(I’m reposting this as it’s own page because I think it helps to make sense of the blog title….)
I fell in love with this song because of Jimi Hendrix. And I fell in love with Jimi’s guitar because of this song.
I couldn’t tell you what it meant or why it had meaning to me for a long while. It was just words cluttering the guitar that I was listening to.
I wrote about this song twice in college. Once I looked at the meaning of the words. Somewhere I found the origins that I don’t remember anymore. It has biblical meaning, I remember that much. But, that exercise helped me to interpret the meaning of this song for myself.
There must be some kind of way out of here
Said the joker to the thief
There’s too much confusion
I can’t get no relief
Businessman they drink my wine
Plow men dig my earth
None will level on the line
Nobody of it is worth
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 not talk falsely now
The hour’s getting late
From the get-go, the fact that the dialogue is opened by a joker and a thief is absolutely entrancing. In some ways, I like to think that we are divided into those two groups—jokers and thieves. I don’t mean that in a negative way at all. Jokers who look at life with joy and laugh at all of its intricate meaning. Thieves who make their way through life by “stealing” its meaning from what we are told makes a life worthwhile. We all do it. We all do both.
The way out of here? Simply the human desire to move beyond our humanity into something somewhat more divine. It’s the confusion of humanity that plagues us, not because it must but because we allow it.
And the second verse, I feel is the answer. You and I. We understand this. There’s no reason to fear, no reason to stress, no reason to worry. We know what this life is…
The second assignment I did on this song was two years after the first. It was a simple assignment. Jack Langguth was a phenomenal writing teacher, and his instructions were: Tear a sheet of paper out of the notebook that you are copiously taking notes in. And describe to me a song. You cannot describe the artist, the words, or the meaning. Describe the music. If I get it correct, you get an A. If not, you fail.
I described the guitar as best I could. In large handwritten print, trying to fill the sheet. And put my preassigned number at the top. He shuffled the stack and began to read them aloud. Looking back, I suppose it was somewhat unfair to choose that song. He was a product of the 60’s and Vietnam. But, I took great pride in the fact that he knew the song from my description of the guitar. It was more a description of its meaning to me, but I suppose emotion poured into an instrument evokes the same human emotion in anyone who has a tie to a particular song.
And thus I have named my blog. All Along the Watchtower…It reminds me of the better parts of myself. It’s the escape, not from a dire state of life. No, not at all. It’s an escape from the things the tie us to the mundane. It’s an escape from the things that imprison us and enslave us. We know what it is doing, and we rise above it.
Addendum: The subhead of this blog comes from Bob Dylan’s original written version of the song—not Jimi’s sung version. For those who care about those things!