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Played by Bob Weir with the Grateful Dead from the mid-1980s, as well as with Ratdog and Weir/Wasserman.

(1) this line is as Weir sings it (and as on the 'official' Dylan lyrics). But I recently heard Chris Smither do a great (if truncated) version where he sang "... you're in the wrong play my friend" which is a great variant.

(2) Bob Weir misses out this verse on the version on "Postcards Of The Hanging." He includes it on the version on "Downhill From Here" - but note that in the original Dylan version it's the third verse not the fifth. Thanks to Tim Cahalane for clearing this up for me.

Lyrics By
Bob Dylan
Music By
Bob Dylan
Lyrics

They're selling postcards of the hanging
They're painting the passports brown
The beauty parlor's filled with sailors
The circus is in town
In walks 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

Now 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 walks Romeo, he's moaning
"You belong to me I believe"
And someone says, "You're in the wrong place, my friend (note 1)
You better leave"
And the only sound that you can hear
After the ambulances go
Is Cinderella sweeping up
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 gaze is fixed upon
Noah's great rainbow
She spend her time peeking in
On 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

Now the moon is almost hidden (note 2)
The stars are beginning to hide
The fortune telling lady
Has already 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

Doctor Filth, he keeps his world
Inside of a leather cup
And all his sexless patients
They're all 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 the penny whistle
You can hear them blow
If you lean your head out far enough
On Desolation Row

Across the street they've nailed the curtains
They're getting ready for the feast
The Phantom of the Opera
In the 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 out of 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
They go and round up everyone
That knows more than they do
They take them to the facory
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
Make sure nobody is escaping
To Desolation Row

Praise be to Nero's Neptune
The Titanic sails at dawn
Everybody's shouting
"Which side are you on?"
And Ezra Pound and T.S.Eliot
They're fighting in the captain's tower
While calypso singers laugh at them
And fishermen throw flowers
Between the windows of the sea
Where lovely mermaids flow
And no one has to think too much
About Desolation Row

Yes I received your letter yesterday
About the time the doorknob broke
When you asked how I was doing
Was that some kind of joke?
All these people that you mentioned
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 so good
Don't send me no more letters, no
Not unless you mail them
From Desolation Row

  • Desolation Row
    Lyrics By:
    Music By:

    They're selling postcards of the hanging
    They're painting the passports brown
    The beauty parlor's filled with sailors
    The circus is in town
    In walks 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

    Now 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 walks Romeo, he's moaning
    "You belong to me I believe"
    And someone says, "You're in the wrong place, my friend (note 1)
    You better leave"
    And the only sound that you can hear
    After the ambulances go
    Is Cinderella sweeping up
    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 gaze is fixed upon
    Noah's great rainbow
    She spend her time peeking in
    On 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

    Now the moon is almost hidden (note 2)
    The stars are beginning to hide
    The fortune telling lady
    Has already 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

    Doctor Filth, he keeps his world
    Inside of a leather cup
    And all his sexless patients
    They're all 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 the penny whistle
    You can hear them blow
    If you lean your head out far enough
    On Desolation Row

    Across the street they've nailed the curtains
    They're getting ready for the feast
    The Phantom of the Opera
    In the 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 out of 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
    They go and round up everyone
    That knows more than they do
    They take them to the facory
    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
    Make sure nobody is escaping
    To Desolation Row

    Praise be to Nero's Neptune
    The Titanic sails at dawn
    Everybody's shouting
    "Which side are you on?"
    And Ezra Pound and T.S.Eliot
    They're fighting in the captain's tower
    While calypso singers laugh at them
    And fishermen throw flowers
    Between the windows of the sea
    Where lovely mermaids flow
    And no one has to think too much
    About Desolation Row

    Yes I received your letter yesterday
    About the time the doorknob broke
    When you asked how I was doing
    Was that some kind of joke?
    All these people that you mentioned
    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 so good
    Don't send me no more letters, no
    Not unless you mail them
    From Desolation Row

    Played by Bob Weir with the Grateful Dead from the mid-1980s, as well as with Ratdog and Weir/Wasserman.

    (1) this line is as Weir sings it (and as on the 'official' Dylan lyrics). But I recently heard Chris Smither do a great (if truncated) version where he sang "... you're in the wrong play my friend" which is a great variant.

    (2) Bob Weir misses out this verse on the version on "Postcards Of The Hanging." He includes it on the version on "Downhill From Here" - but note that in the original Dylan version it's the third verse not the fifth. Thanks to Tim Cahalane for clearing this up for me.