In the course of my reading on the culture of Prohibition-era America, I’ve come across this little anonymously written ditty about the joys of home brewing:
Mother’s in the kitchen/ Washing out the jugs;/ Sister’s in the pantry/ Bottling the suds;/ Father’s in the cellar/ Mixing up the hops;/ Johnny’s on the front porch/ Watching for the cops.
I first came across it in John Kobler’s great popular history of Prohibition, Ardent Spirits, and Paddy Whacked, Thomas English’s history of Irish-American gangs and gangsters. No Bobcat worth his or her salt will miss the echo of the opening lines of “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” which leads off Bringing It All Back Home and inspired the famous opening of the D.A. Pennebaker film Don’t Look Back, the original rock music video and still one of the very few word-image pairings that doesn’t get stale after only a few viewings.
Johnny’s in the basement/ Mixing up the medicine;/ I’m on the pavement/ Thinking ’bout the government.
Since Dylan has shown himself time and again to be a veritable walking juke box of Americana, there’s not a doubt in my mind that he was toying with that Prohibition rhyme when he wrote “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Certainly the drug-soaked mid-Sixties milieu would have had Prohibition in the back of anyone’s mind, and no less an authority than producer Don Was has said that it’s impossible to stump Dylan on an old tune. I may be out to lunch here, but I don’t think so. If any other Dylan work out there has mentioned this parallel, please send me the cite.
Meanwhile, it gives me an excuse to run not only the famous Pennebaker video, but this clip of the parody/ homage performed by the cast from I’m Not There: