Don’t Look Back


The Wall Street Journal recently reported that some lyrics in Bob Dylan’s “Floater” (off his 2001 album “Love and Theft“) bear striking similarities to lines in Junichi Saga’s Confessions of a Yakuza (Kodansha, 253 pp., $11). But does the influence of the obscure book—which recounts a former Japanese gang boss’s personal history—reach even further than we know? With Confessions as a guide, the diligent Dylanologist can easily decipher heretofore mystifying selections from the bootleg epic Ten of Swords. A selection follows.

She’s got everything she needs, she’s an artist, she don’t look back

She’s got everything she needs, she’s still the judge’s mistress and living in Shinagawa.

Lay, lady, lay—

I’m just toasting some rice cakes. Do you want some?

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine, alive as you or me

Then in the year I turned 16, a man who came to recruit laborers for the Ashio copper mines asked me if I cared to work there.

Ain’t it just like the night

To play tricks when you’re getting a massive dragon-and-peony tattoo across your back?

I lived with them on Montague Street, in a basement down the stairs

There was music in the cafés at night and revolution in the air

There was also an uncle of my mother’s who ran a sawmill back in the hills of Numata in Gumma prefecture.

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