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Dylan: Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues

March 1, 2011


Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues was originally part of the Freewheein’ Bob Dylan album. Here’s the back story. I think it is so incredibly ironic that this song is relevant again today as the JBT and Koch Brothers are front and center in the union busting going on right now across our country.

Thank you to Wikipedia for the following:

Dylan recorded “Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues” during the first Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan session at Columbia’s Studio A on April 24, 1962. He wrote the song in February 1962, and its lyrics and music appeared in the premiere issue of Broadside magazine later that month, becoming the first of Dylan’s songs to be published. In March 1963, nearly a year after recording the album version, he taped a demo for his music publisher, M. Witmark & Sons. This recording was released on The Bootleg Series Vol. 9 – The Witmark Demos: 1962–1964 in October 2010.

“Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues” was at the center of a controversy that brought national attention to Dylan and played a significant part in shaping his second album, Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. On May 12, 1963, with the album about to be released, Dylan was scheduled to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS. The Sunday evening variety program, among the most popular shows on American television, had earlier introduced Elvis Presley to national audiences and in 1964 would do the same for The Beatles.

Dylan had auditioned for the show in early 1962, before the release of his first album. He played a few songs from the recording, but the network executives who sat in on the set weren’t exactly sure what to make of him. Unhappy with the experience, Dylan thought he wouldn’t hear from the network again. More than a year passed when the call came inviting him to make a guest appearance on the show.

For his one selection, Dylan chose “Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues” (as it was then titled). Sullivan and his producer heard him play it at the Saturday rehearsal on May 11 and were delighted with the song. However, when Dylan showed up for the dress rehearsal the next afternoon, the day of the show, a CBS program practices executive told him the song would have to be replaced because of possible libel against John Birch Society members. Refusing to do a different song, Dylan walked off the set. The incident drew national attention with reports running in the New York Times, Billboard and Village Voice. Sullivan, meanwhile, backed Dylan, arguing that if network programs could poke fun at President Kennedy, the John Birch Society should not be immune from similar treatment. Concerned about possible reprisals from the John Birch group, the network held to its decision. Worse, the controversy spilled over into Columbia, CBS’s records division. When the company’s lawyers learned that “Talkin’ John Birch” was slated for the album, they ordered the song removed.

Here are the lyrics. Thank you Mr. Dylan

Well, I was feelin’ sad and feelin’ blue
I didn’t know what in the world I wus gonna do
Them Communists they wus comin’ around
They wus in the air
They wus on the ground
They wouldn’t gimme no peace . . .

So I run down most hurriedly
And joined up with the John Birch Society
I got me a secret membership card
And started off a-walkin’ down the road
Yee-hoo, I’m a real John Bircher now!
Look out you Commies!

Now we all agree with Hitler’s views
Although he killed six million Jews
It don’t matter too much that he was a Fascist
At least you can’t say he was a Communist!
That’s to say like if you got a cold you take a shot of malaria

Well, I wus lookin’ everywhere for them gol-darned Reds
I got up in the mornin’ ’n’ looked under my bed
Looked in the sink, behind the door
Looked in the glove compartment of my car
Couldn’t find ’em . . .

I wus lookin’ high an’ low for them Reds everywhere
I wus lookin’ in the sink an’ underneath the chair
I looked way up my chimney hole
I even looked deep down inside my toilet bowl
They got away . . .

Well, I wus sittin’ home alone an’ started to sweat
Figured they wus in my T.V. set
Peeked behind the picture frame
Got a shock from my feet, hittin’ right up in the brain
Them Reds caused it!
I know they did . . . them hard-core ones

Well, I quit my job so I could work all alone
Then I changed my name to Sherlock Holmes
Followed some clues from my detective bag
And discovered they wus red stripes on the American flag!
That ol’ Betsy Ross . . .

Well, I investigated all the books in the library
Ninety percent of ’em gotta be burned away
I investigated all the people that I knowed
Ninety-eight percent of them gotta go
The other two percent are fellow Birchers . . . just like me

Now Eisenhower, he’s a Russian spy
Lincoln, Jefferson and that Roosevelt guy
To my knowledge there’s just one man
That’s really a true American: George Lincoln Rockwell
I know for a fact he hates Commies cus he picketed the movie Exodus

Well, I fin’ly started thinkin’ straight
When I run outa things to investigate
Couldn’t imagine doin’ anything else
So now I’m sittin’ home investigatin’ myself!
Hope I don’t find out anything . . . hmm, great God!

Copyright © 1970 by Special Rider Music; renewed 1998 by Special Rider Music

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