Sunday, 26 December 2010

Bob Dylan 1966 - a piece of nostalgia

Despite my reservations about Rupert Murdoch, there is something wonderful about Sky Arts. This morning I accidentally listened to Mickey Jones, Bob Dylan’s drummer on the 1966 tour talking about that tour and showing bits of his movies taken at the time.

It took me right back. I was at the concert at the Odeon in Birmingham, not the one where someone shouted Judas - that was Manchester.

The first half was Dylan doing an acoustic set, pretty much like the previous tours, except better sound than the old town hall in Birmingham.

When the curtains came back for the second half there was a massed bank of amplifiers and speakers, and I mean a massed bank. From where I was sitting, it looked like a ten-foot high stack, and it may have been bigger than that. The band rolled in with isolated twangs and strums, almost as if they were tuning up.

Gradually the isolated notes begin to pick up, one guitar, then another and then the organ and more instruments coming in and gradually coalescing into a rhythm and then a massive crash on the drums that almost hit you off your seat, with everything else coming in at the same time in a huge wall of sound - probably the loudest that any band had ever played in Britain at that time.

‘Tell me Momma.’

I can still hear that crash now.

Then they just slammed on, weaving complex, intricate and very, very loud, melodic, intoxicating, rhythms around Dylan’s words. I remember being completely blown away from the first note.

The audience fragmented into two groups, or maybe three - if you count the ones who started walking out as a group. Among the rest there were many who boo-ed, some standing on the seats to boo louder. The rest, like me were clapping and cheering. I think maybe the boos won; but I knew was that I was hearing the best music ever. All the wild and rebelliousness of rock and roll woven together with the poetry of Dylan’s words.

By the end of the concert, I was exhausted and flying high at the same time, without the aid of any illegal substances, I might add. Back then I was an impoverished medical student living in a little flat, and the only sound system I had was an ancient portable record player. For days I sat and played my old Dylan records, over and over and over. I only had the acoustic albums, because the electric ones had not come out. Listening to those tracks with the concert still pounding in my head, I could imagine that sound in Dylan’s mind all along. I think it was always there, in the cadence of the words, the strumming and picking on the guitar and the harmonica breaks.

I watch as Mickey Jones talks about how the audience didn’t get it at the time and I’m almost shouting at the TV.

‘I got it.’

I got it from the first note.

A note added afterwards - the programme is actually incredibly boring, as a programme, and Mickey Jones is a somewhat self indulgent commentator, but none of that matters if you were there.


  1. Really good post - you make me sorry I wasn't there.

  2. What an amazing concert to have seen! I especially like how you describe listening to the acoustic tracks and imagining that the sound was in Dylan's mind all along.

  3. I wish I'd been there, and I like your description of the music as having been always there, in the cadence of the words, the guitar, the harmonica breaks. I guess that's the way of great music: its creation is more like a realisation.

  4. wow! That was an awesome post! Loved it!