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The Nina Simone Database
Barra
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
1965 Bob Dylan
The song's lyrics describe a nightmare vision of the narrator's experience in Juarez, Mexico, in which he encounters sickness, despair, prostitutes, saints, shady women, corrupt authorities, alcohol and drugs, before finally deciding to return to New York City. The lyrics incorporate literary references to Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano, Edgar Allan Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels, while the song's title references Arthur Rimbaud's "My Bohemian Life (Fantasy)"

Nina Simone's version differs considerably in tone from Dylan's: while Dylan's version is sympathetic, if sneering, towards the foolish subject, Simone's version is an intense, first-person account of illusions being crushed, until she is finally helpless in the hands of fate.
- Wikipedia

Recording sessions
1969 January 8-27: New York RCA Manhattan B
When you're lost in Juarez
And it's Easter time too
And your gravity fails
And negativity don't pull you through

Don't put on any airs
When you're down on Rue Morgue Avenue
They've got some hungry women there
And men they'll really make a mess out of you

If you see Saint Annie
Tell her thanks a lot
I cannot move
And my fingers are all in a knot

And I haven't got the strength
To get up and take another shot
And my best friend the doctor
Won't even say what it is I've got

Sweet Melinda
The peasants call her the goddess of gloom
She speaks good English
And she invites you up into her room

And you're so kind and careful
Not to go to her too soon
And then she takes your voice
And leaves you howling at the moon

Up on Project Hill it's either fortune or fame
You can take one or the other
Though neither of them
Are to be what they claim

And if you're looking to get silly
You'd better go back to from where you came
Because the cops don't need you
And man they expect the same

All the authorities
They just stand around and boast
How they blackmailed the sergeant-at-arms
Into leaving his post

And picking up my brother Carl
Who just arrived here from the coast
Who looked so fine at first
But left looking just like a ghost

Well that's it folks that's it

Well I started out on burgundy
But soon hit the harder stuff
Everybody said they'd stand behind me
When the game got rough

Oh but the joke was on me
There was no one there even to bluff
I'm going back to New York City
I do believe I've had enough

(Lyrics transcription by Roger Nupie)