About "Gates of Eden," it's sufficient to say that it has what I consider to be the best last lines of any song within my realm of knowledge. Admittedly, this is subjective: last lines, like first lines, are often matters of impressionistic phenomenological feeling: it's all about how it hits the listener, and though we might be able to aggregate these feelings, the feeling remains individual and idiosyncratic: no matter how obvious its genius might be, there's nothing to force someone else to see it that way. Last lines have the added problem that the very best closing lines (Invisible Man, Huck Finn, Franny and Zooey, The Great Gatsby, etc etc) gain their power from everything that comes before. And "Gates of Eden" is a long-ish Bob Dylan song, with all the problems this has for the uninitiated. But still:

At times I think there are no words but these to tell what's true

And there are no truths outside the gates of Eden

The first line works because it scans so well, and is sung to emphasize its rhythmic advantages. After many verses of polysyllabic words and complicated imagery, it's a line of single-beat words with nothing obscure in the words or the ideas; the first two phrases are four beats, and the last is six, which gives urgency to the end by putting 'too many' beats into the phrase. It's emphatically an ending.

This is probably my favorite Dylan song, which seems to be the logical final step of my Dylan fandom. I spent most of my life largely indifferent to him, liking minor tracks on major albums: "From a Buick 6" for many years, "Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again," but only for the last two verses for many more. But like all music fans, to be a 'casual' fan means acquiring a number of albums. And it got weird for awhile there: Nashville Skyline (a.k.a. the country album where Dylan's voice is normal) was an unironic choice for favorite album through most of grad school. And then: a serious reappreciation of Highway 61 Revisited, unlocking "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands," and serious breakup in which "Just Like a Woman" played heavily, several months with Blonde on Blonde playing over and over again on my car cd player, Freewheelin' on vinyl, and, finally, Bringing It All Back Home and its two massive songs on the acoustic side: "Gates of Eden" and "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," both of which get good treatment on the Don't Look Back blu-ray, and wherein the secrets of the songs are revealed: the emotional intensity of the vocal performance, which it's easy to ignore on a recording, the tricks of rhythm (I'd be hard pressed to name a more percussive acoustic guitarist), the drones and harmonies in the chords. They're epic songs, though we have a much harder time reading and understanding the epic these days. Nevertheless, amazing work.

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