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“My favourite Dylan song – by Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Tom Jones, Judy Collins and more” (from The Guardian, May 24 2021)


From The Guardian, May 24 2021
MICK JAGGER
Desolation Row (1965)

“I was playing Bob Dylan records at my parents’ house when he was still an acoustic folk singer, but he was already very important and his lyrics were on point. The delivery isn’t just the words, it’s the accentuation and the moods and twists he puts on them. His greatness lies in the body of work. I was at a session for Blood on the Tracks [1975] and really enjoyed watching him record Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts, with this incredible depth of storyline, surrounded by all these boring people from the record company who he had sitting in the control room. I couldn’t record like that.
Desolation Row’s lyrics are just so interesting and diverse. It isn’t a real street so you create your own fantasy. I imagine an unforgiving place, somewhere you don’t want to spend much time, peopled with strange characters. The opening line about the “postcards of the hanging” sets the tone, but then this awful event is juxtaposed with “the beauty parlour filled with sailors” and all these circus people. The lines “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” are scary and apocalyptic, viciously delivered.
My reading is that that’s about governmental, military control, but then there’s the payoff: “When you asked me how I was doing, was that some kind of joke? Don’t send me no more letters unless you mail them from Desolation Row.” That sounds like a really personal thing. Musically, he prettifies it. I love the lovely half-Spanish guitar lines from the session guitarist, Charlie McCoy. It’s actually a really lovely song, which shouldn’t work with the imagery but does. You can listen to it all the time and still get something wonderful and new from it.”

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