Pod Dylan #113 – Desolation Row


Episode 113 - Desolation Row

Rob welcomes fellow Bobcat Scott Pearson to discuss one of Bob Dylan's great masterpieces, "Desolation Row", the closing track to 1965's HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED.

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3 responses to “Pod Dylan #113 – Desolation Row

  1. Great show, Rob and Scott/

    This is a timely choice. I’ve been revising an insanely long article on Green Arrow, and the place I’ve stopped is Journey to Desolation — the second issue of the Hard-Travelling Heroes story arc. I expect Denny O’Neil was inspired by Kerouac too (since in a way the whole Green Lantern/Green Arrow set-up is Kerouac). But that very issue features a Dylanesque folk singer sentenced to hang. I have to think that this song was in O’Neil’s mind when he named the town.

    As a Robin Hood scholar I have to make some speculation about “Einstein dressed as Robin Hood”.

    Einstein is the egghead but a genius. What about Robin Hood though? Sure, it could be funny to picture Einstein in tights and a bycocket (the Robin Hood hat). But I think of Robin Hood’s other traits. Maybe rob from the rich and give to the poor? Perhaps. But what about him as a swashbuckler?

    But then there’s the Robin Hood of the 1950s — as played by Richard Greene, a popular show on CBS in 1965. (These days it’s best known for employing blacklisted writers. If you’ve seen the Bryan Cranston movie Trumbo, you have a sense of how that worked. Although Dalton Trumbo wasn’t one of them, Ian Mclellan Hunter and Ring Lardner Jr — writer of a certain film that I think Rob Kelly knows pretty well — did write for the 1950s Adventures of Robin Hood TV series.) The writers worked in some left-wing themes, but Greene’s Robin Hood also had the vibe of a World War II veteran. Robin Hood scholar dubs him “squadron leader Robin Hood”.


    So, could there be a bispectacled egghead getting involved in swashbuckling or military adventures?

    How about Robert McNamara — secretary of defense from 1961-1968, that helped get the US tangled in Vietnam? He’d be an egghead acting like Robin Hood.

    One suggestion I saw online is that it’s Dylan referring to himself — the oft-described genius redistributing music to the masses. If so, it does make an interesting candidate for the jealous monk. Because yes. one immediately thinks of Friar Tuck (or less likely one of Robin’s various religious enemies — such as the monk that Little John beheads in the 15th century ballad) But when you think of music and monk — my mind immediately when to jazz musician Thelonious Monk. And so I looked up Thelonious Monk and Bob Dylan and found this encounter mentioned:

    “Living and working in an early1960s New York City, Dylan attended various jazz clubs, being taken with the music of Thelonious Monk and speaking briefly with him. When Dylan introduced himself as a folk music performer, Monk would tell the young man from the Midwest, “We all play folk music.””

    Source: https://jazztimes.com/features/columns/jazz-in-the-key-of-bob-jazz-bob-dylan/

    1. Also, a fun fact I discovered when listening to the song at work a couple weeks ago — the harmonica can be heard past the noise-cancelling headphones and two rows over. Apparently modern tech can’t mask Dylan’s sound when other music can’t be heard by others.

  2. When I was a young teenager back around 1965 – 66 I got into Dylan. Here in Australia all US albums came almost a year after your release dates. Anyway that started a whole life of Bob’s music both listening to it and playing it.

    It might seem strange but my take on all his stuff then and now, is without too much weight to his cross referencing the rest of our cultural milieu. As your guest said he’s taking the piss. All this stuff must just pour off his pen or typewriter.

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