July 22nd, 2013

Detroit: all the way down the Telegraph Road

Detroit’s declaration of bankruptcy has been discussed in countless articles, both the how and the why of it.

One thing nearly everyone agrees on is that it’s been a long time coming. Just how long? Well, if you’d like a musical interlude, just listen to this song “Telegraph Road” by Dire Staits (and read the lyrics).

The song was first performed by its composer Mark Knopfler and the band in March of 1981, thirty-two years ago. Knopfler, who was born in Scotland but grew up in England, reports having written the song during a visit to—of course—the city of Detroit, driving along Telegraph Road and thinking of the rise and fall of the city.

Note in particular the last stanza:

I’ve seen desperation explode into flames
And I don’t want to see it again. . .
From all of these signs saying sorry but we’re closed
All the way down the Telegraph Road.

[NOTE: Cross-posted at Legal Insurrection.]

6 Responses to “Detroit: all the way down the Telegraph Road”

  1. artfldgr Says:

    in the phrase you featured, he is talking about devils night….

  2. eeyore Says:

    Kentucky Fried Movie had a segment on sending a prisoner to Detroit back in 1977. The creators (Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker) for the movie were the same ones who made Airplane! in 1980.

  3. vanderleun Says:


    The big line moved one mile an hour
    So loud it really hurt
    The big line moved so loud
    It really hurt
    Back in ’55
    We were makin’ thunderbirds

    We filled conveyors
    We met production
    Foremen didn’t waste words
    We met production
    Foremen didn’t waste words
    We were young and proud
    We were makin’ thunderbirds

    We were makin’ thunderbirds
    We were makin’ thunderbirds
    They were long and low and sleek and fast
    They were all you ever heard
    Back in ’55
    We were makin’ thunderbirds

    Now the years have flown and the plants have changed
    And you’re lucky if you work
    The big line moves but you’re lucky if you work
    Back in ’55
    We were makin’ thunderbirds

  4. waltj Says:

    Detroit–the city where I was born and spent my childhood–has been a slow-motion train wreck since well before the 1967 riots, basically starting with Jerry Cavanagh’s election as mayor in 1961, and ending with the farce that was “Hip Hop Mayor” (and convict) Kwame Kilpatrick. Current mayor Dave Bing has his work cut out for him.

    Interestingly perhaps, Telegraph Road is not where you’d drive if you wanted to see the advanced stages of urban blight. It meanders through much of southeastern Michigan, but actually crosses into Detroit in the extreme western part of the city for only a mile or so. Once it leaves the city to the north, it crosses into a number of well-off suburbs in Oakland County that have fared rather better than the big city to the south.

  5. P. Aaron Says:

    Drive Woodward Ave south from 8 mile. You’ll within seconds see what once was and what now is. Turn west off on to Boston Blvd. or Chicago. What were once mansions of the producers are reduced to $50k relics. Architecture it would take millions to replicate foundering as nature (and the vandals) take it all back.
    Blight has touched all corners of Detroit. There’s a few good stretches here & there BUT, the stores, streets, neighborhoods and main drags are all abbreviated with destruction. Willfully done or simply nature taking it back.

  6. Steve Says:

    Does George Romney deserve some of the blame for Detroit’s demise? He sought to increase the role and size of government during his tenure as governor of MI. This happened in the early to mid 60s.

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