Something's Burning, Baby

2002-08-09, Harbour Station, Saint John, NB

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I started collecting Bob Dylan bootlegs in the mid-2000s. That was peak CD-R era. The internet was just fast enough to connect fans to each other - the days of some record store owner surreptitiously pulling the bootlegs box out from behind the counter had passed - but not yet fast enough to share the music itself. So, for several years, I found myself at the post office once or twice a week mailing off burned CDs and, hopefully, picking up some in return.

As my collection grew from trading with fans around the world, I kept them meticulously organized - first in jewel cases and, then, when the quantity made that impractical, in paper sleeves (the two CDs placed label to label, of course, to avoid scratches). In each case, I would print out the fan-created art, making sure it was exactly the proper CD size, and dutifully paperclip it to the sleeve. Several dusty boxes still sit in my parents' house. It’s a collection painstakingly amassed over years that you could now download in an afternoon. I doubt the CDs even still play.

I didn't have today’s show at the time, but I wish I had, merely for that cover art. It strikes me as a pure embodiment of this era, and of fan art in general. The concept is half-assed at best. The Photoshop skills are just good enough to pull it off, but not so good they make it look anything other than amateur. The artist, who went by Scouser Art, did covers for every show on this 2002 tour. Bob played six shows in Canada this week. You better believe Scouser used this same Canadian-flag Photoshop job for each one.

This is, sadly, a lost art. As those of you who download the shows here may have noticed, I try to embed an album cover in each one. I'm not burning them onto CDs anymore, and I expect most of you aren't either - though if you are, more power to you! - but even in iTunes, a bunch of unidentified grey squares looks terrible and quickly becomes impossible to navigate. Unfortunately, I don't see much fan-created cover art for new shows. Not only that, but as forums die and fansites disappear, much of the fan-created CD art from even a decade ago has vanished. (Shoutout to whoever keeps Dusty Old Fairground’s server bills paid, even though it stopped updating 16 years ago and many of the artwork links have gone dead.)

There used to be a guy who went by stewArt. When I started collecting CD-Rs, he did art for every show. For years. It was very distinctive; he always used the same layout, font, amateur Photoshop skills, and usually a photo of the show’s location, rather than of Bob himself. I'm sure I have a bunch of his stuff printed out in my parents’ house. But you can't find it online. I tried a while back, too, asked around a bit. Turned out he passed away unexpectedly some years back. Now the hundreds of hours of work he surely put into these CD covers has left no record online. A double tragedy. Here's a vintage stewArt sample I still have saved from a show I was at:

Fan art generally has been written about some, but I'd love to see an article or book about this amateur CD-R cover artists. The fact that they did it for no money probably goes without saying, but they did it for no credit either. Most of them didn't use their real names. It's just one small example of something beautiful about the early-2000s internet, fans helping each other just for the sake of it. Now a lot of that entry-level-Photoshop energy goes to making memes about Pizzagate.

So pour one out for stewArt, Scouser, and all the other pseudonymous fans spending hours at Photoshop to ensure that every 2000s-era show had its own endearingly janky CD cover. Or, better yet, download this show, burn a couple CD-Rs, print out the cover art (at 4.75 inches x 4.75 inches of course), grab a jiffy mailer, and mail a little package of bootleg Bob someone who might like it. You could even include a personal note recommending a track or two. My pick: the first acoustic "Man in the Long Black Coat." Check out the line reading on "every man's conscience is vile and depraved."

For anyone so inclined, I'll even include a FLAC version. The CD-trading internet was generous and benevolent, but heaven help you if you started burning MP3s…

2002-08-09, Harbour Station, Saint John, NB 
* MP3s for the newbs
* FLAC for the traders

Find the index to all shows covered so far in this newsletter here.


PRE-ORDER MY UPCOMING 33 1/3 BOOK 'I'M YOUR FAN: THE SONGS OF LEONARD COHEN':
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*** More info on the book here… ***

I know you’re an artist, draw a picture of me

1997-08-07, Molson Amphitheatre, Toronto, Canada

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Another guest comic today from the archives of graphic artist Sam Hester. In the late 1990s and 2000s, she spent time following the Never Ending Tour. After each concert, she illustrated her experiences. Her whimsical comics mix recaps of the shows themselves with stories of her own always-lively experiences at them. We re-published one with her gracious permission two months ago. Here’s another:

1997-08-07, Molson Amphitheatre, Toronto, Canada

Sam has since turned her talent into a career as a “graphic recorder,” creating illustrations for conferences, meetings, speeches, etc. Find out more at the23rdstory.com and her Twitter.

Find the index to all shows covered so far in this newsletter here.

A Secret Chord

1988-08-04, Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, CA

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One month from - [checks calendar, tries to remember what day it is] - yesterday, my second book will be released. Though the book's subject isn't Bob Dylan precisely, he comes up once or twice. Or maybe more than that:

(Take that, Eagles-comma-The!)

