Jimi Hendrix: All Along the Watchtower Meaning
Song Released: 1968
Download "All Along the Watchtower" on MP3:Download from Amazon MP3
Download from iTunes
All Along the Watchtower Lyrics
"There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
None will level on the line, nobody of it is worth."
"No reason to...
anonymous Dec 7th 2011, 17:54 report
I would like to point out foremost that this is a bob Dylan song who when writing this was not of the christian faith . it is about capitalism and its war with communism the cold the riders at the end signify what he believed was the coming nuclear holocaust
anonymous Nov 23rd 2011, 15:53 report
As the song opens, the thief comforts the Joker by telling him that, while many people think that life is but a joke, he and the Joker know that it is very wrong to consider life to be nothing more meaningful than that. So the first 'puzzle' in the song is: Why does the thief think that the Joker would find it revolting to equate life with jokes? Don't Jokers like jokes?
Who is the Joker, anyway?
In Tarot cards, the Joker card represents Jesus Christ, holding him up to ridicule as a fool. This corresponds to those who mocked Jesus before and during his crucifixion.
As the song begins, Jesus is on the cross next to the 'good thief' who recognizes Jesus as the Savior. Jesus is suffering his moment of doubt, talking about a "way out of here", "too much confusion", and complaining about the unworthy people he is about to sacrifice himself for ("Businessmen" who "drink his wine", "plowmen" who "dig his earth", and others who don't know "what any of it is worth".)
The thief reminds Jesus of their fate, using religious language ("Let us not talk falsely now"). He says that "the hour is getting late", that is, they are near death, but a death that will lead to resurrection and Judgment Day.
The final stanza shifts the scene to a city guarded by prices in a watch tower. To understand the song, it is necessary to understand the reference to the ancient city of Babylon (whose name means "confusion").
Babylon has long held a place among many religions as a symbol of excess and immoral power. Many references are made to Babylon in the Bible, both literally and allegorically.
The people in Babylon had believed that they were safe from attack because the city was protected, according to the historian Herodotus, by two sets of inner and outer walls. The fall of Babylon came suddenly when the Medes and the Persians overran the city in a night attack in 539 B.C., attacking during a festival celebrated by the city's lords, so that the normal watch kept on the walls was not observed.
The imagery in the song's final stanza regarding the "Watch Tower" and the "Princes" come from a biblical reference in Isaiah to the fall of Babylon:
"Prepare the table,
watch in the watch-tower,
Arise, ye princes,
and anoint the shield."
So, putting it all together, we have this:
Christ (mocked as a 'Joker' by unworthy people) and the thief are dying on the cross. After their death and Resurrection, Judgment Day is at hand, as intuitively sensed by nature itself ("A wildcat did growl. . .The wind began to howl"). Christ and the thief symbolically return ("Two riders were approaching") and destroy the city of man in an Apocalypse for its worldly excesses.
The song is a parable, a warning, about the type of life we choose to live. That choice, often made thoughtlessly and treated lightly, is not a joke; instead, deciding whether or not to follow the path of God is the most serious decision we have to make.
Some puzzles in the song remain. Note that the Joker (the Christ figure in my analysis) is speaking the language of a street person ("I can't get no relief") and is very agitated, while it is the thief who is "kindly", and who is talking in religious language (talking about "fate" and saying things like "let us not talk falsely now"). The identities of the Joker and the thief appear to be reversed. Perhaps this identity-reversal is part of the "confusion", or perhaps Dylan is saying that even a "common thief" can understand the righteous true path of God, something that totally eludes the "elite Princes" in society.
By the way, it is worth noting that in the version of this song recorded by Jimi Hendrix, Hexdrix musically depicts the death and resurrection after the second stanza by a falling and then rising guitar sound (it sounds like a metal spring dropping down and then bouncing back up). Hendrix then uses the ethereal sound made by a wah-wah petal to evoke the ascension of Christ into Heaven. Also, in the Hexdrix version, as the Apocalypse takes place (after all stanzas have been sung), Henxdrix plays a rising scale, culminating in a single high note played rapidly and repeatedly. This provides a "picture", in music, of the Apocalyptic events taking place, without having any explicit description of it in the lyrics.
More Jimi Hendrix song meanings »
All Along the Watchtower lyrics
Submit Your Interpretation
|Walking Between the Rain Drops||anonymous|
|When I Was Your Man||anonymous|
|There's A Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven't Thought of It Yet||anonymous|
|The Other Side||anonymous|
|I Am Among No One||anonymous|
|Give Me a Sign||anonymous|
|Light Up the Sky||anonymous|