Murder Most Foul
2020 seems to be the year of unpredictabilities: WW3, Britney Spears breaking the 100m sprint world record and now Bob Dylan releasing a 17-minute single. The only difference the last of three actually happened. Making a surprise release on March 27th ‘Murder Most Foul’ saw Dylan break his eight-year lull in new material since 2012’s Tempest. It also takes the accolade for the longest song in Dylan’s discography.
Initial readings of the song can be viewed as simply a eulogy to John F. Kennedy, as well as the 60s and subsequent cultural landmark moments. The song quickly digresses into a bombardment of references, some on the nose, some beguilingly subtle. The Beatles are first to get a mention with ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, alluding to the impact of Beatlemania on the youth population at the time as their swift adoption of pop music’s escapism. Woodstock and Altamont also get a mention, a juxtaposition between the ideals of the counter-culture and a loss of innocence. Jimmi Hendrix’s ‘Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)’ also gets a passing mention as well as, The Who’s ‘Tommy Can You Hear Me’ & ‘The Acid Queen’, Queen’s ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ and even one of Dylan’s own songs ‘Blood In My Eyes’. Multiple films and directors also get a mention including Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and A Nightmare On Elm Street (Wes Craven, USA, 1984). As is often the case with Dylan’s writing there are various layers of depth to his word choice. ‘Another One Bites the Dust’, ‘Blood In My Eyes’ and Elm Street (the street on which the shooting took place) could be used in reference to the Kennedy assassination as well as their cultural poignancy. These are but a few references from the song, however, whole dissertations could, and probably will be, written on the lyrical content of the song.
Having been initially recorded sometime in the Tempest sessions the song has only now seen the light of day as Dylan noted on Twitter that it’s something “you might find interesting”. This is Dylan’s gift to a world in total turmoil, as Nick Cave so eloquently puts it ‘Murder Most Foul’ is “extraordinarily comforting, especially at this moment … [it] reminds us that all is not lost, as the song itself becomes a lifeline thrown into our current predicament.”
Below you can find a Spotify playlist with the majority of the songs referenced in the song's lyrics, also containing 'Murder Most Foul'. Much thanks to whoever put the time in to make the playlist.
You can find the lyrics to the song here. Well worth a read even if you do not like Dylan's music, it can be read like a stream of consciousness poem.
A note to the Dylanologists.
I don’t claim to be a Dylan expert, nor can anyone, maybe not even the man himself. I apologise if any information is incorrect or any readings misalign with conventional readings of the stated material. I’m just a guy who likes his Dylan, man.