The book is my entry in the 33 1/3 series of small books about one classic album. Though "about" can be a loose term with these, and certainly is in my case. I take my album as an entry point to write about a whole lot more. The album I chose: 1991's I'm Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen.

As you might guess from that title - or from the subtitle, really - I’m Your Fan is a tribute album. One of the most important tribute albums ever, for reasons I'll get to in a minute. But also a good example of the tribute-album format more broadly, which the book is about as much as it is this specific album. I interviewed the musicians who performed on tribute albums and the producers who curated them - including the late, great Hal Willner, who essentially invented the format, though he'd claim otherwise. (His first words when I called him up to talk tribute albums: "Is it all my fault?" RIP Hal.)

No artist has been tribute-albumed more than Bob Dylan. That's what a lot of those indexed page numbers refer to. A Dylan tribute album is responsible for Mark Knopfler's sublime "Restless Farewell." A Dylan tribute album is also responsible for My Chemical Romance's unlistenable "Desolation Row." And, get this, both of those come from the same tribute album (2010's hit-and-mostly-miss Amnesty benefit Chimes of Freedom). So it often goes with tribute albums. It’s not a format known for consistency.

But there's another reason Dylan comes up in my book - which, have I mentioned, is available for pre-order now? - and it gets us to today's show. Twice in 1988 (this Los Angeles show is the second), Bob Dylan covered the Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah."

Big deal, right? Everyone has covered the Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah." And, let's talk straight, most of them did it better than Bob. Had he covered the song in recent years, with his Sinatra-rejuvenated voice and versatile backing band, that could have been something. But 1988, a year of hoarse shouting and punk banging, was about the worst time in his career to sing a song like "Hallelujah."

The reason it matters though is that year: 1988. I'd known Dylan's two raggedy "Hallelujah" covers for years, but hadn't appreciated the chronology until beginning my research (shoutout to Alan Light's great book on the entire history of the song). Dylan didn't cover "Hallelujah" after it had become such a cliche that even Cohen was saying in interviews, hey, cool it with “Hallelujah.” Dylan covered "Hallelujah" when no one was covering "Hallelujah."

Dylan was not only the first major artist to cover "Hallelujah," he was one of the first people to even hear "Hallelujah." Cohen recalled the two sitting in a café in Paris, likely in July 1984, six months before he released the song. The two great songwriters traded lyrics. Cohen sang "Hallelujah" to him. Dylan gave him a little "I and I."

When Cohen's album with "Hallelujah" came out, his label famously didn't even release it in the states. The whole story is too long to get into here, but suffice to say that "secret chord" might have stayed a little too secret for Leonard’s liking. Dylan covering it four years later was one of the first indications that "Hallelujah" might actually be as good a song as Leonard had thought. “Everybody’s interested in Dylan, but it’s pleasant to have Dylan interested in me," Cohen said with characteristic modesty. 

Which brings us to my book. Dylan's two "Hallelujah" covers, touched though Leonard might have been by them, didn't appreciably alter the song's obscurity. The artist that set "Hallelujah" on its path to current ubiquity wasn't Bob Dylan. It was John Cale. And it happened on I'm Your Fan.

The rest is a story for another place. A book, perhaps. And if you like this newsletter, I hope you'll consider checking it out. It comes out September 3 and is available to pre-order at the links below (and here's my first book, which also features a lot of Dylan content, if you're curious). 

PRE-ORDER 'I'M YOUR FAN': 
Bloomsbury | Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes and Noble | Bookshop

1988-08-04, Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, CA

Find the index to all shows covered so far in this newsletter here.

The Rarest Setlist of the NET

1989-07-29, Kingswood Music Theatre, Maple, ON

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Some years back, Dylan superfan Marcel Levesque set out to analytically determine the Never Ending Tour show with the "rarest" setlist. His methodology: He put a point value on every song in a show, based on how many times it has ever been played, added them all up, and divided that by the total number of songs in a show. Like golf, the show with the lowest number wins. He didn't do this with every Never Ending Tour show (he'd probably still be at it), but with every one that seemed an obvious contender.

The winner: September 23, 1995, at The Edge in Fort Lauderdale.

But wait! That doesn’t really count as a regular show. It was set up as a private rehearsal in front of an invite-only audience (similar to Toad's Place five years prior, which would also surely rank high under this system). Moreover, it was Dylan's first show since Jerry Garcia's death the month prior, and Dylan used the show as a wake of sorts, with a lot of one-off Dead covers.

So, for the purposes of finding the rarest normal show, forget that. In Marcel's analysis, what came in as the regular, random, run-of-the-mill tour stop with the rarest set list?

July 29, 1989 at Kingswood Music Theatre in Maple, Ontario.

