Terrorism, Cinemax, and Bob Dylan: Parsing the Meaning of ‘Early Roman Kings’ in Strike Back Preview (Video)

bobdylanearlyroman Terrorism, Cinemax, and Bob Dylan: Parsing the Meaning of Early Roman Kings in <em>Strike Back</em> Preview (Video)

‘Strike Back’ preview (Cinemax)

In what will be the second biggest Bob Dylan-related news item this week, the 71-year-old premiered a new track from his upcoming album Tempest during a preview for Cinemax’s post-24 counter-terrorism show, Strike Back.

The new song, “Early Roman Kings” is all about conquerors who level cities, and since Tempest‘s release date is September 11th, we’re guessing that epic disasters will be a theme throughout the album. (The first track is a 14-minute song about the Titanic.)
Here are the lyrics for “Early Roman Kings”, if you can’t hear Bob Dylan’s mumbling underneath all the gunfire:

All the early Roman kings
In their shark skin suits
Bow ties and buttons
High top boots
Drivin’ the spikes in *
Blazin’ the rails
Nailed in their coffins
Top hats and tails
Fly away over
Fly away flap your wings
Fly by night
Like the early Roman kings
They’re peddlers and they’re meddlers
They buy and they sell
They destroyed your city
They’ll destroy you as well
They’re lecherous and treacherous
A-Hell bent for leather *
Each of ‘em bigger
Than all men put together
Sluggers and muggers
Wearin fancy gold rings
All the women going crazy
For the early Roman kings

On the surface, Strike Back seems like an odd fit for the song’s debut, as the show is about two members of an elite counter-terrorism unit that gets their international travel points by running around the globe and fighting the War on Terror. What political statement is Mr. Dylan trying to make by lending a track about early roman kings destroying cities to a show about two Americans racing around the Middle East, tracking a terrorist suspected of harboring WMDs?

This is not the only song Mr. Dylan has contributed to Strike Back: the show’s August 17th season premiere will feature Tempest‘s “Scarlet Town” in its closing credits.