License To Kill (1983) – Bob Dylan

License To Kill is the fifth song so far to appear here from Bob Dylan’s 1983 record Infidels – if I include the Blind Willie McTell and Foot of Pride out-takes from the sessions. It boggles the senses how he could just leave those two off the record, but any-hows. Another notable outtake was Someone’s Got a Hold of My Heart which I also treasure.

Infidels was produced by Mark Knopfler and Dylan himself and is seen as his return to secular music, following a conversion to Christianity and a subsequent return to a less religious lifestyle. Infidels gained much attention for its focus on more personal themes, in addition to commentary (such as with today’s song License To Kill) on the environment and geopolitics.

Man thinks ’cause he rules the earth he can do with it as he please
And if things don’t change soon, he will
Oh, man has invented his doom
First step was touching the moon

Now, there’s a woman on my block
She just sit there as the night grows still
She say who gonna take away his license to kill?

Now, they take him and they teach him and they groom him for life
And they set him on a path where he’s bound to get ill
Then they bury him with stars
Sell his body like they do used cars

Many critics saw Dylan return to secular music in Infidels as also a return to musical form. The critical reaction was the strongest for Dylan in years, almost universally hailed for its songwriting and performances. Dylan initially wanted to produce the album himself, but feeling that technology had passed him by, he approached a number of contemporary artists who were more at home in a modern recording studio. David Bowie, Frank Zappa and Elvis Costello were all approached before Dylan hired Knopfler.

Knopfler who featured here with Let It All Go and the Going Home soundtrack theme of the movie Local Hero said about his experience making the record Infidels:

Yes, it was strange at times with Bob. One of the great parts about production is that it demonstrates to you that you have to be flexible. Each song has its own secret that’s different from another song, and each has its own life….I’d say I was more disciplined. But I think Bob is much more disciplined as a writer of lyrics, as a poet. He’s an absolute genius…The music just tends to be a vehicle for that poetry.

In the song License to Kill, Dylan seems to convey a strong, strange dislike for space travel, and that it can be heard on the first few lines – Man has invented his doom/First step was touching the moon. A harsh indictment accusing mankind of imperialism and a predilection for violence: the song deals specifically with humanity’s relationship to the environment, either on a political scale or a scientific one. ‘A skeptical opinion toward the American space program was shared among evangelicals of Dylan’s generation‘ as stated by critics Robert Christgau and Bill Wyman.

1. Infidels (Bob Dylan album) – 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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