If somebody asked you what the absolute best song of all time was, what would you say?
Like, hands down the greatest words committed to paper, to be subsequently sung to the accompaniment of a guitar. Ever.
Your answer should have been Stairway to Heaven, of course (if you thought anything else, we KNOW, and a pack of hunting dogs have already been despatched in your general direction).
But this one’s a close second.
Desolation Row was first recorded during a late evening session on July 29, 1965 as the closing track the most brilliant Dylan album of all time, Highway 61 Revisited. At 11:32 minutes long, its typical as Dylan’s lyrical, maudlin-poetry type song.
That’s about the only thing typical about this song.
Dylan adroitly weaves mythology into history into contemporary literature to create an eleven minute epic of entropy so surreal that it leaves you a little unsteady on your feet after the first listen. Characters as disparate as Cindrella and Einstein appear in vignettes heightening the feeling of enchantment. And somehow, through all these separate instances of wildly varying characters and stories; you can’t help but feel there is actually an underlying meaning to it all. If only you could grasp it.
(As an aside: I highly recommend listening to this while under chemical influence with your friends. If anything else, it’ll spark off one of the most interesting conversations in your life.)
There have been endless covers, ofcourse, from the highly asinine My Chemal Romance version:
to the insanely brilliant Grateful Dead version:
Heck, there is even an Italian version by Fabrizio De Andrè, which is a little funny and quite nice.
So, uh, the whole point I have been labouring to make: give this one a listen, because it will be one of the best things you will have heard in your life, and because maybe we can remind Dylan to do something brilliant again. Instead of, you know, voicing sat-nav systems.