Writing about relationships is such an overused trope in music that I almost intrinsically see it as a negative quality now. There are so many songs written about failed relationships, heart break, and love because it’s such a universal concept that anyone can relate with. But when it becomes such a widespread trope among artists, it of course suffers from the fact that most artists are just bad, and therefore most relationship songs are bad. This brings me to the legendary Bob Dylan.
Blood on the Tracks, Dylan’s 15th studio album released in 1975, is an album that front to bottom tells the story of a failed relationship. Dylan has denied in interviews any autobiographical content of the songs, but regardless it’s the most honest, heartfelt, and true telling of a failed relationship perhaps ever put to tape.
Dylan begins the story of the aforementioned relationship on the opening track “Tangled Up in Blue.” “She was married when we first met soon to be divorced.” The song jumps between time periods, telling a brief story of the relationship; how it started and how it ended. It tells the story from the perspective of two different characters, and hops between them in different verses. Two characters telling the same story, but with different memories of what happened; it’s a fantastic look at the unreliable nature of memory.
Dylan also gets a bit bitter on the album. On “Idiot Wind,” probably my personal favorite track on the album and no doubt the greatest insult song ever written, Dylan is just so angry; at the lying press, at his estranged lover. “You’re an idiot, babe. It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.”
Maybe this album isn’t autobiographical like you’d think, but that’s okay. This is an album about lost love, which is a topic that I think most people can relate with. But Bob Dylan is such a phenomenal artist that he can twist this trope on its head and make something truly phenomenal. He can tell a story of different characters, flow seamlessly between narratives, and still make it infinitely relatable. Maybe this is why he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature; he is truly a gifted storyteller. If you’ve never listened to Blood on the Tracks, give it a listen. Even if you’re not going through a tough spot with a relationship, you can still find something in these stories to relate to.
This classic album gets a 5/5 from me.
Check out the opening track “Tangled up in Blue” here.