Saturday, July 12, 2008
ROLLING THUNDER REVUE
"Tangled Up In Blue," 1975
After the great 1974 comeback tour with the Band, Bob Dylan wanted to create a traveling musical revue that was less a full-force stadium show and more an intimate cabaret built for smaller halls. He'd been hanging out in Greenwich Village like the old days, showing up unexpectedly in the tiny cafes, and he was dreaming of a touring gypsy circus, a commedia del'arte, with poets and troubadours in costume and face paint. Dylan was getting back.
Dylan with Patti Smith in the Village, 1975
That dream became the legendary Rolling Thunder Revue. The revue played in small Northeast venues in 1975 without much notice, just hit-and-run announcements the day of the show. A second leg of the tour was added in 1976, culminating in the "Hard Rain" film that aired on TV, believe it or not, that bi-centennial year. I saw the revue in Providence, Rhode Island, and it was probably the best concert I've ever seen. A year later, and a lifetime away, I saw the TV show in a huge, rambling hippie commune in Kettle Falls, Washington. The place was a 1970s hippie tableaux jammed with people, kids, dogs...there were tables full of food, an people passed wine bottles and joints, lots of laughter, but everyone froze and payed attention when Dylan strolled onstage that magical hour.
At the time of the tour, the brilliant "Blood on the Tracks" was his most recent album, and Dylan was in fine form. He breathed a fiery breath into old favorites as well as new music nobody had ever heard, strange mystical songs that would later appear on "Desire." These clips provide proof to the doubters, and were filmed of the tour for the movie, "Renaldo and Clara."
"And as the evidence piled up, as the rock was pushed back to reveal the worms, many retreated into that past that never was, the place of balcony dreams in Loew's Met, fair women and honorable men, where we browned ourselves in the Creamsicle summers, only faintly hearing the young men march to the troopships, while Jo Stafford gladly promised her fidelity. Poor America. Tossed on a pilgrim tide. Land where the poets died.
Except for Dylan.
He had remained, in front of us, or writing from the north country, and remained true. He was not the only one, of course; he is not the only one now. But of all the poets, Dylan is the one who has most clearly taken the rolled sea and put it in a glass."
Pete Hamill, New York 1974, from the original liner notes to Blood on the Tracks
"It Ain't Me, Babe," 1975