Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (1965) – Bob Dylan

This is another one of those mid-60’s Dylan songs where I needed to let it settle with me a while until I could find the courage to write something about it. It takes me on average about 5 times longer to write my reflections on a Dylan song than most others. I didn’t envy those Nobel judges who had the task to review Dylan’s output, but I imagine songs such as Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues made their decision to award him the Nobel Prize in Literature a bit easier. This song is about as ‘raw’ Dylan as you are likely to read or listen to. Also, the fact it is so relatable (if I’m being honest).

When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez
When it’s Easter time too
And your gravity fails
And negativity don’t pull you through
Don’t put on any airs
When you’re down on Rue Morgue Avenue
They got some hungry women there
And they really make a mess outta you

Now if you see Saint Annie
Please tell her “Thanks a lot”
I cannot move
My fingers are all in a knot
I don’t have the strength
To get up and take another shot
And my best friend, my doctor
Won’t even say what it is I’ve got

My favourite Dylan version of Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues is from his Bootleg album below. But I also really enjoyed Neil Young’s version at the 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration of Bob. The way Neil unleashes his guitar into this song is fantastic and his voice really does seem to ‘howl‘ at the moon. Howlin’ at the Moon is the title of a song by the country singer-songwriter Hank Williams, whom Dylan admired.
Like many of the best songs I have ever heard Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues has many verses but no chorus. The song’s lyrics describe a vision of the narrator’s experiences in Juarez, Mexico, where he encounters poverty, sickness, despair, available women, indifferent authorities, alcohol and drugs before finally deciding to return to New York City.

During a concert in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia in April 1966, Dylan said of the song:

“This is, this is called Tom Thumb. This story takes place outside of Mexico City. It begins in Mexico City and it ends really in Des Moines, Iowa, but it’s all about this painter, he’s a quite older fellow, he comes from Juarez, Juarez is down cross of Texas border, some few feets, and he’s a painter. He’s very very well-known painter in the area there and we all call him Tom Thumb and when Tom Thumb was going through his blue period, this is one of the most important times of his whole life and he’s going to sell many many paintings now taken from his blue period and this is all about Tom Thumb and his early days and so we name this Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”

1. Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues – Wikipedia

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Music
3 comments on “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (1965) – Bob Dylan
  1. Badfinger (Max) says:

    The first two lines I love….. When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez…When it’s Easter time too… I love this period of his music.

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