Tag Archives: Bootleg Series Vol.5

One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below)- 1975

4 Dec 1975
from Renaldo and Clara
filmed 1975 – released 1978
Buy Desire (1976) from Amazon.com
Buy Live 1975 (The Bootleg Series Volume 5) from Amazon.com

If you are a new Dylan fan and you have been following my blog you will be possibly freaked out by this Dylan. But the truth is like 1966, I believe 1975 was another significant peak for Bob Dylan. The feel, the image, the sounds, the songs.
I’ll hit wiki up for this…

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Rolling Thunder Revue
Poster for November 27 performance in Bangor, Maine
Tour by Bob Dylan and many others
Dates October 30, 1975May 25, 1976
Legs 2
Shows 30 (first leg)
27 (second leg)

The Rolling Thunder Revue was a famed concert tour comprised of a traveling caravan of musicians, headed by Bob Dylan, that took place in the fall of 1975 and the spring of 1976. The January 1976 release of Dylan’s album Desire fell between the two legs of the tour.

Among those featured in the Revue were Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Kinky Friedman and Bob Neuwirth. Neuwirth assembled the backing musicians, including T-Bone Burnett, Mick Ronson, and David Mansfield, and, from the Desire sessions, violinist Scarlet Rivera, bassist Rob Stoner, and drummer Howie Wyeth.

The tour has been profusely documented on film, tape and paper [1].



[edit] Preparations

In October 1975, soon after completing Desire, Dylan held rehearsals for an upcoming tour at New York‘s midtown Studio Instrument Rentals space. Bassist Rob Stoner, drummer Howie Wyeth, and violinst Scarlet Rivera, all of whom were heavily featured on Desire, were retained for the rehearsals. Joining them were T-Bone Burnett, Steven Soles, and David Mansfield. The three had been dismissed during the Desire sessions in attempt to focus the overall production, but Dylan decided to recruit the trio for the upcoming tour.[citation needed]

When rehearsals began, many of the musicians were apparently uninformed about plans for an upcoming tour. At the same time, Dylan was casually inviting others to join in with the band. According to Stoner, the group rehearsed “for like a day or two – it [was] not really so much a rehearsal as like a jam, tryin’ to sort it out. Meanwhile all these people who eventually became the Rolling Thunder Revue started dropping in. Joan Baez was showing up. Roger McGuinn was there. They were all there. We had no idea what the purpose for these jams was, except we were being invited to jam.”[cite this quote]

According to Lou Kemp, a friend of Dylan’s who eventually organized the tour, the Rolling Thunder Revue “would go out at night and run into people, and we’d just invite them to come with us. We started out with a relatively small group of musicians and support people, and we ended up with a caravan.”[cite this quote] At one point, Patti Smith was invited to join, but amicably declined Dylan’s invitation.[citation needed] However, Dylan did add one surprising element to the Rolling Thunder Revue when he invited Mick Ronson to join the tour. Ronson was the lead guitarist and arranger in David Bowie‘s former backing band, The Spiders from Mars. Ronson would accompany the Rolling Thunder Revue throughout the upcoming tour.

Another musician invited on the tour was introduced to Dylan on October 22nd, when Dylan went to see David Blue perform at The Other End. It was there that he met Ronee Blakley, the actress/singer who had recently starred in Robert Altman‘s celebrated film, Nashville. At the end of Blue’s show, Blakley joined Dylan on-stage for a few duets; afterwards, Dylan extended her an invitation to join the Rolling Thunder Revue. She initially declined due to prior commitments, but eventually changed her mind and appeared at rehearsals two days later.[citation needed]

However, the same day Blakley showed up for rehearsal, Dylan returned to the recording studio to re-record Desire’s “Hurricane” (due to legal concerns involving the song’s original lyrics).[citation needed] Employing Blakley as a substitute for Emmylou Harris (who had prior engagements to attend to), Dylan quickly recut “Hurricane”, the last recorded work done for Desire before its release in January 1976.

Sometime in October, Dylan also contacted an old friend and filmmaker, Howard Alk. Dylan’s ambitions apparently included a film of the tour, and Alk accepted Dylan’s offer to shoot the film. When the tour rehearsals were still in progress, Alk reportedly began filming scenes in Greenwich Village for possible inclusion in the film.

Dylan also contacted actor/playwright Sam Shepard. Shepard was still relatively unknown at the time, and it is unclear how Dylan was introduced to him (though Shepard was a former lover of Patti Smith). Shepard flew in from California and met with Dylan at rehearsals, where Dylan asked him if he had seen Marcel Carné‘s Les Enfants du Paradis or François Truffaut‘s Shoot the Piano Player. Dylan said that those were the kinds of films he wanted to produce on the tour. [2]

Poet Allen Ginsberg would accompany the tour for most of its 1975 run, but his planned recitations, as well as some performances by other Revue members, were cut before the opening date to keep the concerts at a manageable length. One concert at the prison where Rubin Carter was serving his sentence did restore Ginsberg’s recitations, however.

[edit] The Fall Tour of 1975

On October 30th, Dylan held the first Rolling Thunder Revue show at War Memorial Auditorium in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The first leg of the tour was relatively small, spanning thirty shows and reaching only towns along the northeastern seaboard, including some in Canada. However, the secrecy surrounding the tour’s intended destinations, the new material Dylan was premiering, and the inclusion of Joan Baez on the same bill as Dylan for the first time in a decade ensured the tour a good share of media coverage.[citation needed]

According to Larry Sloman, who documented the tour, “onstage it was like a carnival. Bobby Neuwirth and the back-up band [dubbed ‘Guam’] warmed up the audience. Next, Dylan ambled on to do about five songs. After intermission, the curtain rose to an incredible sight, Bob and Joan, together again after all these years.” [3] (Dylan and Baez often opened the second half of the show duetting in the dark on “Blowin’ in the Wind“).

