What is Bob Dylan's Tight Connection Music Video About?

I’ve spent a lot of time replaying this music video over and over again. The song, the visuals and Bob Dylan himself all seem completely out of place but at the same time perfectly cast. It has made me ask myself ‘how was this ever made?’ and at the same time ‘why didn't they make more of this?’

At some point, probably around the 15th time I put it on, I thought maybe I should try and delve deeper and try and understand what's actually going on here. But I was apprehensive as I didn't want to, in any way, ruin the unadulterated naive enjoyment it had brought. So I didn't. Fast forward a few months and many more views later and I had at this point decided to create a comic based on the music video, so it seemed important to at least try to understand it.

The Song

The song is based on another Bob Dylan song "Someone's Got a Hold of My Heart" from 1983. Most of the lyrics are the same with both songs seemingly about a kind of claustrophobic romantic relationship, having an affair (Or was it a dream?) and then … then something about a guy in a ‘powder-blue wig’. The plot is expanded on in the music video to follow the classic story arc: Boy has problem with girl, boy meets new girl, boy goes to prison, boy is released from prison and then finally, boy meets up with both love interests at same time. I've drawn out the songs story arc below based on Kurt Vonneguts good fortune -  ill fortune story axis  

Music Video on Kurt Conmnegut plot graph

The updates Dylan made to the lyrics are interesting. The songs subject matter isn't altered all that much aside from Dylans apparent feeling towards his current partner. In "Someone's Got a Hold of My Heart" he compares her to lilies (albeit ‘a lily amongst thorns’) but in Tight Connection he seems to be addressing a wholly different person who he is apparently finding it extremely hard to be with. Each new line dragging the relationship further and further down. Full lyrics here.

‘‘Has anybody seen my love?’ is the chorus and it has a more desperate, lost and yearning tone than the "Someone's Got a Hold of My Heart" version. During the next verse he apparently finds love

Madame Butterfly
She lulled me to sleep

I’ve read some people describe this line as racist, but I’m ignorant as to what way it could be.‘Madame Butterfly’ is the name of a Puccini opera. about an American naval officer who takes up a Japanese wife when his ship is docked in Nagasaki. Perhaps the racism could be in using the Madame Butterfly as shorthand for Japanese lover but equally its descriptive of himself, as the American causing problems abroad, so not sure I agree that its inappropriate, though as I said I may be ignorant here to some wider connotations.

The last two verses are a bit harder to follow - There’s the suggestions of an affair, mentions of a ‘hot-blooded singer, singing “Memphis in June”’ (Nina Simone?) and then a stand out bit about someone getting beaten up who’s wearing a powder blue wig. That said the whole last verse reads like someone not enjoying the rigmarole and nonsense of night life anymore. Bob was 44 when this was recorded so he has my complete support in this.

Part of the reason for the vagueness may be that Dylan kept putting in memorable lines from films into the song. According to Dylan biographer Michael Gray, many of the lines come from lines of dialogue from Humphrey Bogart films. For example in Sirocco, Bogart says, "'I've got to move fast: I can't with you around my neck" as well as the line "I don't know whether I'm too good for you or you're too good for me", The Oklahoma Kid, Bogart says to James Cagney: "I wanna talk to you, kid;" Cagney replies: "Go ahead and talk." 

The Music Video

gavid diddle has anybody seen my song

The music video was directed by Paul Schrader, known primarily for co-wroting the screenplays for Martin Scorsese films: Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980) as well as probably more relatable to this, directing The Yakuza (1974) .According to the Dylan fanzine The Telegraph Issue 21 (image above) the video had to be filmed within 4 weeks in Tokyo, a film crew was already set up after the filming of Mishima and Dylan told Schrader to do what he wanted.

My initial intention was to go through the video scene by scene, but there is far too much going on for that to be useful. So plan B is to imagine the music video as the world (I promise you I am not insane).

bob dylan tight connection explained as planet earth
The Inner Core - The video tells the story of the song, so it features the troubled relationship, the Japanese love interest and of course the powder blue wig
Outer Core - Time is not linear, there are multiple flashbacks and flash forwards.
Mantle -There is a whodunit mystery, the Yakuza are involved, a punk with a blue wig gets attacked, the police arrest Dylan and then let him go. 
Crust - Dylan plays two characters - the pov of the singer in the song and a guitarist/dancer in a band.

With these 4 things going on at once, the chaos is what makes the video so enjoyable. You can never at any point settle and think you understand it, kind of like a moving target that keeps you spinning in circles. I think the Tight connection music video is something that we wouldn’t even know how to begin to describe even if we knew what it was.

Other interesting bits and pieces

  • The actress Mitsuko Baisho, had been in the fim The Geisha the year before and at the time of filming was married to Antonio Inoki the Japanese wrestler, famous for fighting Muhammad Ali in a mixed martial arts fight (this is one of the most boring fights I've ever seen and very much forshadows MMA)
  • Focus was a Japanese pop culture magazine. An entire edition can be downloaded here. Copies come up on ebay, though sadly I havent seen the one from the video yet 
  • Sheila Atim singing a version slightly closer to Someones Got a Hold of My Heart as part of the Girl From North Country theatre show.
  • Dylan taping his feet to the song when he probably shouldnt be (3:41)
  • Dylan mastering the pause and pivot move (1:03) and (2:58)

Some questions I’ve been unable to answer.

  • Whats going on in the clothes shop?
  • What is the yakuza man asking with his hands?
  • What the signficance of a powder-blue wig?
  • Why does Dylan as the guitarist double take at the girl wearing the jacket (hes a different person, right?)
  • Is the women in the strip club wearing the blue wig Dylans partner?

(fanzine image taken from the very useful, Bob Notes  on twitter)

Bob Dylan Comic - Has Anybody Seen My Love Comic
Bob Dylan Comic inside - Has Anybody Seen My Love Comic
Has Anybody Seen My Love Comic william sanderson bob dylan
Has Anybody Seen My Love Comic back cover william sanderson
Has Anybody Seen My Love Comic inside middle page william sanderson
Bob Dylan Comic - Has Anybody Seen My Love Comic,limited first edition
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Has Anybody Seen My Love Comic

Has Anybody Seen My Love Comic

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