I used to have a tumblr website and I posted this video in a piece I wrote about how everyone likes Bob Dylan, they just haven’t realized it yet. After watching this video recently, I thought I would post it again on my new site and write something different about it.
There are dozens of videos of Bob Dylan online, but this one I keep coming back to if I want to see one of his live performances. When this video was shot, Dylan was just about to reach ‘the crossroads.’
Kudos to author/journalist Greil Marcus for writing a book entitled ‘Like a rolling stone: Bob Dylan at the crossroads.’ Although the book focuses heavily on the song ‘Like a rolling stone,’ Marcus uses the song as a springboard to explain Dylan’s new musical exploration.
On his tour of England in 1965, the setting for this performance, Dylan had already been to ‘the crossroads’. He had started using and recording with electric instruments as oppose to the usual guitar/harmonica sound that appeared on his earlier albums.
Earlier that year, Dylan had recorded his fifth studio album called ‘Bringing it all back home.’ The record seemed to be cut in half between folk (acoustic/harmonica) songs that featured Dylan alone and folk rock (electric guitars, bass, acoustics, piano, harmonica) which had a band accompanying him. The record created a divide between his fans, those who liked this change in sound and those who wanted him to stay as the folk/protest singer .
On this tour Dylan performed alone on stage. Most of the material he choose to sing were the songs his fans had come to expect of him. However, his Woody Guthrie/Huck Finn stage was at an end. He had stopped writing topical songs and his works reflected a more prose style.
In this video Dylan barely tries. His improvisation on the harmonica at the beginning of the song is a sign that he needs to do something different to escape the boredom. Amidst his lack of effort, the performance is still extraordinary. Dylan had already been to ‘the crossroads.’ Playing his new material to an English audience would have created uproar…something that eventually ended up happening.