[Slowhand] Re: Electric Dylan

John Mills turbineltd at btconnect.com
Sun Apr 2 08:23:18 EDT 2006

Here's a transcript and walk-through of Dylan's perfomance by NFF director,
Bruce Jackson:

The myth of Newport '65:
It wasn't Bob Dylan they were booing

by Bruce Jackson - August 26, 2002

Bob Dylan performed at the Newport Folk Festival this August 3 and
apparently it went very well. All the articles I've read and reports I've
heard on radio and seen on TV say there was none of the angry booing that so
famously accompanied his 1965 performance, when he appeared on stage with
members of Paul Butterfield's blues band at the Sunday night closing

The July 25, 1965, audience, the story goes, was driven to rage because
their acoustic guitar troubadour had betrayed them by going electric and
plugging in. The booing was so loud that, after the first three electric
songs, Dylan dismissed the band and finished the set with his acoustic

There's a host of other associated narratives about goings-on in the wings:
Pete Seeger and other Newport board directors were so repulsed and enraged
they struggled to kill the electric power; Pete was frenetically looking for
an axe to chop the major power line; people were yelling, screaming, crying,
beating breasts, rending garments. Griel Marcus tells some of those stories
really well at the beginning of his 1998 Dylan book, Invisible Republic.

Great stories. But not one of them is true.

I was one of the directors of the Newport Folk Festival and I was in the
wings during Dylan's Saturday night performance. Every time I heard those
stories retold, I'd say, to whoever was talking,"That's not how I remember
it. Nobody made a move for the power. Nobody took a swing at the sound man.
It wasn't Dylan the audience was booing."

After Dylan's August 3, 2002, concert occasioned all those retellings of the
Legends of 1965, I decided to check both the legend and my memory: I took
down the original tapes made from the stage microphones during that
performance. (I have in my office at UB all of the Newport board's
audiotapes, save some that Peter Yarrow borrowed and, to my knowledge, never
returned, and some that were made for us by a Providence recording company
that shortly thereafter went belly-up and disappeared, along with our
half-inch four-track master tapes.)

The entire event, from the beginning of Peter Yarrow's introduction to the
beginning of Peter's introduction of the next performer, takes 37 minutes.
You can hear the audience very clearly throughout. Yarrow's talk is clear,
the musician's performances are clear, the audience's responses are clear.
No doubt the sound of the people in the front of that great open-air theater
come through more loudly than people far in the back, but there's no reason
to assume that they didn't cheer and boo the same things.

This is what is on the tape, what people on stage, in the wings, and
throughout most of the audience heard:

YARROW: One, two. Can I have some volume on this microphone? Hello. One,
two. Ladies and gentlemen, at this time there's a little microphone setup to
be done. Cousin Emmy's a gas, right?

[laughter, applause]

There's someone that's coming on to the program now, as a matter of fact,
the entire program tonight was designed to be a whole group of small
performances. You know I will be performing later with the group that I'm a
part of, you know. [Yarrow was a member of a pop-folk group named Peter,
Paul & Mary.]

[light applause]

And we are all limited in the time that we can be on stage for a very
specific reason. The concept of the program tonight is to make a program of
many, many different points of view that are together and yet without the
huge expanse of the performing of any group. We will be very limited in time
and so will each person who comes up. The person who's coming up now

[a single note from each string of an electric guitar struck by someone
apparently checking the tuning]

Please don't play right now, gentlemen, for this second. Thank you.

[three more guitar notes]

The person who's coming up now is a person who has in a sense

[two brief bursts of feedback hum]

changed the face of folk music to the large American public because he has
brought to it a point of view of a poet. Ladies and gentlemen, the person
that's going to come up now

[Yarrow pauses a long time, drawing it out; a few hoots at the pause from
the audience]

has a limited amount of time

[very loud booing and yelling, shouts of "No, no, no"]

his name is Bob [pause] Dylan

[enthusiastic and sustained cheering and applause from the audience that had
watched the electric band set up and which was now watching Dylan plug in
his own electric guitar]

[a minute or so of noises of things being moved around, levels checked,
voices talking about where to set things. No hoots, jeers, calls, or yells
from the audience.Minutes 0:00-7.32 on the tape]

DYLAN AND GROUP: "Maggie's Farm,"

[applause, retuning, a voice says "Ready?" a little more tuning, Dylan says
"Okay." 7:32-8:25]

DYLAN AND GROUP: "Rolling Stone" 8:25-14:19

[applause, returning, murmur of musician's voice, 14:19-15:03]

DYLAN AND GROUP: "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, it Takes a Train to Cry,"

[applause, musician's voices saying "Let's go, man, let's go."Sounds of
movement, which I take to be Dylan and the band moving off the stage,
followed by audience yelling "No, no, no." 18:26-18:44]

YARROW: Bobby was


Yes, he will do another tune, I'm sure. We'll call him back. Would you like
Bobby to sing another song? I don't know where he is.

