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Help Me Solve a Bob Dylan Mystery!

January 23, 2010

Last night, I was listening to Highlands off of Time Out of Mind with headphones.  In the opening seconds, two sharp breaths are audible.  Fine.  Who cares?

More curious to me was that there are clearly some words whispered about 7 seconds into the track.  I was unable to find any reference to the whispering online, and I have not been able to make out the words on my own. 

If you have any idea who is speaking, or what words are being spoken, please leave a comment!

Update: A few other posts about Bob Dylan.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. Matthew Zuckerman permalink
    January 24, 2010 5:07 am

    As I recall, Bob said that the opening riff was recorded at a sound check, and when they tried to recreate it in the studio they failed, so they looped the intro and played against that. Could the words you hear have been spoken on the stage in the original sound check recording?

  2. Josh permalink
    January 24, 2010 10:25 am

    It’s a two syllable phrase or word….and it sounds like a Bob whisper to me. Almost sounds like Bob is chewing gum too.

  3. Matthew Zuckerman permalink
    January 24, 2010 10:32 am

    >>Almost sounds like Bob is chewing gum too.

    That would fit with it being from the soundcheck.

  4. January 24, 2010 11:40 am

    I’ve listened to it upside down, sideways, slow, fast, etc and it seems to me it seems to be one two-syllable word. The emphasis is on the second syllable making it most likely so. Here is the full-speed section in question.

    [audio src="" /]

    Let’s see what you guys can get from it.

    • January 24, 2010 11:41 am

      also…The second syllable seems to start with a “D” or “T” sound.

  5. brian permalink
    January 24, 2010 12:07 pm

    I think it’s bob saying, “drink more ovaltine”.

    • Barry permalink*
      January 24, 2010 12:53 pm

      @ Brian: Ha!

      @ Darkeyez, Matthew and Josh: Thanks for all the work, you’ve done! There’s a way to get there, and we’ll figure it out somehow. Ack ack ack ack.

  6. The Dude permalink
    January 24, 2010 12:52 pm

    I hear “testing” which would fit with the soundcheck. It doesn’t sound like Bob to me…

  7. darkknight permalink
    January 24, 2010 5:09 pm

    sounds something like “That was a mistake”

    ‘mistake’ fits with the 2-syllable word, 2nd syllable starting with a ‘d’ or ‘t’ suggestion above

  8. deliane permalink
    January 24, 2010 5:14 pm

    .. my hearing must not be as keen- sounds like one syllable to me.. sounds like, TWIST ? !?? which doesn’t make sense, does it-

    oh well, maybe it’s TEST

    thanks for pointing it out !

    • Barry permalink*
      January 24, 2010 5:19 pm

      I am sending an email to Daniel Lanois’ management in the off chance that they could pass the question on to him and he remembers. Of course, I will post any answer I receive.

  9. Barry permalink*
    January 24, 2010 5:14 pm

    I don’t hear the word “mistake” in there. But then again, I can’t hear anything in there.

  10. January 24, 2010 8:11 pm

    i hear “fan tas tic”

    • Kirk permalink
      January 24, 2010 8:35 pm

      To me it kind of sounds like “sometimes”.

      • Barry permalink*
        January 24, 2010 8:44 pm

        It’s like a Rorschach test. It’s tantalizingly close to being decipherable, but very much in the ears of the beholder.

        I hope Lanois or his people respond to my request.

    • eavesdropper permalink
      January 24, 2010 9:21 pm

      that makes two of us!

      • eavesdropper permalink
        January 24, 2010 9:22 pm

        that makes two of us! that’s meant for the “fan tastic” interpretation.

      • Tackalo permalink
        January 25, 2010 4:07 am

        What about the opening of Workingman’s Blue No 2? Same kinda thing…

  11. January 25, 2010 3:01 pm

    Hey Barry, that description sounds like it could be applied to Dylan’s music as a whole as well. haha!

    • Barry permalink*
      January 25, 2010 3:10 pm

      Very true Darkeyez! I have a little story about that, actually: a few months ago, I wrote a post that was pretty critical of a fundamentalist Christian ministry that put on its webpage that lying is never justified, even to save lives during the Holocaust.

      I had blogged something about Dylan not too long before, so when a pastor from a Maryland church began to argue with me in the comments, it wasn’t long before he declared that he had cracked the Bob Dylan “code”.

      He was certain that he had accumulated anough data to declare that Bob Dylan’s music is infused with – you’ll never guess – a fundamentalist Christian message. Whenever crackpots think they KNOW what Bob Dylan is saying, it’s amazing that he’s saying precisely what they already believe.

      Anyhow, I think I kind of stumped him when I asked him to describe the Christian message being conveyed by the lyrics, “I’ve got the pork chop, she’s got the pie / she ain’t no angel and neither am I.”

      The pastor wound up fluttering away because he was insulted that I characterized his creationism as nonsense, but if you’d like to see his zany theories, they can be found in the comments to this post:

      • January 25, 2010 3:38 pm

        LOL yeah. You and I seem cut from the same clothe haha. Dylan’s music I’m sure is infused with a fundementalist needle somewhere but not everywhere. I think Artis really screwed up his head and as you see from his albums after the “trilogy” that he realized blatant preaching wasn’t the way to go. Sure Infidels has some religious overtones but nowhere near Saved or even Shot Of Love. No one will ever crack the “Bob Dylan Code” simply because there isn’t one. He above all knows that not being pinned down is the only way to truely survive and flourish. Dylan has been one step ahead of everybody since he started writing, and that being said you would have to be one step ahead of him to figure anything out…good luck with that one Pastor…wherever you are lol.

        LOL @ the Christian message in those lyrics. I literally laughed out loud. Another one that comes to mind is a quote from Bob “They like to take all this money from sin, build big universities to study in, Sing “Amazing Grace” all the way to the Swiss banks” hahahaaa

      • Barry permalink*
        January 25, 2010 3:40 pm


      • Jesse permalink
        January 26, 2010 9:36 am

        Hey, interesting thread you have here.

        I just wanted to throw in my two cents about the fundamentalist thing. I really wish fundamentalists would realize that they do more to alienate people from religion than atheists (for example) do.

        I’m a Catholic who is really big into his faith and it just kills me to hear stuff like people who talk about Genesis like it is a science book. I mean seriously, I firmly believe that God made this universe and everything in it. I also firmly believe it is not up to us to decide how he did that. What if God decided to use the Big Bang or evolution to create the world? What right has anyone to say he didn’t? The biggest reason so many people think religion and science are not compatible are because fundamentalists won’t let them be.

        Here’s some good reading in case other people think I’ve just gone rogue.


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