With lyrics that contrast the mundane with the absurd, “4th Time Around” is suggestive of a young romance. The song revolves around the actions and brief spoken phrases of a man and a woman, who are presumably in the midst of a lover’s quarrel. It opens with what could be interpreted as the climax of an argument “When she said/ Don’t waste your words, they’re just lies/ I cried she was deaf.” The narrator refers to the woman as “she” throughout the song, but in the last stanza begins to address someone directly, using the pronoun “you”, i. e. “you took me in,/you loved me then”. Musically speaking, the simple folk melody of the song contrasts with the more blues-rock oriented sound of most of Blonde on Blonde.
“4th Time Around” was commonly speculated to be a response to The Beatles’ song “Norwegian Wood” - written by John Lennon and credited, as were all Lennon & McCartney’s Beatles songs to Lennon/McCartney for the 1965 album Rubber Soul - as the two tracks share a reasonably similar melody and lyrical premise. “Norwegian Wood” was considered an artistic leap for Lennon, as it was his earliest story-song and showed an obvious Dylan-influence. “4th Time Around” has been seen as either a playful homage, or a satirical warning to Lennon about co-opting Dylan’s well-known songwriting devices. Lennon expressed a range of opinions on this topic in interviews between 1970 and 1980. He initially felt it to be a somewhat pointed parody of “Norwegian Wood”, but later he considered Dylan’s effort to be more a playful homage. Still, the last line of “4th Time Around” (“I never asked for your crutch / Now don’t ask for mine.