Bob Dylan: Tangled Up In Blue Meaning
Song Released: 1975
Tangled Up In Blue Lyrics
I was layin' in bed
Wond'rin' if she'd changed at all
If her hair was still red.
Her folks they said our lives together
Sure was gonna be rough
They never did like Mama's homemade dress
REMareback Jul 8th, 2008 7:59pm report
I can't believe nobody has discussed this song, it's one of my favourite Bob Dylan songs.
It's about the breakdown of Dylan's marriage, he said it took him two years to write and ten years to live. It pays no attention to time, mixing up a time line with each verse.
First Verse: It's the present, he woke up in bed and reflected on what went wrong.
Second Verse: It's the past, as they broke up, it's the exact details of the break up.
Third Verse: It's directly after the second verse, what happened to him after they broke up.
Fourth Verse: It goes back to the very beginning of the time line, when he first met the girl.
Fifth Verse: Follows from the fourth, when he first met her.
Sixth Verse: After they met it's detail of their life together, and how it didn't work out.
Seventh Verse: It's back to the present, how he's going after her, and hints that all their arguments weren't worthwhile.
So in chronological order it's:
4th Verse, 5th Verse, 6th Verse, 2nd verse, 1st verse, last verse.
And the meaning of Tangled up in Blue as a phrase, it means stuck to the same girl, whether he likes it or not, why it's blue I don't no. Tangled doesn't entirely give a positive image, you don't really want to be tangled in something.
This was my first interpretation on this website, please tell me how it was, was it a load of garbage or was it a decent interpretation?
anonymous Nov 21st, 2011 11:29pm report
My two-cents about the lyrics:
I see the recurring phrase "Tangled Up In Blue" almost like a 'click' on a camera shutter, capturing a moment in the narrator's relationship with the woman. So, as they are splitting up, she says "We'll meet again someday on the avenue" and there is a "click", a mental snapshot of the moment.
In the middle stanzas the story starts: he goes into a topless bar looking for a thrill and unexpectedly sees a dancer whose FACE is the part of her anatomy that he is starting at. She returns the favor by "studying the lines on his face", again, both looking at each other faces, not as "customer/dancer" but as "man/woman" attracted to each other. In fact, as she bends down to "tie the laces on his shoes" (that is, to get a big tip in her G-string by showing him her ass and private regions), he is already uneasy about thinking of her as just a piece of meat. "Click"
In that stanza, he is attracted to her body, but immediately in the next stanza he is attracted to her soul. She gives him a book of poems by an "Italian poet
From the thirteenth century", a reference to Dante's "Vita Nuova" (about Dante's soul-mate, Beatrice). "Click"
I take the verse about "he started into dealing with slaves" to be a verse about a pimp engaged in the prostitution business, with the implication that the pimp has dragged his wife from working in a topless bar to being a prostitute. The narrator has to rescue her from that. "Click".
The basic recurring phrase, "Tangled Up In Blue", is never fully explicated, which I think is good. It could refer to a certain sadness ("blue") throughout their relationship, but I think it's more likely to be a "metonymy", that is, a 'part' which stands for the 'whole'. In this case, something about "blue" is standing in for the woman and/or both of them in the relationship. It could be something like a blue dress that makes the narrator think of her. If you're into biography when analyzing a poem, it's worth noting that Bob Dylan and his ex-wife Sara Dylan both have blue eyes (as does their eldest son). It is also noted that Sara worked as a Playboy bunny before she met Bob.
What I love about the song is how is expresses that "cubist" nature of long-term relationships, in which you simultaneously see parts from all different time snapshots at the same instant. For example, when I met a woman friend of mine at an airport last year, I saw her as a high school student that rode around in a borrowed convertible car that I drove one summer, and saw myself walking away from her on the one date we went on at 17, and saw her when I gave her a hug outside her house in Chicago when I tracked her down again after a 35 year absence, etc. etc, etc. Every one of those images was there at the same time, overlaying each other in my memory, "tangled up in blue".
Anyway, that's what I get out of the song and why I admire it so much. It expressed something to me that I was only vaguely aware of, and now it's in the forefront of my mind. Thanks, Mr. Dylan.
anonymous Nov 13th, 11:29am report
I always thought "tangled up in blue" meant to be in trouble with the law. Because they sometimes call the cops "the boys in blue".
anonymous Mar 14th, 2013 3:26pm report
Some are carpenters' wives = Jesus was a carpenter=a nun is theoretically married to Jesus, hence C'carpenter's wives= a nun or a reformed or spiritually changed individual
anonymous Jul 1st, 2012 7:23pm report
I've always considered this song an allegory about dylan's relationship with music, and his view of his place in the history of music, personal and professional.
"she" is not a woman. "she" is music.Changing at the beginning, when his career started. Prostituted in the middle.
Idealized at the end.
it' definititly about losing sara. she was working in a topless place!, sara was a Playboy bunny what amazes is that dylan describes about 6 jobs he has when he met sara and 6 destinations he headed to before meeting her and he decribes how he went on the road again secretly wishing he run into someplace
anonymous May 21st, 2012 5:21am report
He refers to her red hair. Blue is a nickname given to redheads ?!
anonymous Apr 11th, 2012 4:59pm report
I thought it might have a connection with 'Its all over now.. Baby Blue. Wasn't there a David Blue in Dylan's entourage?
anonymous Aug 24th, 2011 8:39pm report
During the period that he wrote this song, Dylan was interested in painting. His art teacher explained that beginner painters get "tangled up in blue" meaning that they use too much of the blue palette in their early works and then grow to use other colors. When they move on to skillfully use a broader range of color they grow as an artist.
anonymous Aug 14th, 2011 8:25pm report
I think "tangled up in blue" means "tangled in sadness".
Tangled up in blue, simplest explanation for 'blue' is the common use of blue for feeling hurt and/or depressed. It is about Sara, but more than only about her, he is singing for every breakup and so all of the details don't have to match Sara. The bootleg earlier version is even more personal than the one that made the official album, well worth hearing.
I had a 'mondegreen' in this song; Dylan sings "split up on that dark sad night"; for years I thought he sang "split up on the docks that night". My mis-hearing made sense with a nice double play on 'docks' normally a place of joining becomes that place of separation for Dylan.
anonymous Jul 17th, 2009 7:03pm report
Initially hearing the song, not taking into consideration the details of Dylan's own history, I interpreted it to be a collective love towards the many women in his life. "Feel[ing] the same" with differing "points of view" really convinced me. Dylan is not so much a conventional kind of guy and these lyrics seem to be his own struggle with love versus relationship. Again, I am not considering Sara, or anyone in Dylan's life. This may be more of a personal interpretation for my own life circumstances. Particularly after a recent breakup. Tangled up in blue, to me, signifies his tangled web he weaved for love...which tends to cause someone to be blue.
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