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The Bob Dylan fan favourite featuring Eric Clapton

Taken at face value, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton are very different. Whilst musically they are very similar in that they are both hailed as two of the greatest of all time, in terms of disposition and outlook, they couldn’t be further from each other. 

Dylan is the successor to Woody Guthrie, a master of the protest song, a poet who has invariably supported progressive causes since he first broke through in the early ’60s. He possesses a sharp intellect like no other, and his songs are coloured by a universal appeal and a timeless essence, teaching us lessons that we refuse to heed at our peril.

As for Clapton, he’s one of the best guitar players of all time, there can be no denying it. An ardent student of the early blues, he created a sound that was utterly refreshing and makes a solid claim to being the first true shredder. His blues-infused licks took the six-string to another level, and without his contributions, the craft would be a completely different beast from what it is today. 

However, over the years, Clapton has shown himself to be a curmudgeon and the antithesis of Dylan’s school of thought. Whether it be his contemporary stance on Covid-19 or his violently racist outburst during a performance in 1976, personally, Clapton and Dylan couldn’t be further from each other.

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Therefore, it may come as a surprise to you to find out that the pair have collaborated on a handful of occasions over the years and that Clapton actually features on one of Dylan’s best-loved songs. 

The album was 1976’s Desire, and the song was ‘Romance in Durango’. However, it was not straightforward, and the recording environment proved to be something of a challenge for Clapton, as he was used to the recording process being an exclusive experience for the musicians only. 

Per an account by Dylan’s bassist Rob Stoner, they could barely fit everyone that was invited by Dylan into the studio, as there were so many of them. Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2016, he said: “They had opened up all the adjacent studios to accommodate all these hangers-on and buffet tables”.

According to Stoner, in the summer 1975 sessions for Desire, it wasn’t just musicians but groupies that led to this competition for space. For ‘Romance in Durango’, over 20 performers and vocalists are listed on the credits, indicating just how many people were floating around the recording sessions on a daily basis. 

The song features legends such as Emmylou Harris on harmony vocals and Scarlet Rivera on violin, but without a doubt, the most prominent name on the credits is Clapton, who was one of five guitarists to play on the track. The sessions were so disorganised that it was not an experience that Clapton forgot. 

Clapton recalled the chaotic feel of those sessions years later. “Dylan was trying to […] make music with new people,” he explained. “He was just driving around, picking musicians up and bringing them back to the sessions.” It also emerged that Dylan only invited Rivera to the fold after bumping into her walking down the street with a violin case, which says it all.

Listen to ‘Romance in Durango’ below. 

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