Bob Dylan

Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again

Song Review by

"Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again" is one of the many lengthy, surreal songs Bob Dylan was writing in the mid-'60s. Though he had shown tendencies toward verbosity and zany humor early in his writing career, by 1965 Dylan was regularly writing songs with verse after verse full of odd characters and situations, described in slangy, poetic language. Such songs began to turn up on his March 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home and continued with Highway 61 Revisited, released only five months later. By early 1966, Dylan was still spinning elliptical stories in song, and he had several prepared for a four-day recording session at Columbia Music Row Studios in Nashville, TN, in mid-February, among them the ominous "Visions of Johanna" and the comic "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat." Somewhere in between in terms of tone was "Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again." The seven-minute song contained nine verses, in which a narrator introduced a variety of characters, including relatives (Mama, Grandpa), women (Mona, Ruthie), one historical figure (Shakespeare), various archetypes (the preacher, the senator), and other miscellaneous people (the ragman, the ladies, "some French girl," the railroad men, the rainman, "the neon madmen"), and described a variety of odd situations in what seemed a free-association manner. Within this confusing, quickly changing environment, however, there were certain elements and attitudes that remained constant from other Dylan songs of the time. The authority figures came in for harsh criticism, the women were friendly and solicitous, and the narrator felt trapped and seemed to be suffering the effects of intoxicants. At the end, he waited to find out how to avoid going through it all again. One might read drugs, road-weariness, and an affection for the Beat poets into the lyrics of "Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again," along with a gallows humor typical of the mid-'60s. In any case, the spirited performance of the Nashville studio musicians, who included Charlie McCoy (guitar), Wayne Moss (guitar), Jerry Kennedy (guitar), Joe South (guitar), Hargus "Pig" Robbins (piano), Henry Strzelecki (bass), and Kenny Buttrey (drums), plus New Yorker Al Kooper (organ), and Dylan's own hoarse, rhythmic singing made the recording one of the highlights of Blonde on Blonde, itself one of the greatest rock & roll albums ever made. The album was released May 16, 1966, but Dylan did not perform in concert "Stuck Inside of Mobile" prior to the motorcycle accident that derailed his career that summer. There were a few minor covers of the song, but it mostly lay fallow until a decade after its appearance on record, when Dylan added it to the set list of the second leg of the Rolling Thunder Tour, probably in anticipation of playing a show at Mobile, AL, which he did on April 29, 1976. In the Rolling Thunder version, Dylan sang the first four verses, followed by an instrumental break, skipped the next three verses, and finished with the last two verses. A performance on May 16, 1976, was recorded and released on September 10, 1976, on the live album Hard Rain. Dylan returned to the song after another decade, working it up for his 1987 tour with the Grateful Dead. Thereafter, the Dead added it to their repertoire, performing it frequently during the next two years and regularly through their demise in 1995. Dylan also kept it in his current repertoire as he toured more or less continuously from the late '80s on.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Blonde on Blonde 1966 Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab 7:04
Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 1971 Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 7:06
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] 1998
Original Soundtrack
Geffen 7:27
No Image 2001 Sony Music Distribution / Columbia 7:06
Blonde on Blonde/Blood on the Tracks/Time Out of Mind 2001 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 7:05
Bringing It All Back Home/Highway 61 Revisited/Blonde on Blonde 2002 Sony Music Distribution
Bob Dylan [Limited Edition Hybrid SACD Set] 2003 Legacy 7:05
The Collection, Vol. 3: Blonde on Blonde/Blood on the Tracks/Infidels 2005 Legacy / Columbia 7:05
The Original Mono Recordings 2010 Columbia / Sony Music 7:10
The Complete Album Collection, Vol. 1 2013 Columbia Records / Sony Music 7:04