Friday, July 3, 2015

Duquesne Whistle: Dylan's Upbeat Opener from Tempest Is Sheer Fun

What Dylan track has been running through your head recently? For some reason the tune "Duquesne Whistle" has been the recurring, ongoing accompaniment for me these past two weeks as my runaway train barrels down the track through the scenes of my life. It's upbeat and chipper, giving a bouyant boost that lifts my spirits when the string of railcars my little engine is towing begins to feel burdensome. In short, the song is fun and lightens my load.

You can tell Dylan enjoys it, too, as he's performed it 163 times in concert, beginning in June 2013, and it's still being played as of last night at the Pala Alpitour in Torino, Italy. (Mario, were you there at the concert?)

"Duquense Whistle" is the opening cut on Tempest, Dylan's 35th studio album which was released on September 10, 2012. The song achieves it's intended aim, letting you know Dylan's still on top of his game while drawing you in to another stellar album. The album reached #3 on the Billboard Top 200, a pretty good feat for a guy in his seventies.

The lyrics themselves aren't really that memorable per se. This is not Hard Rain or Blowin' in the Wind. Whistle strikes me as pure whimsy, much like the opening scenes in the video produced to feature this tune. In contrast, the video veers unpredictably into a startling place with a scene that echoes Reservoir Dogs' most frightening moments. Actually, Tempest itself veers into vividly dark images of horror, blood and death in a number of songs, the title song being an immense description of the sinking of the Titanic and all that entailed there.

"Duquesne Whistle" was co-written with Robert Hunter, who collaborated with Dylan on a couple cuts from Down in the Groove, and extensively on Together Through Life.

Here's the video, followed by lyrics and then a link to the initial Rolling Stone review from when Tempest came out. Enjoy.


Duquesne Whistle
Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like it's gonna sweep my world away
I'm gonna stop at Carmangale and keep on going
That Duquesne train gon' rock me night and day

You say I'm a gambler, you say I'm a pimp
But I ain't neither one

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Sound like it's on a final run

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like she never blowed before
Little light blinking, red light glowing
Blowing like she's at my chamber door

You smiling through the fence at me
Just like you've always smiled before

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like she ain't gon' blow no more

Can't you hear that Duquesne whistle blowing?
Blowing like the sky's gonna blow apart
You're the only thing alive that keeps me going
You're like a time bomb in my heart

I can hear a sweet voice steadily calling
Must be the mother of our Lord

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like my woman's on board

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like it's gon' blow my blues away
You're a rascal, I know exactly where you're going
I'll lead you there myself at the break of day

I wake up every morning with that woman in my bed
Everybody telling me she's gone to my head

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like it's gon' kill me dead

Can't you hear that Duquesne whistle blowing?
Blowing through another no good town

The lights on my native land are glowing
I wonder if they'll know me next time 'round
I wonder if that old oak tree's still standing
That old oak tree, the one we used to climb

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like she's blowing right on time


3 comments:

Ian Large said...

Check out the Benmont Tench (solo, was with Tom Petty) version. Great fun on the piano.

Ed Newman said...

Ian,
Thanks for the tip. Best part of sharing things is when others share something back.
e

Jonathan Lyness said...

Kees de Graaf had a great analysis of this song. I always thought the lyrics were whimsical too, but he had a very interesting, very different take, one that makes it hard to hear it quite the same way again.

http://www.keesdegraaf.com/index.php/191/bob-dylans-duquesne-whistle-an-analysis