Dylan recorded a half-hour program as part of the CBC-TV series “Quest.” The half a dozen songs he sings: “Talkin’ World War III Blues,” “Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” “Girl from the North Country,” “The Times They Are a-Chang in’,” “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” and “Restless Farewell” are all performed within the most incongruous of settings, a log cabin filled with working men pretending to pay attention.
I have to disagree with English author Clinton Heylin in his Bob Dylan: A Life in Stolen Moments Day by Day 1941-1995 that this is “the most incongruous of settings, a log cabin filled with working men pretending to pay attention.”
Heylin, not being from the country that they called the Midwest, doesn’t have a reference for the cabin depicted in this great 1960’s video.
The Country that I come from is also called the Midwest, as I was raised in Wisconsin and we took many vacations in the early 60’s in Northern Wisconsin, in Upper Michigan, and in Northern Minnesota. Up in that forested wild country it was common to have a cabin such as this one for men who were working say in logging or trapping or hunting or just on a manly get-a-way from civilization with some other men, where they could make strong coffee, smoke their pipes, or roll their own tobacco cigarettes while they were maybe on a week long canoe trip through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness that divides Minnesota from Canada.
We used to also stay in a similarly appointed cabin and go skiing in that area in the winter. These cabins usually didn’t have any insulation but people could keep warm in them if they knew how to operate a wood-stove and these special places would be opportunities for great fellowship around the wood stove, feeding it with the abundant wood found around such a cabin, telling stories, singing songs, playing poker and sewing socks that had come apart during the day’s activities.
If there was a musician in the group, he would be encouraged to bring his instrument if it was portable enough, say an acoustic guitar and especially a lightweight harmonica was perfect for entertaining the group, as there was no television or other entertainment in those cabins without electricity. Lit only by kerosene lanterns, the men would usually have a wonderful time passing those long winter nights, “a Laughin’ and a singin’ till the early hours of the morn.”
It was in a nostalgic moment remembering a cabin like this, that Bob wrote the 1963 Bob’s Dylan’s Dream remembering the good times with his friends in a cabin like this one in the North Country fair. Read these lyrics and listen for references to the scenes depicted in this great video:
While riding on a train goin’ west
I fell asleep for to take my rest
I dreamed a dream that made me sad
Concerning myself and the first few friends I had
With half-damp eyes I stared to the room Where my friends and I spent many an afternoon Where we together weathered many a storm Laughin’ and singin’ till the early hours of the morn
By the old wooden stove where our hats was hung Our words were told, our songs were sung Where we longed for nothin’ and were quite satisfied Talkin’ and a-jokin’ about the world outside
With haunted hearts through the heat and cold
We never thought we could ever get old We thought we could sit forever in fun
But our chances really was a million to one
As easy it was to tell black from white
It was all that easy to tell wrong from right
And our choices were few and the thought never hit
That the one road we traveled would ever shatter and split
How many a year has passed and gone And many a gamble has been lost and won
And many a road taken by many a friend
And each one I’ve never seen again
I wish, I wish, I wish in vain That we could sit simply in that room again
Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat I’d give it all gladly if our lives could be like that