[huge applause, happy yelling. "Yes, yes, yes."]

Listen, it's the fault of the, he was told that he could only do a certain
period of time.

[audience yells]

Bobby, can you do another song, please? He's going to get his axe.

[audience chants: "We want Dylan, we want Dylan."]

He's coming.

[audience continues chanting: "We want Dylan. We want Dylan."]

He's going to get an acoustic guitar.

[audience continues chanting at the same level: "We want Dylan. We want

Bobby's coming out now. Yes, I understand, that's okay. We want Bobby, and
we do. The time problem has meant that he could only do these few songs.
He'll be out as soon as he gets his acoustic guitar.

[audience continues chanting: "We want Dylan. We want Dylan." Then bursts
into enthusiastic applause. 18:44-20:26]

[bit of microphone hum, harmonica testing, Dylan says "Peter, get" then a
few words I can't make out. Tunes guitar. Dylan says, "You got another one?"
A bit more tuning, mumbled conversation, occasional sounds from the audience

DYLAN: "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" 22:42-27:37

[applause 27:37-28:32, someone in the audience yells "Tambourine, Bobby."
Someone else yells, "Tambourine Man." Dylan says, "Okay, I'll do that."
Tunes, fusses. Dylan says, "All right." 29:13]

DYLAN: "Mister Tambourine Man," 29:13-35:29

[applause. Dylan says "Thank you very much." Audience calls "More, more."

YARROW: Bob Dylan, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, Bob. Thank you. The
poet, Bob Dylan. Thank you, Bob. [audience continues applauding through
this.] One, two. One, two. Thank you, Bob. Ladies and gentlemen, the next
group that's coming up

[audience: "No! Bob!" Boos. Rhythmic clapping.]

is the group from which all this music started. You know the tradition of
blues in our country originally came from the African tradition and the
African tradition

[boos and rhythmic clapping continue]

Ladies and gentlemen, Bob can't come back. The African tradition, when it
was brought over originally, was brought over into the deep South, and the
music became, to a large extent

[boos and yells continue]

Ladies and gentlemen, please be considerate of Bobby. He can't come back.
Please don't make it more difficult than it is. (35:40-37:04)

That's what is on the tape made on stage at Newport, Rhode Island, on the
night of July 25, 1965.

Three things stand out:

First, you can hear a lot of individual things yelled by the audience and
the general responses of the audience.

Second, all the booing you can hear from the stage is in response to things
Peter Yarrow said, not to things Bob Dylan did.

Third, it was Peter Yarrow who first started drawing attention to what
guitar Dylan was using. He twice said that he was coming back with an
acoustic guitar, and he stressed it each time. I remember wondering at the
time why Peter was making such a big deal of what instrument Dylan was going
to use.

I've heard people say that Dylan himself gave proof of how upset he was at
the boos when he came back to do those encores with that acoustic guitar
rather than two more electric songs with the Butterfield group. Nonsense:
Dylan and the blues band did three songs together because that was all the
songs they'd prepared to perform together. They hadn't prepared more because
they'd been told beforehand by us Newport board members that three songs was
all they'd be allowed to do.

I know that at some subsequent performances Dylan's electric guitar was
indeed booed by people in the audience. But I've never known if those boos
were from people who were really outraged and affronted at the electric
power or people who read some of the first renderings of the Legend of
Newport '65 and thought that was the way they were supposed to behave to be
cool. After all, by the end of that summer everybody knew Dylan had gone
electric, so why go to a concert if you knew beforehand that you were going
to be unhappy and your ears were going to hurt? Maybe to have a good time,
screaming and yelling, the way kids do.

After listening to the original recording, I can't help but wonder if that
whole short period of public rage at Bob Dylan's electric guitar wasn't just
one more passing fad manufactured out of some warped stories that came out
of a performance that just who was really there-at the time, if not in the
reconstructions of memory-thought was pretty damned fine.

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