines are a very telling invocation of – unidentified – approaching menace: or even doom.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on J-Dubs Grin and Bear It and commented:
    So much for my great clean out. Instead I got hooked on #SLS and have been checking out the song selections for the day.  Not a bad way to be distracted.   Who knew Bob Dylan wrote a drink song made famous by the one, the only Jimi Hendrix?  Well now you do.  Take a look right here. Thanks Jim for your unique educational selection! Oh and I had the plowman line all wrong. earth does not = herb. SMH. Lol

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this Dylan song, and both his version and Hendrix’s. And while I listened to the words, I never gave their meaning much thought, so I really enjoyed reading this post and learning from your research. Nice job, Jim.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bob Dylan wrote many songs that are difficult to understand and he never reveals what his songs are about and this is what makes him so great as 200 years from now people will still be trying to figure what he was trying to say.

      Liked by 1 person

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