Desolation Row

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"Desolation Row" is a 1965 song written and sung by Bob Dylan. It was recorded on August 4, 1965; and is the closing track to Dylan's sixth studio album, Highway 61 Revisited. It has been covered by many artists, including My Chemical Romance for the film Watchmen in 2009.

Contents

Background and recording

The album version of Desolation Row was recorded on August 4, 1965, in Columbia's Studio A in New York City. The two takes spliced for the album were the second and third time Dylan had sung the song. Nashville guitarist Charlie McCoy played an improvised acoustic guitar part on the recording.[1] It is the album's only track not to feature an electric guitar, but does include an electric bass.

The song was first recorded as an electric version with the full band on July 30, 1965, but Dylan's guitar was out of tune.[2] It was recorded again on August 2, 1965, during a 2AM session with electric bass and guitar, but the final decision was to close the album with an acoustic version.[1]

In an interview with USA Today on September 10, 2001, the day before the release of his album Love and Theft, Dylan claimed that the song "is a minstrel song through and through. I saw some ragtag minstrel show in blackface at the carnivals when I was growing up, and it had an effect on me, just as much as seeing the lady with four legs."[3]

It has been suggested that the title is a reference to Jack Kerouac's novel Desolation Angels and John Steinbeck's Cannery Row.[citation needed] Suggestions over the exact "location" of "Desolation Row" include Dylan's response to an interviewer on a television press conference on December 3, 1965 that it was "someplace in Mexico" and Al Kooper's (who played organ and piano on the album) assertion it was New York City's Eighth Avenue.[4]

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