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"Desolation Row"

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Pulitzer Wannabe, Mar 13, 2008.

  1. It came up on the iPod shuffle mode this morning.

    What do you think it's about?

    http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/desolation.html
     
  2. Buck

    Buck Well-Known Member

    Right now, I don't read so good;
    Don't send me no more letters, no.
     
  3. JR

    JR Active Member

    Has someone fixed the door knob yet?
     
  4. EStreetJoe

    EStreetJoe Well-Known Member

    One of my favorite Dylan songs and I can't tell you what it's about.
     
  5. Buck

    Buck Well-Known Member

    Think of 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,' the wisdom of the fringe, of the outsider, of the down and out, 'Songs of Innocence and Experience,' the school of hard knocks, the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, 'Out here on the perimeter there are no stars ...'
    Then listen again.
     
  6. JR

    JR Active Member

    On probably my favourite Dylan album.
     
  7. Has been in my top five of The Master's work since the first time I heard it back in 1965. I once went to a Halloween party dressed as Einstein disguised as Rpbon Hood. My date was Cinderella, and she didn't seem so easy, alas.
    A couple of songs on that album -- this one, and "Tombstone Blues" -- have to do with Bob hanging around in a cop bar in NYC. There apparently was a stretch in Lower Manhattan that the cops called Desolation Row. Hence the title. The song's a collection of American grotesques, and, just for the record, it's one of the funniest damn things he ever wrote.
     
  8. So it's not about the Holocaust or anything like that, as some have speculated? Just a fun little 11-minute, 24-second ditty?
     
  9. beardpuller

    beardpuller Active Member

    Now at midnight all the agents
    And the superhuman crew
    Come out and round up everyone
    That knows more than they do
    Then they bring them to the factory
    Where the heart-attack machine
    Is strapped across their shoulders
    And then the kerosene
    Is brought down from the castles
    By insurance men who go
    Check to see that nobody is escaping
    To Desolation Row


    So, based on the accurate depiction of "agents," I've always figured it was about pro sports.
     
  10. The Holocaust?
    Never heard that one.
     
  11. I think it's the brown passport reference early on. Some connection to concentration camps.
     
  12. This thread is useless without...


    They're selling postcards of the hanging
    They're painting the passports brown
    The beauty parlor is filled with sailors
    The circus is in town
    Here comes the blind commissioner
    They've got him in a trance
    One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker
    The other is in his pants
    And the riot squad they're restless
    They need somewhere to go
    As Lady and I look out tonight
    From Desolation Row

    Cinderella, she seems so easy
    "It takes one to know one," she smiles
    And puts her hands in her back pockets
    Bette Davis style
    And in comes Romeo, he's moaning
    "You Belong to Me I Believe"
    And someone says," You're in the wrong place, my friend
    You better leave"
    And the only sound that's left
    After the ambulances go
    Is Cinderella sweeping up
    On Desolation Row

    Now the moon is almost hidden
    The stars are beginning to hide
    The fortunetelling lady
    Has even taken all her things inside
    All except for Cain and Abel
    And the hunchback of Notre Dame
    Everybody is making love
    Or else expecting rain
    And the Good Samaritan, he's dressing
    He's getting ready for the show
    He's going to the carnival tonight
    On Desolation Row

    Now Ophelia, she's 'neath the window
    For her I feel so afraid
    On her twenty-second birthday
    She already is an old maid

    To her, death is quite romantic
    She wears an iron vest
    Her profession's her religion
    Her sin is her lifelessness
    And though her eyes are fixed upon
    Noah's great rainbow
    She spends her time peeking
    Into Desolation Row

    Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood
    With his memories in a trunk
    Passed this way an hour ago
    With his friend, a jealous monk
    He looked so immaculately frightful
    As he bummed a cigarette
    Then he went off sniffing drainpipes
    And reciting the alphabet
    Now you would not think to look at him
    But he was famous long ago
    For playing the electric violin
    On Desolation Row

    Dr. Filth, he keeps his world
    Inside of a leather cup
    But all his sexless patients
    They're trying to blow it up
    Now his nurse, some local loser
    She's in charge of the cyanide hole
    And she also keeps the cards that read
    "Have Mercy on His Soul"
    They all play on penny whistles
    You can hear them blow
    If you lean your head out far enough
    From Desolation Row

    Across the street they've nailed the curtains
    They're getting ready for the feast
    The Phantom of the Opera
    A perfect image of a priest
    They're spoonfeeding Casanova
    To get him to feel more assured
    Then they'll kill him with self-confidence
    After poisoning him with words

    And the Phantom's shouting to skinny girls
    "Get Outa Here If You Don't Know
    Casanova is just being punished for going
    To Desolation Row"

    Now at midnight all the agents
    And the superhuman crew
    Come out and round up everyone
    That knows more than they do
    Then they bring them to the factory
    Where the heart-attack machine
    Is strapped across their shoulders
    And then the kerosene
    Is brought down from the castles
    By insurance men who go
    Check to see that nobody is escaping
    To Desolation Row

    Praise be to Nero's Neptune
    The Titanic sails at dawn
    And everybody's shouting
    "Which Side Are You On?"
    And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot
    Fighting in the captain's tower
    While calypso singers laugh at them
    And fishermen hold flowers
    Between the windows of the sea
    Where lovely mermaids flow
    And nobody has to think too much
    About Desolation Row

    Yes, I received your letter yesterday
    (About the time the door knob broke)
    When you asked how I was doing
    Was that some kind of joke?
    All these people that you mention
    Yes, I know them, they're quite lame
    I had to rearrange their faces
    And give them all another name
    Right now I can't read too good
    Don't send me no more letters no
    Not unless you mail them
    From Desolation Row
     
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