The Dark End of the Street
|"The Dark End of the Street"|
|Single by James Carr|
|from the album You Got My Mind Messed Up|
History and original recording
The song was co-written by Penn, a professional songwriter and producer, and Moman, a former session guitarist at Phil Spector's Gold Star Studio, and also was the owner of American Sound Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. The song itself was ultimately recorded across town at Royal Studios, home of HI Records.
In the summer of 1966, while a DJ convention was being held in Memphis, Penn and Moman were cheating while playing cards with Florida DJ Don Schroeder, and decided to write the song while on a break. Penn said of the song “We were always wanting to come up with the best cheatin’ song. Ever.” The duo went to the hotel room of Quinton Claunch, another Muscle Shoals alumnus, and founder of Hi Records, to write. Claunch told them, "Boys, you can use my room on one condition, which is that you give me that song for James Carr. They said I had a deal, and they kept their word.” The song, lyrics and all, was written in about thirty minutes.
The song is the lament from an adulterer to his illicit lover, told from the adulterer's point of view. According to the lyrics, they continue their sins, "hiding in shadows where [they] don't belong" because their "love keeps coming on strong." At the climax of the song, the narrator fears "they're gonna find us some day."
The song was originally recorded by soul artist James Carr. The song became his most popular, reaching number 10 on Billboard Magazine's Black Singles Chart, and crossing over to number 77 on the Pop chart.
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