Returning to our mini-series of Conversation Songs, where each song’s lyrics give one side of a conversation and leaves the other side un-heard, we have an appearance by Bob Dylan.
“Positively 4th Street” has nothing to do with 4th Street, anywhere at all, judging by its lyrics. And it’s not exactly positive, either; in fact, Dylan’s lyrics are angry and accusatory. The singer is calling out a one-time friend for betrayal, for letting the singer down, for not being there. But he does it in an oddly upbeat melody and tone that just repeat, over and over, with no variation. It’s a very strange song, pairing lyrical bitterness with upbeat-sounding music. Is Dylan mocking the way we often mask our relations with people we dislike in generic niceties and false pleasantry? Maybe. Maybe this is the case of when you run into someone you dislike but for whatever reason you have to play nice–so while you’re being outwardly nice, you’re really thinking, as Dylan sings, “What a drag it is to see you.”