Taking a Journey Through Dark Heat Alone
Dylan in a Day (Pt.17)
Bob Dylan's song "Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)" is often considered one of the best songs on the album "Street-Legal" and covers the journey that the narrator makes from one place to another whilst his woman is not with him. It is unknown whether she stays behind on purpose or she just gets up and leaves him entirely. But what is clear is that whenever he is meant to reach point B, she is not going to be there with him. This song is therefore not only about this journey that the narrator is taking, but the fact that he has to make it alone. There has been many other songs that Bob Dylan wrote about making journeys alone and without his lover so this is nothing new. The one thing that is different though is the way in which this song is put forward. Unlike Bob Dylan's previous, more structured and obviously folk songs, this song seems to add a little bit of soul in there as well, using the backing singers quite a bit to make the song more soulful, have more depth and have more atmosphere to it.
He makes it clear that she is not with him from the very first verse of the song when he states that he is crying whilst writing a letter to her. At this point, we don't know whether she has been told that she cannot come with him or just does not want to:
There's a long-distance train rolling through the rain
Tears on the letter I write
There's a woman I long to touch and I'm missing her so much
But she's drifting like a satellite...
He's also thinking about the memories that he has of her, mainly to do with places associated with certain events. This should show us as the listeners that she is not there because she does not want to be.
There's a neon light ablaze in a green smoky haze
And laughter down on Elizabeth Street
There's a lonesome bell tone in that valley of stone
Where she bathed in a stream of pure heat...
Her father was possibly one of the many causes, as she may have been naive about the outside world to which the narrator was going to. The father even predicted to the narrator that she would not go with him, but it does not say that the father told her not to. In fact, it sounds like the relation with the father from the narrator was amiable and the father would not have had a problem with her going. This justifies yet again, that the woman did not want to go in her own rights.
Her father would emphasise you got to be more than street-wise
But he practiced what he preached from the heart
A full-blooded Cherokee, he predicted it to me
The time and the place that we'd part...
I honestly believe that in this next part which is the chorus, the narrator is really talking about his lover and wherever he last saw her, asking her where she could be at this particular time. So he clearly still feels for her.
There's a babe in the arms of a woman in a rage
And a longtime golden-haired stripper onstage
And she winds back the clock and she turns back the page
Of a book that nobody can write
Oh, where are you tonight?
This continues throughout the song and he keeps traveling, and keeps reminding himself of his past relationship. He gets into trouble and yet, he still remembers this woman he used to be with. It is like not only can he not forget her, but remembering her for no reason at all at one particular time gets him into trouble because his mind drifts away from what he is supposed to be doing. I’m not saying that the narrator is day-dreaming but instead, I think he is clearly damaged by the fact that she is no longer with him. Throughout the song a number of different things happen to the narrator and yet, he is still continuously asking where this woman is - this is one of the biggest tells for this in the entire song.