Dave's Music Database books

Friday, May 17, 2013

Bob Dylan goes electric: May 17, 1966

image from musicqwest.com

“The most famous bootleg in rock history, with the possible exception of Dylan’s own Basement Tapes.” AMG This “is a great performance from one of the most important performers of our time.” NO The album didn’t receive an official release until 32 years later when it was released in 1998 as part of Dylan’s Bootleg Series. However, “Dylan's performance at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall on May 17, 1966 (and the bootlegs that followed) set the music world on its ear.” NO

The show is often misidentified as being at the Royal Albert Hall – hence the title in quotes on the official release. That show, on May 26, was one of the final shows from the same tour. “The one thing you can't argue is the significance of this tour; and more importantly, this particular show.” NO

The first half featured Dylan in a solo acoustic performance. “He was in fine form and turned in a gripping solo performance. The audience was ultra quiet during the seven songs. They had heard most of them several times before. It was familiar territory. They were comfortable.” NO

The second half, however, is electric set in which he is accompanied by The Hawks, who later became The Band. “The crowd had no idea that what they were about to experience would change the face of rock music as they knew it.” NO Dylan fans were dismayed by what they viewed as a betrayal of traditional folk music as evidenced by the legendary moment when a heckler yells “Judas!” Another man shouts, “I’m never listening to you again, ever!” to which Dylan responds, “I don’t believe you” and “You’re a liar.” Then either Dylan or guitarist Robbie Robertson can be heard instructing the band to “play it fucking loud.” WK “Drummer Mickey Jones slams his snare like his life depended on it, and they kick into the best version of Like a Rolling Stone you’ve ever heard.” NO Film footage of the incident was found and used in Martin Scorsese’s 2005 documentary No Direction Home.

The Famous Heckling Incident

Sometime in late 1970 or early 1971, the electric portion of the show started surfacing on bootleg LPs. Dave Marsh reviewed it in Creem magazine, calling it “the most supremely elegant piece of rock ‘n’ roll music I’ve ever heard.” WK All Music Guide’s Richie Unterberger called it “an important document of rock history. It captures…Dylan…at his most controversial and hard rocking.” AMG Critic Jon Landau notes “the booing, the names, the insults he endured just to be standing there with an electric band…The audience claps at the wrong time, claps rhythmically as if to deliberately throw his timing off.” WK

While the bootlegs focused on the electric set, the official package is a two-CD set which “not only includes the eight electric rock songs from the original bootleg, but also the seven solo acoustic performances that comprised the first half of the show.” AMG “The acoustic disc is not as epochal, but on par with the electric half in the quality of material and performance.” AMG “It’s all in very good fidelity, about as good as any copies you could find through unofficial sources.” AMG This isn’t “just an interesting adjunct to Dylan’s ‘60s discography; it’s as worthy of attention as anything else he recorded during that decade.” AMG “Even if you’re not a Dylan fan, this CD is an essential part of any collection.” NO


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