Kansas City

Album: Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes (2014)

Songfacts®:

  • Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes is an album produced by T Bone Burnett featuring a collective of musicians recording under the moniker The New Basement Tapes. The record consists of a series of tracks based on lyrics handwritten by Bob Dylan in 1967 during the period in which he created his noted album The Basement Tapes.
  • Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons and Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes wrote the music to Dylan's lyrics for this song. Burnett feels the bittersweet tune was a riposte by Dylan to old associates. "In 1967, he had gone, in five years, from being an obscure folk singer to an international rock 'n' roll icon of the highest magnitude," he explained to The Daily Telegraph. "And, in the process, his original supporters turned on him and it seems like he's saying: 'Just how long can I keep singing the same old song?'"

    "There's a great line: 'You invite me into your house, then you say you got to pay for what you break.' I think that resonated very strongly with Marcus, because he has had a similar trajectory," Burnett added. "He came out of the box very strong, became internationally successful and suffered an extreme backlash. Kansas City is his song as well."
  • Johnny Depp plays guitar on this song. The movie star had gone down to watch the rehearsals at Los Angeles' Capitol Studios, visiting his friend Burnett. However Depp ended up filling in for Elvis Costello on one recording session as the Brit had a previously scheduled gig with The Roots in Las Vegas.
  • Asked if Bob Dylan took an active interest in The New Basement Tapes album, T Bone Burnett told Uncut: "He just left us to it. He was mixing his own record in the next room at the same time, so he was there as a presence for us, but he didn't intrude at all. I think he was happy to let us have our own way with this stuff. I've had feedback since it's been finished, and it's been very positive."
  • Marcus Mumford told Mojo magazine: "There's so many lines that just couldn't be written by anyone else other than him (Dylan). It was also fun to take a bit of a liberty with them as well. I probably did it a bit more than anyone else. It got to the point when I was trying to write songs around these lyrics and it felt like I needed another verse, so I dipped into one of the other songs and nicked what I thought was a relevant lyric."

    "So 'Kansas City,' for example, the last verse of that song is stolen from another song we had. I was just reading through the lyrics and I thought, 'Ooh, that works.' So I asked T Bone and he said, 'We can do whatever we want, man,' in true T Bone style."

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