The full title of the Dylan tune is “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again.”  When you have listened to that song as much as I have you start to notice the patterns.  Check out the lyrics.

  1. Two four-line verses with xAyA rhyme scheme, followed by the chorus “Oh Mama, can this really be the end?…”
  2. The first verse in the pair introduces a character and a scene and there is some hint of strangeness about it.  As with a lot of Dylan tunes the character is often a vague literary reference or some generic symbol of authority.  Sometimes both.
  3. The narrator usually first appears in the second verse of the pair, possibly alongside a new character.
  4. In the second half the narrator has some sense of disconnection with the scene/character and
  5. It resolves in the last line with the narrator being tricked and we are left with a feeling of hopelessness or isolation. (the notable exception to this is the 6th verse were the narrator turns the tables on the character, the preacher. still this somehow makes for even more hopelessness.)

For example, the last verse in the song:

Now the bricks lay on Grand Street
Where the neon madmen climb. (#2a)
They all fall there so perfectly,
It all seems so well timed. (#2b)
An’ here I sit so patiently (#3) (#4)
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get out of
Going through all these things twice. (#5)

You can almost use this as a recipe and write verse after verse of your own.  I have some kind of strange disease that makes me like to do stuff like that, so here goes.  My very own Memphis Blues verse:

Well the barrister wrote to Ahab
Pleading for his vote
And offering to serenade
At the launching of his boat

And the rickshaw driver said to me
Speeding to the dock
“They’ll tempt you with blue oysters
But serve you Brighton Rock.”

Oh, Mama…