This information will immediately set a certain kind of fan salivating. But let me dry those mouths up front. Levesque, as it happens, lives in Toronto, and attended that show. His review? "The worst Dylan show I've ever attended."

Guess the set list isn't everything.

About that set list. Three of its fifteen songs are ones Bob has played less than ten times ever: Shot of Love deep cut "Trouble" to open plus two covers: Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain" and Ernest Tubb's "Hey La La." Having 20% of the show be such obscurities alone might have pushed this atop Marcel’s ranking, but adding not-that-rare-but-still-rare-enough songs "Tears of Rage" and "Gates of Eden" surely clinched it.

The jam band world has a term I don't see used around Dylan much: a "bust out." The concept being that Phish or the Dead or whoever "busted out" a song that hadn't been played in X number of shows. Yes, they count exactly; some even used to make banners: "125 shows since a 'Dark Star' or whatever. 

Side note: As not a big jam band guy, I Googled to make sure I was remembering the term correctly. The first relevant thing that pops up is a lengthy Phish fan forum thread trying to precisely define what qualifies. They never reach a consensus, and it soon devolves into discussion of a topless girl seen at a recent show. That’s a different type of "bust out."

I've never seen Dylan fans count "bust out"s to a Deadhead's letter of precision (nor do I have much evidence of the other type of bust out at a Dylan show - unless you count the '80s when Bob left his shirts a little too unbuttoned), but we certainly fetishize rarity. 

Or we did, at least. That method of Dylanology has gotten a little harder in recent years as Dylan's setlists became static. Some tours he'll still surprise with an obscure song the first night - but then he’ll play it every night until it's as un-rare as a Donald Trump steak. There's a rather obvious upside there: He learns to play a rare song well.

One night in 2013, he "busted out" 2002's Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood soundtrack song "Waiting for You," a song even hardcore fans had all but forgotten (to be fair, it is somewhat forgettable). Then he proceeded to play it for over 150 concerts in a row. It was a lot less surprising by show 150. But it probably sounded better than it did on night one too.

Back to this '89 show. In what august chamber did he perform this set full of cool rarities? An amusement park. Canada's Wonderland, specifically. To be fair, it was in a theater at the amusement park - I don't think the crowd was getting soaked by Splash Mountain mid-song - but still. The ticket notes that if you want to hit the rides before Bob, a separate park admission fee is required. A day of fun and sun at the amusement park followed by a show from 1989-era Dylan - now that's a real roller coaster! (oof sorry)

Though the performance doesn't meet the promise of the setlist, I still enjoyed it more than I expected after reading Marcel's review. True, Bob in 1989 isn't going to win any awards for nuanced vocal delivery. What's that line about how Tom Waits sounds like he swallowed a pack of razor blades? Bob sounds like he already did that, and is now in the process of burping them all back up. But his raggedy band matches that energy. The early Never Ending Tour shows are the closest Bob has ever come to fronting a garage band on the road. And if the bootleg sounds like it was recorded in an actual garage, so much the better.

Marcel came around too. In his book Confessions of a Dylanomaniac (a fun self-published Dylan-memoir-slash-travelogue), he writes “in retrospect, it was a Class A setlist, and the performances were not as bad as I’d thought, though we were in the danger zone with ‘tightrope’ Bob at this time.” Still, not exactly a ringing endorsement. A cool setlist can get you far, but rarity isn't everything.

1989-07-29, Kingswood Music Theatre, Maple, ON

Find the index to all shows covered so far in this newsletter here.

"That boy is really destructive"

1965-07-25, Newport Folk Festival, Newport, RI

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"Bobby Dillon came on stage all in motorcycle black, in front of a very bad, very loud, electric r-r band. 16,000 people had come to hear him. He walked off stage after four numbers, no word of which could be understood, to one single hand-clap of applause. The audience sat there terrified and silent. He walked off slumped like a dead man… George Wein shooed him back on stage with an acoustic guitar, then he spent ten horrifying minutes changing guitars, hunting for his old harmonica, tuning up, while 16,000 people watched in horrified fascination… He more or less killed the festival. Pete resigned from the board. That boy is really destructive." - Alan Lomax

"I ran to hide my eyes and ears because I could not bear either the screaming of the crowd nor some of the most destructive music this side of Hell." - Pete Seeger

Has any five-song performance been analyzed as much as Dylan '65? It’s like the musical Zapruder film. There are multiple books about it, and several documentaries too. I don't have anything to say that hasn't been said many times before.

But I do have a question: Why did they boo?

I don't mean, why did people get upset? The various reasons have been endlessly debated. People hated rock and roll and/or it was too loud and/or they couldn't make out the lyrics and/or they could and they weren’t political enough and/or he didn't talk to the audience and/or they were mad he didn't play for longer. Etc.

However, no matter how much I've read about it or listened to the recording, the booing itself remains hard to understated. 

If I hated someone's music at a festival, I'd leave the show, go grab a beer, wander elsewhere, or maybe just make snide remarks to my friends (these days "look at my phone" would be a strong contender too). Plenty of ways to ignore unpleasant music. I just can't imagine literally booing. Sure, if someone was actually saying something offensive - spouting neo-Nazi slogans from the stage - but just because I didn't like the music? Why?

And make no mistake, people booed. There is, again, debate about how widespread it was, and the reasons behind it, but no one disputes that some people in the audience, for some reason, sat there booing as loud as they could.

So rather than analyzing Dylan's three electric songs for the ten millionth time, I thought it might be interesting to zoom out. What else had Newport '65 attendees been hearing that day? What earlier sounds might have set the context for this level of outrage? 

So I wanted to listen to every other set that occurred Sunday, July 25, 1965. I found recordings scattered across compilation LPs and CDs. Where I couldn't find any trace of someone’s actual Newport set, I researched who they were and what they likely sounded like on stage that summer. 

One caveat: Scheduling at Newport was subject to last-minute changes. I did my best to figure out who actually played when (aided in part by Elijah Wald's essential book Dylan Goes Electric), but records differ and memories have grown fuzzy with time.

Perhaps this will help me, and anyone else who remains a little mystified by the sheer level of the crowd reaction, understand how Bob's performance might have struck folk fans there that day.

*** First Show: Gospel in the Morning ***

The day started with a gospel concert at 10am, which I'm largely skipping here because A) it mostly featured performers from elsewhere in the festival, B) there are few recordings, and C) attendance was reportedly small, so it doesn't further my goal of getting into the mindset of the Newport masses later in the day. That said, gospel performances from Son House and the Rev. Gary Davis sound like they would have been great! More folkies should have gotten up early. 

There also aren’t many recordings from this morning show. The Chambers Brothers I know for sure comes from this; the other three below might be from their other sets that weekend:

*** Second Show: "New Folks" Showcase in the Afternoon ***

The second of the three big shows on Sunday - and the first with a sizeable crowd - came in the afternoon, with the so-called "New Folks" showcase. This was Peter Yarrow's baby, and he pops up throughout. A grumpy Village Voice reviewer wrote that, of the five official concerts throughout the weekend, this was the only good one. Seven thousand fans were here by then - it was reported as the biggest afternoon-show crowd ever - so let's see what they saw that whetted their appetites - or sharpened their knives - before the evening's events.

Listening to the opening set by father and son fiddle duo Lue & Byrone Berline, you get an immediate taste of why someone who had come to Newport for this might not want electric-Bob. New performers in the “New Folk” showcase, maybe, but some very old sounds. That's no slight to them - they're excellent, and the four songs I found make me wish I had the whole set - but old-timey fiddle music doesn't exactly scream "the future." At this festival, Bill Monroe invited Byron to join his band, and Byron would later record "Turkey Chase" with Dylan for the Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid soundtrack.

* Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers were a square dancing troupe formed in 1962. They had been a hit at Newport '64, performing to live music from Pete and Mike Seeger (this video comes from that '64 set), so they returned for a few appearances this year. The paper called them the "personification of vigorous youth." I'd call them an extremely square dancing troupe, if you catch my drift.

I only know the Charles River Valley Boys for their fun bluegrass-Beatles covers record, but that wouldn't come out until the following year. No sign they played any Beatles tunes at Newport, sadly. Seems like mostly old-time and gospel songs. Again - and this is going to be a trend throughout the afternoon - it's funny to imagine this sound being presented among the hot young things.

Folk singer Hamilton Camp had early-'60s success as a duo with Bob Gibson (they appeared at Newport 1960) and was trying to go solo around this time. His debut solo album the previous year, Paths of Victory, had featured seven Dylan covers. Six were songs Bob had not yet released himself, facilitated by Camp's manager Albert Grossman. A classic Grossman move, shifting songs from one client to another while pocketing his cut on both ends. Camp seemed to be trying to follow directly in Bob-circa-1962's footsteps; his album cover even looks like a swarthier Dylan with a better guitar. He tried it a few years too late, perhaps; a solo performing career never took off. However, his song "Pride of Man," off that same album, got covered by Gordon Lightfoot (Grossman's work again, no doubt - he also managed him), Gram Parsons, and Quicksilver Messenger Service.

Another hotly-tipped Elektra folk act that never really happened, Kathy & Carol were Kathleen Larisch and Carol McComb. Peter Stampfel of Holy Modal Rounders called them "light years ahead of any girl duo I have ever heard anywhere." Like Camp, though, getting booked at Newport '65 seems to be the peak of their moment. Their set may have done them no favors (though it sounds awful purty on the recording; I hear a little Roches and Sandy Denny). "Cathy [sic] and Carol went by almost unnoticed, because their music is soft-sell, and soft-sell cannot compete with the Chambers Brothers," wrote one Broadside reviewer. Apparently, other than their 1965 album that went nowhere, this Newport recording was the only other track ever officially released.

Has Bob known bluesman "Spider" John Koerner longer than anyone else on the bill? They met back in Minneapolis, before Bob even got to New York, and performed together often. At one point Bob recorded a tape for John to pass along to Odetta (wonder what ever happened to it). Bob writes about John extensively in Chronicles

With my newly learned repertoire, I then went further up the street and dropped into the Ten O’Clock Scholar, a Beat coffeehouse. I was looking for players with kindred pursuits. The first guy I met in Minneapolis like me was sitting around in there. It was John Koerner and he also had an acoustic guitar with him. Koerner was tall and thin with a look of perpetual amusement on his face. We hit it off right away. We already knew a few of the same songs like “Wabash Cannonball” and “Waiting for a Train.” Koerner had just gotten out of the Marine Corps, was an aeronautical engineering student. He was from Rochester, New York, already married and had gotten into folk music a couple of years earlier than me, learned a lot of songs off of a guy named Harry Webber-mostly street ballads. But he played a lot of blues type stuff, too, traditional barroom kind of things. We sat around and I played my Odetta songs and a few by Leadbelly, whose record I had heard earlier than Odetta. John played “Casey Jones,” “Golden Vanity”-he played a lot of ragtime style stuff, things like “Dallas Rag.” When he spoke he was soft spoken, but when he sang he became a field holler shouter. Koerner was an exciting singer, and we began playing a lot together. 

Two songs seem to survive from Koerner’s Sunday Newport set, one with harmonica player Tony Glover, who also played with Bob in Minneapolis (and is responsible for some of the first Dylan recordings). It's Delta blues, but as from the Delta as the Mississippi River gets. From the laughs during a charmingly ramshackle "Duncan and Brady," he appeared the have the crowd eating out of his hand.

Mark Spoelstra knew Dylan almost as long as Spider John had, playing regularly with a new-to-NYC Dylan in '61. That famous photo of baby-Bob playing in a stairwell with another guy? That's Mark. After recording a couple albums for Folkways, though, his career took a detour: He received a draft notice. Rather than enlist, he signed up as a conscience objector and worked as a social worker in California from 1963-65 - making him a relatively early adopter to the "conscience objector" move, as liner notes for a reissue point out. Apparently he was always ahead of the curve; previewing the festival, Broadside noted that "As a teenager, Mark had his own jug band, several years ahead of the jug band boom," which I mostly note because I laughed aloud reading the phrase "the jug band boom."

Newport '65 appears to mark his re-emergence of sorts, promoting his first Elektra album Five & Twenty Questions. According to those same liner notes, it got a song-by-song review from John Lennon, who scrawled insights like "good vocal sounds—cozy" and "very hillbilly, folksy, Hank Williams sound." Hank Williams seems a bit of a grand name to throw at what sounds to me like a run-of-the-mill '60s folkie album. "Phil Ochs with worse songs" would have been my scrawl. If Newport '65 was part of his grand comeback, it seems mostly lost to history, earning only this review from the local paper: "early protest music of a generational, rather than political, slant" (heh?). No recording, but here's something from that album he was promoting:

Going into Newport '65, one might have expected The Chambers Brothers to emerge as the breakout story. They had not yet released an album, but these four sons of a Baptist minister were personally boosted by Pete Seeger. They even got Joan Baez up on stage during this set, to duet on "Just A Closer Walk With Thee." Maybe most of note: they performed in a full electric setup - drums, bass, guitars - to no obvious controversy. The Providence Journal noted that, had they not been at a folk festival, this "would have at be described as rock 'n' roll." The heavy gospel influence, coupled with the fact that few knew who they were, may have let them skate away from controversy.

Fun fact: They also were the band playing at the artists' afterparty later that night. That's the one where, when asked to dance by Maria Muldaur, Dylan uttered his famous response, "I would dance with you, Maria, but my hands are on fire." Better luck next time, Chambers Brothers.

Another in that "then-promising newcomer whose career never really went anywhere" category (sensing a trend?), Patrick Sky was a new signee to Vanguard, the semi-official label of Newport Folk. Like Camp, if he'd come along just a few years earlier, he might have been a star, but this old-time political music was already on the way out. Judging from the one song we have from his set, he's pretty funny and engaging, with a lighter touch than so many of the Serious. Artists. here. He did later produce several Mississippi John Hurt albums, and apparently built his own bagpipes - sadly not present on this recording.

Gordon Lightfoot needs no introduction now, but he did at Newport '65, performing before he'd even released a record. He was so young he hadn't even grown his facial hair yet. Folkie favorites Ian and Sylvia had released the first version of "Early Morning Rain" a few months prior, though, so he was pegged as one to watch. Doubly so because he was represented by Grossman. Guess who else Grossman managed? Ian & Sylvia. No recording from the set - bummer - so let's skip many years forward to an extremely 1980s Bob inducting Gordon into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

The big news of the afternoon set came from Mimi & Dick Fariña. Bob-bestie Dick apparently had planned Newport as the duo's big break. Dick even announcing the duo's signing to Grossman Management in the festival program. Know who else learned about it there? Mimi. 

Sure enough, this set did become the talk of the festival, though not for any reason Dick could have stage-managed. A torrential downpour began partway through. The Newport Daily News used up half its review on this:

Pelting rain at the height of the afternoon Festival concerts yesterday failed to dampen the ardor of some 7,000 fans, who proved their enthusiasm is not just a fair weather affair.

The largest crowd to attend any afternoon concert just sat there and let themselves be drenched - completely absorbed in the music of Mimi and Dick Farina.

Mimi, talented sister of Joan Baez, who sings and plays guitar, and her husband, who plays the dulcimer with extraordinary effect [note: the scan is grainy and it almost reads "with extraordinary effort," which would be a wonderfully dry burn], just moved a little to the rear of the stage and kept singing.

The Farinas, even without their indifference to the downpour, would have been among the smash successes of the concert. 

Mimi's voice is so much like Joan's that when the Folk Queen herself joined them to sing "Birmingham Sunday," the two were like one voice singing two parts. The Farinas also were assisted by Sebastian Dangerfield on the tub [the tub?] and Bruce Langhorn, Odetta's accompanist, the "tambourine king."

Looking back later, Joe Boyd, who ran sound at Newport (and would soon become famous in his own right recording Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, and early Pink Floyd), said, "The images that would become rock festival clichés in the ensuing years - young girls in flimsy tops made transparent by the rain; mud staining the faces of ecstatically grinning kids - made some of their earliest appearances during the Fariñas’ set that afternoon." And Pete Seeger, unaware that his mood was due to darken in a couple hours, called the scene "wonderful."

No surprise, then, that they are the only Sunday artist other than Bob to have released a recording of their entire performance. This might have been the big story out of Newport '65, had Bob not upstaged them hours later.

Both Bernice Johnson Reagon and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band were still due to follow the Fariñas, but the band got their set bumped to the evening to avert the disaster of rainwater mixing with electric gear. So Freedom Singers co-founder Reagon closed things out. The Freedom Singers had toured supporting the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, having been recruited by fan Pete Seeger, and performed at 1963's March on Washington, where they presumably crossed paths with Dylan. The next year, in fact, Bob visited her in Atlanta during a cross-country road trip - the road trip where he wrote “Chimes of Freedom” in the back seat (some have speculated his meeting with her inspired it). At Newport, she performed her a cappella set as the downpour continued. The Newport Daily News reported she got "the drenched audience clapping and stomping accompaniment." No recording of her set, but this was reportedly one of the songs she sang. You can see why Bob might have felt inspired.

*** The Main Event: Sunday Evening ***

The main show went until 1am, though Bob went on halfway through the evening. Which admittedly means everything after didn't affect the mindset of anyone booing his set, but what the heck, I'm on a roll. Also, many of them played other sets earlier in the weekend, so they did each play their small part in the general atmosphere leading up to Dylan.

If you only know one thing about Newport '65 - which is most people - it's Dylan. But if you're one of the rare few who knows a second thing, it's probably the backstage scuffle that took place during the Paul Butterfield Blues Band's set. Albert Grossman (him again) objected to Alan Lomax's backhanded onstage introduction, and, according to some reports, the two ended up tussling on the ground weakly throwing punches. I was sorry to discover that had taken place earlier in the weekend. I can't find evidence of a single punch being thrown during this Sunday set - how disappointing! In fact, the Grossman v. Lomax controversy didn't appear to extend to the rest of the folk world; Broadside opened their editor's letter in the issue after Newport writing, "In a sky full of ascending stars, there is at least one nova in dazzling eruption. That is The Paul Butterfield Blues Band."

Since Butterfield's set had been pushed due to the afternoon shower, the real opening act of the evening show was…somebody's baby. No, not the terrible Jackson Browne song - somebody's actual baby. Pete Seeger's sister's new baby, specifically. Seeger opened the evening show proper playing a recording of tiny Sonya crying and saying "This little baby is kind of wondering what kind of a world it's coming into, and you and I gotta help think about it, too." I assume that, before the night was out, the baby was managed by Albert Grossman.

Given the unenviable task of following a newborn, 70-year-old Texas blues player Mance Lipscomb performed a trick probably lost on everyone but the hundred closest to the stage: Using the blade of his pocket knife as a slide. Works pretty well, judging by the recording. Dylan had cited a maybe-imagined meeting with Lipscomb in a lot of his early interviews - during his "making up the biography" phase - as influential on his journey to becoming a musician.

Some sources (including the Newport '65 program) say the Moving Star Hall Singers performed again here. But Elijah Wald's book, which seems as definitive as it gets, doesn't. Nevertheless, I really like this South Carolina gospel group, so I'm going to include a recording of another performance they gave at some point. Maybe it was here.

Many first heard the name Eric Von Schmidt via his shoutout on Bob's debut album. "I first heard this from, uh, Ric Von Schmidt," he says strumming the opening to "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down." "He lives in Cambridge. Ric's a blues guitar player. I met him one day in, uh, the green pastures of Harvard University."

What he leaves out: They played croquet that day. "Dylan playing croquet under the influence of half a bottle of red wine and some grass was really hilarious," Von Schmidt said later. "He couldn't hit the ball with the mallet half the time, and the great thing about it was that he just kind of gloried in it."

"Baby, Let Me Follow You Down" wasn't Von Schmidt’s only Dylan-album cameo either. Zoom in on the cover of Bringing It All Back Home. What record's sitting on top of Bob's pile? The Folk Blues of Eric von Schmidt. A few years later, Bob wrote in liner notes to another of Ric’s albums, "Here is a man who can sing the bird off the wire and the rubber off the tire. He can separate the men from the boys and the note from the noise. The bridle from the saddle and the cow from the cattle. He can play the tune of the moon. The why of the sky and the commotion from the ocean." At Newport, he played this set backed by the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. He's a perfectly good singer but, on this song at least, Bob's blurb oversells it a bit. The rubber remains securely on my tires.

The Fiddler Beers Family was Bob Beers, his wife Evelyne, and their daughter Martha who primarily played traditional Scottish and English ballads. Though their recording career didn't last, they ended up working for the government, first playing the White House in 1969 and then being sent overseas by the State Department to share American music with international audiences.

No recording of this set, but it probably sounded like this. Again, pleasant enough, but this and the next set are what they schedule to lead into electric-Bob? No wonder people were shocked! It’s like having Patti Page open for Motörhead.

"The first hillbilly performer to ever own a Cadillac" is the slightly odd onstage intro Mike Seeger gave Cousin Emmy. In Newport's performer balance between the bright young things and spotlighting older performances they thought the audience should want to see (whether they did or not), Cousin Emmy fell squarely on the other side of the line, having first been recorded by Alan Lomax back in 1947. Perhaps to help get her over to the young folk kids, she was backed here by the comparatively hip New Lost City Ramblers. Almost as much a comedy act as she was a musician, she played "Turkey in the Straw" on her cheeks. She was, apparently, a smash - such a smash that, during Bob's set next, one outraged fan yells "Bring back Cousin Emmy!"

According to the Newport Daily News, Bob Dylan then delivered "a grand finale that delighted everyone.” Oh really? That’s not what I heard… (They even got the “grand finale” part wrong - the show was only half over!)

The post-Dylan half kicked off with the Nigerian Ishangi Dance Troupe, which was apparently inspired by Hassan Razan's rage at how the popular Tarzan movies depicted Africa. He performed with his wife, sister, and, on the recording below, two daughters (age 5 and 7). A shame there's no footage, which would seem more the point with a dance troupe than audio, but they're making the music too, and it sounds like a hell of a show. Listen close to hear the kids.

Len Chandler's set might have created controversy of its own, had it not been overshadowed. He reportedly announced he opposed the Vietnam War from the stage and, believe it or not, some people booed. People were just going boo crazy at this point, I guess. Len responded that he hoped the boo-ers would get drafted. Guess Vietnam hadn't quite become the galvanizing issue among the folkies it would in a couple years.

Bob took the melody for "The Death of Emmitt Till" from Chandler. As Bob explained in a 1962 interview, "[Len] uses a lot of funny chords when he plays and he…trying to teach me new chords all the time. Well, he played me this one. Said don't these chords sound nice? And I said, they sure do, and so I stole it, stole the whole thing." Here's Len on Pete Seeger's TV show the following year:

Another where I couldn't find a recording (which is going to be the case for most everything else at this point - did Bob's set blow out the tape machine?), Pete Seeger's Weavers bandmate Ronnie Gilbert covered Dylan's "Masters of War" during her set. Ballsy move, after what just transpired. She did seem to obliquely acknowledge it by saying, "I would like to pay tribute, if I could, to that poetic genius that only comes in the very young, and that must resolve itself into something else, someday." I can't find any mid-‘60s footage, but here's a song from 1951 with the Weavers that includes a nice duet between her and Pete:

Originally scheduled for Thursday, Josh White for whatever reason appeared Sunday instead. A real bummer that there's no recording, as he's one of my favorite blues singers. And not just blues, he can also do folk, country, gospel. Like Seeger, he had found himself blacklisted during the McCarthy era. When called up before Congress, he read aloud the lyrics to "Strange Fruit." His Newport set was accompanied by a jazz bassist and Newport co-founder George Wein himself on piano. No recording, but here’s a great later video I found while researching:

We're getting near the end now. And I wonder what percentage of the crowd was still around to hear Jean Ritchie, as it neared midnight and the night's star attraction was long gone. Bob apparently has listened to Jean Ritchie most of his life, citing her as a formative influence when he was a teen and, again, citing her as someone he was currently listening to in a 1991 interview. All the info I can find about her Newport set is that she performed this song: 

The last Civil Rights performer of the night, Fannie Lou Hamer was only barely a singer (Discogs reports one 2015 archival album from Folkways). She was an activist for both Black and women's rights, co-founding the Freedom Democratic Party. Martin Luther King wrote that, at the 1964 Democratic Convention, “her testimony educated a nation and brought the political powers to their knees in repentance." John Lewis, who passed yesterday as I write this, called her "the essence of raw courage." She did, however, use hymns and protest songs to help her in her work, and that's presumably what she did here, with a bunch of other singers up to help her out, including Odetta, Richie Havens, and Seeger.

The headliner of the second set, Peter, Paul & Mary are easy to clown (don't get me started on their wince-inducing "I Dig Rock & Roll Music"), but I've always had a soft spot for their corny good cheer. Peter Yarrow, of course, had joined the Board of Newport and was the main person behind the "New Folks" afternoon set. They, too, covered Dylan on stage - "The Times, They Are A Changin'" (notice they're all picking the "finger-pointing" songs after Bob's notably apolitical set) - and led a big sing-along finale. Billboard reported that, though it was after midnight, the roaring crowd "wouldn't let them leave." A much better reception than the night's other main act got.

That was supposed to be it. But Seeger remained upset. After the earlier disturbance, he felt things needed one more send off. And then another. And then another. So in a grand finale so grand it went on and on, Pete Seeger corralled Joan Baez to leading the crowd in a Portuguese folk song, then brought South African pennywhistler Spokes Mashiyane led some sort of rhythmic jam session, then took the stage himself to lead everyone in "Down By the Riverside." Finally, as the last remaining stragglers staggered off the grounds, Mel Lyman played a mournful "Rock of Ages" on harmonica.

Rather than saving the night, as Pete had hoped, this endless finale hammered another nail in the folk coffin. Robert Shelton called it a mob scene. Mary Travers of Peter, Paul, and Mary, said that "the only thing that finale was lacking was colored slides of Art Nouveaux." Sing Out co-founder Irwin Silber wrote that he "sensed a feeling of revulsion even among some of the Newport directors who were themselves participating in the debacle." 

Best burn of all came from Phil Ochs, who wrote in a satirical review of the event that

This year the traditional ending degenerated into a La Dolce Vita party as several disparate performers, festival officials, audience members and passers-by joined in a Kafkaesque song-and-dance exhibition. There were so many people packed on stage, there legally should have been another fire exit. 

Next year perhaps they will feature a Radio City Hall Rockette routine including janitors, drunken sailors, town prostitutes, clergy of all denominations, sanitation engineers, small time Rhode Island politicians, and a bewildered cab driver.

The one person who didn't get onstage during the finale? Bob Dylan. He would have, Maria, but his hands were on fire.

After all that, am I closer to understanding why people booed? A little. Listening to performer after performer here makes it clear just how far apart Bob stood. To Newport's credit, performers were pretty diverse in both demographics and sound; the endless array of earnest folkies I expected didn't come to pass, broken up by more gospel, blues, and, for lack of a better word, "world music" than I'd anticipated. But they all had at least one foot in some old-time sounds, even the ostensibly electric Chambers Brothers (gospel) and Paul Butterfield Blues Band (blues, duh). 

Dylan's set was louder and more aggressive than any of the others by a country mile. Every preceding set, diverse though they were, showed performers at least nodding to tradition. Not only was Bob the only one to not do that, but the audience felt particular ownership of in. To quote the intro he was given the previous year, "you know him; he's yours!"

The boo-ers weren't right, of course. But the Newport lineup didn’t exactly ease them into it. Sometimes you get knocked off guard and land on the wrong side of history.

I pulled from several dozen sources for this, but of particular help were Elijah Wald's book ‘Dylan Goes Electric!’, the Newport Daily News archives, this article about Michael Bloomfield, the liner notes for the ‘Folk at Newport’ compilation CD, and the archives of New England folk magazine The Broadside.

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