Dylan release captures defining 1960s moment
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Folk rock icon Bob Dylan was at the zenith of his career, in his mid-20s and transforming acoustic coffee shop folk into a whole new genre of music -- electric folk.
It was 1966, and with the nation heading into a time of never-before-seen turmoil, Dylan plugged in his guitar for the Manchester, England, concert crowd.
"Judas!" a guy in the audience shouted, angry that Dylan dared to go electric.
"I don't believe you," Bob Dylan replied, dramatically drawing out the last word. "You're a liar."
Dylan then launched into a vicious version of "Like A Rolling Stone," and the stand-off between the old guard folkies and the new folk rock crowd was captured forever on tape. It was, in essence, the period when the times changed.
And now, that historic performance by Dylan is being officially released to record stores on October 13, although it's been available on bootleg albums for years.
'It's time for the world to hear it'
Dylan, who recently won his first three Grammys at the 1998 awards, is about to start the next leg of Never Ending Tour and had no comment on the CD's release.
The new album, released by Columbia Records, is titled "Live 1966: The 'Royal Albert Hall' Concert -- The Bootleg Series Vol. 4," and it contains every bit of music from that night. It also jokingly continues an error generated by bootleggers: The performance actually took place not at the Royal Albert Hall, but in Manchester, England, on May 17, 1966.
Though recorded by Columbia for possible release at the time, and prepared again for release in the early 1990s, the concert remained in the vaults.
"I don't know that Bob Dylan wanted it released all those years," says Mickey Jones, Dylan's drummer during the 1966 world tour. "It might have been that it was such a personal thing for him and us, maybe he didn't want to give it to the world and maybe now he decides it's time for the world to hear it."
The double CD set includes a 56-page booklet of previously unreleased photos and an essay by Tony Glover, a blues musician and Minneapolis contemporary of Dylan's.
The first CD features Dylan, seven days before his 25th birthday, performing acoustic versions of songs such as "Visions of Johanna" and "Mr. Tambourine Man."
The second half of the show, featured on the other CD, has Dylan backed by the Hawks, a five-man group that would eventually become known as The Band. Over booing and slow handclapping, he blasts out eight electrified tunes ranging from the never-released "Tell Me, Momma" to the concert closer, "Like a Rolling Stone."
'We got booed everywhere'
"We got booed everywhere," Jones, now an actor with a recurring role on ABC's "Home Improvement," said. "They really did think that Bob Dylan had become a traitor and we were the instrument of his defection, when in reality we thought we were doing something totally new in music.
"Bob Dylan would go out and do the first half, and the audience loved it, but when he would come backstage between sets, he couldn't wait to strap that Telecaster on, and he would prance about the dressing room. He couldn't wait to get out there and play electric. The electric part of the show was where Bob Dylan had the most fun of all. And we all did."
The concert was considered so important that one historian, C.P. Lee of the University of Salford in Manchester, actually wrote an entire book about it.
Dylan, after all, helped define the rebellious 1960s. His anti-establishment, peace-loving songs of the early 1960s -- "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are a-Changin'" -- influenced countless artists, including The Beatles.
Dylan eventually entered his electric phase in the mid-1960s, and a whole new type of music was created.
In conjunction with the release of the album, Dylan is also screening this month in New York and Los Angeles "Eat the Document," a never-broadcast ABC television special from 1966.
It will run at the Museum of Television and Radio from October 8 to November 13 in Los Angeles, and October 8 to November 20 in New York. A Columbia source said there would be no general theatrical release or home video version.
The film features tantalizing snippets of concert performances interspersed with unexplained footage from backstage and on the road: Dylan reading his horoscope; Dylan jamming with Johnny Cash; Dylan getting teased by John Lennon.
The source said Columbia has tentative plans to issue more rare material in 2000, but declined to go into detail. Dylan's most recent release of new material was 1997's "Time Out of Mind," whose Grammy haul included album of the year.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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