After a few numbers, Baez took center stage for a dynamic six-song set, followed by a solo set from Bob. Then he was joined by the band for a few numbers, and the finale, Woody Guthrie‘s ‘This Land Is Your Land,’ featuring everyone on stage from Allen Ginsberg to Bob’s mother Beattie one night. The spirit was so amazingly warm that when Joni Mitchell flew in to play one concert, she wound up staying for the remaining three nights of the tour. And it all came to a dramatic finale December 8th in Madison Square Garden where, with the help of Muhammed Ali, Roberta Flack and 14,000 screaming partisans, Dylan performed a benefit concert for imprisoned boxer and Dylan’s latest cause, Rubin Carter. That concert was known as “The Night of The Hurricane.”

Larry Sloman would later document the tour in a book, On the Road with Bob Dylan, in which he “tries to cop the Tom Wolfe technique of turning the backstage story into a plot with the journalist as beleaguered hero,” [4]according to NPR‘s Tim Riley.

Perhaps taking a cue from Ronson’s glam-rock experience, Dylan made the surprising theatrical choice of wearing whiteface make-up at many of the shows. Sometimes, he even walked on stage wearing a plastic mask, only to toss it aside after the first song to play harmonica on “It Ain’t Me, Babe.” [5] According to Rivera, one heckler asked Dylan “Why are you wearing a mask?” to which Dylan replied, “The meaning is in the words.”[cite this quote]

There is a critical consensus that the tour failed in one regard: the film.[citation needed] As the tour progressed, Shepard discovered his role as scriptwriter was somewhat superfluous, as much of the film was entirely improvised (with little guidance or direction in shaping those improvisations). Shepard would later cover the tour in an offhand journal titled The Rolling Thunder Logbook.

A number of critics wrote about the tour with a great deal of praise.

“The Rolling Thunder Revue shows remain some of the finest music Dylan ever made with a live band,” wrote Clinton Heylin. “Gone was the traditionalism of The Band. Instead he found a whole set of textures rarely found in rock. The idea of blending the pedal-steel syncopation of Mansfield, Ronson’s glam-rock lead breaks, and Rivera’s electric violin made for something as musically layered as Dylan’s lyrics…[Dylan] also displayed a vocal precision rare even for him, snapping and stretching words to cajole nuances of meaning from each and every line.” [6]

“These are rugged and inspired reworkings of many Dylan standards—[Dylan] even talks casually to the audience (now a thing of the past),” wrote Tim Riley. “He lights into a biting electric version of ‘It Ain’t Me, Babe,’ and then a thoroughly convincing rock take of ‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll’…and an ‘Isis’ that makes the Desire take sound like a greeting card.” [7]

[edit] The Spring Tour of 1976

A second Hurricane Carter benefit was held in Houston, Texas on January 25.

Dylan then tried to recreate the Rolling Thunder Revue’s success in the spring of 1976. Rehearsals were held in Clearwater, Florida during April, and the first show was on April 18 at the Civic Center in Lakeland, Florida. The tour continued throughout April and May in the American South and Southwest. It ultimately did not attract the same critical acclaim as the fall leg had. Ticket sales were often poor, with several shows being cancelled as a result.[citation needed]

The penultimate show of the tour took place on May 23 at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins, Colorado. Comments about it typified the feeling about the spring tour: “Although the band has been playing together longer, the charm has gone out of their exchanges,” wrote NPR’s Tim Riley.[cite this quote] “[T]he Rolling Thunder Revue, so joyful and electrifying in its first performances, had just plain run out of steam,” wrote music critic Janet Maslin for Rolling Stone.[cite this quote]

The final Rolling Thunder show took place on May 25. Held at a half-empty, 17,000 seat Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah, it would be Dylan’s last performance for twenty-one months,(Except For The Last Waltz in November 1976 for The Band) and it would be another two years before Dylan recorded another album of new material.

[edit] Aftermath

The May 23 Colorado show was filmed for the September 1976 NBC television special Hard Rain; the Hard Rain live album containing selections from that and another late May date was released simultaneously. The television special garnered poor reviews and disappointing ratings, despite a TV Guide cover of and interview with Dylan. Live album sales were modest.[citation needed]

Dylan and Shepard’s completed film, now the symbolist-romance-cum-concert-film Renaldo and Clara, would not be released until 1978; the critical reception would be harsh and negative.[citation needed] It was, for the most part, the only official release documenting the live shows from the fall 1975 leg. However, a majority of the film consisted of the haphazard, fictional drama filmed during the tour.

Performances from the fall of 1975 were heavily bootlegged. Then The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue, incorporating performances from a number of the fall shows, saw issue in 2002. As the first official release to capture the Revue at its peak, it was warmly received amongst fans and critics, and sold well.[citation needed]

[edit] Notes and references

  1. ^ Notable items include two books, two albums, a TV Special and a movie:

    see also: Michael Gray, The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, New York:Continuum books, 2006

  2. ^ Gray M, op.cit. 371
  3. ^ Sloman L, op.cit.[cite this quote]
  4. ^ Riley T, Hard Rain, p255
  5. ^ Heylin C, Behind the shades, p417
  6. ^ Heylin C.,loc. cit
  7. ^ Riley T., op. cit. p257

[edit] External links