Album: HIghway 61 Revisted.
After the 12 minutes of world-changing craziness that preceded it on Highway 61 Revisited, the slow blues shuffle of “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes A Train to Cry” must have felt like a relief. Here at last, was something relatively normal!! Even the lyrics were pretty much a straightforward love song, couched in railroad imagery.
Well, I ride on a mailtrain, baby
Can’t buy a thrill
Well, I’ve been up all night, baby
Leanin’ on the windowsill
Well, if I die
On top of the hillllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll
And if I don’t make it
You know my baby will
The irony, of course, was that in its original “Phantom Engineer” version, “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry” was a raucous as “Tombstone Blues” or “From a Buick 6,” and while the garage-rock takes are definitely fun, they’re also very much like a lot of Dylan’s speedy songs, and it was clear that he was looking for musical variety for Highway 61 Revisited.
Don’t the moon look good, mama
Shinin’ through the trees?
Don’t the brakeman look good, mama
Flagging down the “Double E?”
Don’t the sun look good
Goin’ down over the seeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeea?
Don’t my gal look fine
When she’s comin’ after me?
Which is good, because the slower version allows him to do some of his best singing ever, and I love the drum builds in each verse, as well as the barrelhouse piano throughout.
Now the wintertime is coming
The windows are filled with frost
I went to tell everybody
But I could not get across
Well, I wanna be your lover, baby
I don’t wanna be your bosssssssssssssssssss
Don’t say I never warned you
When your train gets lost
This was also one of the songs that got me into Dylan, as my brother Joseph – who was actually a Dylan fan before I was – used to play it in his room on acoustic guitar, and many times when I heard him play this, I would walk in and play percussion on whatever was around, usually the back side of an broken acoustic guitar.
Official Video for “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry”
My Certain Songs Spotify Playlist: