Flagging Down the Double E’s is an email newsletter exploring Dylan shows of yesteryear. I’m currently writing about every show on the Rolling Thunder Revue. If you found this article online or someone forwarded you the email, subscribe here to get a new entry delivered to your inbox every week:
We're nearing the end of our Rolling Thunder journey. Just one more show in Canada, then two special Hurricane Carter-related appearances in the New York area. I've got interviews scheduled for all three so, for the third and final time, I thought I'd use this second Toronto show as an opportunity to showcase some lesser-known photos.
In the first two installments, I qualified "lesser-known" as simply meaning that I personally hadn't seen 'em before. But I don’t think anyone has seen today’s set before! Luther Rix, Rolling Thunder's percussionist who I interviewed a few newsletters back, was kind enough to scan some polaroids that he took during the tour. I didn't have room to include them all alongside his interview, so here are some more behind-the-scenes Rolling Thunder snapshots from Luther’s personal collection:
Thanks again Luther! If you missed my interview with him, it’s here. There are a few more band photos there too.
Rolling Thunder XXII: Toronto Night Two
Second night at the Maple Leaf Gardens. Also, like the first night, apparently not sold out.
Fun fact about the venue: It was one of only three venues Elvis Presley ever performed in outside the U.S. That’s right, out of the 1,684 concerts he reportedly performed over his career, only three of them were not in America (all three were in Canada).
Now, Elvis didn't avoid leaving the States due to a lack of fans elsewhere. Instead, the decision to remain in the States came from his manager, the infamous Colonel Tom Parker. Parker offered various excuses not to let him: Poor security overseas, low-quality venues, etc. But, as always with the Colonel, he really had his own agenda.
Tom Parker was not, in fact, in America legally. He’d immigrated from the Netherlands in 1929 after he was reportedly a person of interest in a murder in his hometown. He did not obtain a passport supposedly because he did not want to be extradited back home. With no passport, he had no way to leave the U.S. without being found out. And the famously controlling manager certainly wasn’t going to let Elvis out of his sight to tour without him. So he, and Elvis, stayed put.
How'd Elvis get away with this 1957 show in Toronto then? At the time, crossing the U.S.-Canadian border did not require a passport. There's a whole book about that show: Elvis Presley In Person - One Night in Toronto April 2, 1957. Here's a short video in truly terrible quality, from a news broadcast presumably:
No new songs in Dylan's set, but he mixes it up some from the previous night to give repeat attendees something new, including only the third "Mr. Tambourine Man" of the entire tour (and the last). "Wild Mountain Thyme" also makes its third and final appearance during the set dueting with Joan Baez.
Near the end, Bob says, "You been sitting here for five hours…must be some kind of record." He was right on the second point: This show, at four hours (not five) and 20 minutes, is the longest yet. He also claims he'd originally planned to title the song about Rubin Carter "Eye of the Hurricane." Wonder if that's true.
Also of note, Joan Baez fills time while Gordon Lightfoot gets ready by doing some sort of "Indian accent" bit. It's basically “Apu from the Simpsons” voice. An uncomfortable listen in 2020. Maybe back then too - several contemporary newspaper reviews have disparaged the “Joan does impressions” segments she tended to work into her sets.
Speaking of Joan, weird vibes between her and Neuwirth at one point. It's a little hard to follow what's going on when you hear it on the tape, so here's Ratso describing what's happening:
Up onstage, Neuwirth puts his arms around Baez after McGuinn concludes his number. “Let’s show them some positions,” Bob ogles, as Goldsmith and Michael Wadleigh shoot the proceedings from the pit. Neuwirth’s arm goes around Baez forming some weird sort of position, somewhere between the Kama Sutra and a hammerlock. Joan blanches. “There goes the ol’ Madonna right down the tube.”
Neuwirth just chuckles and pats Baez’s belly. “I’m not pregnant,” she gets mock-offended, and some people begin to clap their displeasure. “You must be drunk,” she leers at Neuwirth, “they’re filming you, that’s why you’re so weird.”
Neuwirth just continues to pat her belly. “She’s hard as a rock,” he notes approvingly.
“Too bad I can’t say the same for him,” Joan sneers and brings the house down.
The Hawk! Ronnie Hawkins makes his only Rolling Thunder appearance, playing his well-known covers of Chuck Berry ("Forty Days") and Bo Diddley ("Who Do You Love/Bo Diddley"). Here's a fun appearance doing the former on Dick Clark's show in the late 1950s:
Check out baby Levon Helm on drums! The other Hawks-soon-to-be-Band guys hadn't joined up with Ronnie yet. But Dylan and The Band had played the same Toronto venue a year before Rolling Thunder, in 1974. After that show, they went to a midnight Ronnie Hawkins concert. Ronnie reportedly joked from the stage, “Now now Bob, I know you’re itching to get up here and sing, but you can’t. This is my show.”
Gordon Lightfoot's back too, mixing up his set with a couple new songs, "Cherokee Bend" and "High and Dry." I assume that one's a Radiohead cover.
Finally, Bob’s mom appeared onstage yesterday, and some kids (Bob's? Joan's?) do today! The “This Land Is Your Land” finale is really becoming all hands on deck. You can also see Lightfoot (next to Bob) and Hawkins (far right) in this pic:
"With everyone from Ronnie Hawkins and Gordon Lightfoot to Joan Baez sharing the stage, the occasion had the giddy flavor of a homecoming weekend. Bob Dylan is past 30, with a wife and children, and he's obscenely wealthy and powerful. It's not clear what he's rebelling against, but the music is terrific, and it still has that subversive charge." - Weekend Magazine
What'd they do before the show?
Along with various filming-related activities, Ratso gets into a conversation with Dylan's wife. Love this line:
“I’m sick of wearing him on my chest,” Sara joshes, looking down at her Rolling Thunder T-shirt. “When is he gonna wear me on his chest?”
Renaldo & Clara footage
At some point in Toronto, they reportedly filmed a scene in which Ronee Blakley picked up a vagrant played by Dylan. That vagrant then sat down and played "Like a Rolling Stone" solo on guitar. Of all the scenes not to use in the movie! Bummer.
What's on the tape?
Full show again! Clear some hard drive space. If you thought yesterday's tape was long…
Find the index to all shows covered so far here. Subscribe to get future newsletters delivered straight to your inbox here:
*** More info on the book here… ***