“Mozambique”

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220px-Mozambique_single_cover

Here is what Wikipedia says about “Mozambique”, the second single from Desire:

“Mozambique” started as a game, to see how many rhymes for “-ique” Dylan and Levy could find.”

I know that one should never doubt the truth as spoken by Wikipedia (especially when that assertion has not corroborating link), but if we take this to be true, we have to believe that Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy, with whom he co-wrote a number of the songs on Desire, are completely useless. “Mozambique” has exactly three rhymes with “ique” in it: cheek, speak, and peak (there are only three verses, plus the bridge). Off the top of my head:

bleak

freak

geek

leak

seek

sheikh (in some pronunciations)

sneak

streak

week or weak

Antique Greek physique with a unique mystique

Seriously wikipedia? Are we supposed to believe your meek squeaks?

I do have to say, “Mozambique” is a really good song, but is a very odd choice of singles from this album. Most of the other songs might get ruled out just for length (“Isis” and “Black Diamond Bay” are both seven minutes, “Romance in Durango” and “Sara” are both over five, and “Joey” is an epic eleven). You don’t follow an epic 8:33 single (“Hurricane”) that did only so-so, with another epic. Desire only has two short songs, this and “One More Cup of Coffee”, which is too slow and dirge-like to be an effective single. So it was sort of a default, I suppose (it also makes the exclusion of the fantastic “Abandoned Love” (released on Biograph in 1985) all the more inexplicable, as that might have been the best choice of a single on the album, had it actually been on the album).

If Dylan and Columbia were backed into a corner with their choice, it doesn’t make it a bad choice. “Mozambique” is one of the very few songs on Desire that I think is at its best on the album version. Almost every other song sounds better in the live versions on Hard Rain or elsewhere on the bootlegs, but “Mozambique” was pretty much nailed in the studio. It is a slightly odd, slightly goofy song. Dylan stopped performing it live after 1976, so it doesn’t really last in his canon of work, but it is thoroughly enjoyable. On this one he doesn’t shriek so there’s no need to tweak the sleek chic single.

Here’s a live version from 1976. Not as good as the album version, but still worth watching if just for the headgear. Sheik chic!:

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