Tombstone Blues

Words and music Bob Dylan
Released on Highway 61 Revisited (1965), Biograph (1985) and No direction home (2005), and in live versions on Real Live (1984) and Unplugged (1995)
Tabbed by Eyolf Østrem. Solo licks tabbed by Jeff Kokosinsky


Capo 2nd fret (sounding key F# major)


    E                          A          E
The sweet pretty things are in bed now of course
    E                           A    E
The city fathers they're trying to endorse
    E                A             E
The reincarnation of Paul Revere's horse
        E           A          E
But the town has no need to be nervous
The ghost of Belle Starr she hands down her wits
To Jezebel the nun she violently knits
A bald wig for Jack the Ripper who sits
At the head of the chamber of commerce
A
Mama's in the fact'ry
          E
She ain't got no shoes
A
Daddy's in the alley
     E
He's lookin' for food
A
I'm in the kitchen *)
                   E
With the tombstone blues
The hysterical bride in the penny arcade
Screaming she moans, "I've just been made"
Then sends out for the doctor who pulls down the shade
Says, "My advice is to not let the boys in"
Now the medicine man comes and he shuffles inside
He walks with a swagger and he says to the bride
"Stop all this weeping, swallow your pride
You will not die, it's not poison"
Mama's in the fact'ry
She ain't got no shoes
Daddy's in the alley
He's lookin' for food
I'm in the kitchen
With the tombstone blues
Well, John the Baptist after torturing a thief
Looks up at his hero the Commander-in-Chief
Saying, "Tell me great hero, but please make it brief
Is there a hole for me to get sick in?"
The Commander-in-Chief answers him while chasing a fly
Saying, "Death to all those who would whimper and cry"
And dropping a bar bell he points to the sky
Saying, "The sun's not yellow it's chicken"
Mama's in the fact'ry
She ain't got no shoes
Daddy's in the alley
He's lookin' for food
I'm in the kitchen
With the tombstone blues
The king of the Philistines his soldiers to save
Puts jawbones on their tombstones and flatters their graves
Puts the pied pipers in prison and fattens the slaves
Then sends them out to the jungle
Gypsy Davey with a blowtorch he burns out their camps
With his faithful slave Pedro behind him he tramps
With a fantastic collection of stamps
To win friends and influence his uncle
Mama's in the fact'ry
She ain't got no shoes
Daddy's in the alley
He's lookin' for food
I'm in trouble
With the tombstone blues
The geometry of innocent flesh on the bone
Causes Galileo's math book to get thrown
At Delilah who's sitting worthlessly alone
But the tears on her cheeks are from laughter
Now I wish I could give Brother Bill his great thrill
I would set him in chains at the top of the hill
Then send out for some pillars and Cecil B. DeMille
He could die happily ever after
Mama's in the fact'ry
She ain't got no shoes
Daddy's in the alley
He's lookin' for food
I'm in the kitchen
With the tombstone blues
Where Ma Raney and Beethoven once unwrapped their bed roll
Tuba players now rehearse around the flagpole
And the National Bank at a profit sells road maps for the soul
To the old folks home and the college
Now I wish I could write you a melody so plain
That could hold you dear lady from going insane
That could ease you and cool you and cease the pain
Of your useless and pointless knowledge
Mama's in the fact'ry
She ain't got no shoes
Daddy's in the alley
He's lookin' for the fuse
I'm in the streets
With the tombstone blues

*) The copyrighted version has “looking for the fuse / I am in the streets”

Solo licks:

Main Riff Throughout        w/ the Tombstone Blues...
||--2-----------------|-||-------------------------------|
||----5----2----2-----|-||-------17^----17^--------------|
||*-----4^---4^---2---|-||*---16-----16-----16-16^-14----|
||*-----------------4-|-||*---------------------------16-|
||--------------------|-||-------------------------------|
||--------------------|-||-------------------------------|
||------12-----------------------------------|
||--12^----12-12-12-12-10---12^--------------|
||*-----------------------------11-----------|
||*------------------------------------------|
||---------------------------------14-14^----|
||----------------------------------------14-|

Real Live version

    B
The sweet pretty things are in bed now of course

The city fathers they're trying to endorse

The reincarnation of Paul Revere's horse
        A                      B
But the town has no need to be nervous

. . .
E
Mama's in the fact'ry
          B
She ain't got no shoes
E
Daddy's in the alley
     B
He's lookin' for food
E
I'm in the kitchen
                   B
With the tombstone blues

Unplugged version

(recorded nov 1994)

The G is a bluesy mix of G major and minor (exactly the same used in Viola Lee Blues.

The following riff is played by one of the guitars throughout the song, where there's a line with G.

  G
  :     .     .     .       :     .     .     .
|-------------------------|---------------1---------|-
|-------------------------|------------23--3--------|-
|--- 3----0---------3--0--|----3----0---------3--0--|-
|-------------------------|-------------------------|-
|-------------------------|-------------------------|-
|-------------------------|-------------------------|-
    G
The sweet pretty things they're in bed now of course

The city fathers they're trying to endorse

The reincarnation of Paul Revere's horse
        Bb          C          G
But the town has no need to be nervous
The ghost of Belle Starr she hands down her wits
To Jezebel the nun she violently knits
A bald wig for Jack the Ripper who sits
At the head of the chamber of commerce
C
Mama's in the fact'ry
          G
She ain't got no shoes
C
Daddy's in the hallway
G
lookin' for the fuse
C
I'm in the kitchen with the
C   Bb    G
tombstone blues