Site of several Bob Dylan concerts, most notably the famous "Albert Hall" concert of May 26, 1966. See also the Judas article in the Who's Who. It has a link to the sound file of the most famous part!
Well, lookee here. The new issue of VOX just fluttered across my desk, and lo and behold, there's a piece on the bootlegging industry, and a two page Terry Staunton piece on the Albert Hall shows. It's (the Staunton piece) transcribed below, with all the usual disclaimers (typos are mine etc.).
This is long, by the way.
(VOX is basically NME Monthly. So bear that in mind when reading Staunton's bit; the audience is in the 18-25 grouping, with the odd 32-year old outlier, harumph!))
Oh, and VOX compile the top ten boots of all time (from a list of personal faves compiled by Stuart Bailie, Keith Cameron, Dele Fadele, Ian Fortnam, Ted Kessler, Gavin Martin, John Mulvey, Andy Richardson, John Robinson, Terry Staunton, and Tommy Udo), and that goes like this (it used to go like that):
1. Bob Dylan and The Band
"Live at The Albert 1966"
Some of it may have been recorded from Manchester on the same tour. It doesn't matter. This wild, deliriously driven and quixotic sound may as well have come from Mars. Still the most despotic, extravagant rock'n'roll music ever recorded - Dylan rides huge jagged waves and feeds off the old folkie outrage. When a voice shouts "Judas" he drives straight into a new song sneering "I don't believe you... you're a liar." White hot genius. (Gavin Martin)
2. The Beach Boys
3. The Rolling Stones
"LiveR Than You'll Ever Be"
4. The Beatles
5. The Sex Pistols
"The Black Album"
7. The Beatles
8. Bingo Hand Job (aka REM)
"Live at The Borderline, March 1991"
"Paris 94 and Demos"
10. Elvis Costello
"50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong"
The story of the boos!
When BOB DYLAN shocked London by "going electric" at the now legendary Albert Hall gig in 1966, audiences were polarised: hardcore folkies felt betrayed, others were exhilarated by this bold, new direction. Now, though, it seems that after 30 years of rumours and wrangles, a recording of that fateful tour is finally getting an official release. TERRY STAUNTON ignores Bob's advice and, er, looks back...
"It was a bloody disgrace, he wants shootin'. He's a traitor..."
"They made such a din. There was 20 minutes in the middle when you couldn't hear a word he was sayin'..."
"He may think it was gimmicky, but I think it was rubbish. I'm not going to another one."
- Fans' reactions after seeing Dylan on his 1966 tour
Director DA Pennebaker's wily camera, which first followed Bob Dylan around Britain in 1965 for the film "Don't Look Back", was again tailing the singer on tour the following year - but this time it was different.
In the rarely seen "Eat The Document", Pennebaker canvassed on-the-spot reactions from stunned fans as they left concert halls. Serious young men with scowls on their faces were horrified, because their hero, the man of the moment, had forsaken his acoustic roots and (gulp) plugged in! And he had a noisy band with him, complete with electric guitars!
Bob Dylan, the saviour of folk music, had taken his finger out of his ear and raised it skywards in defiance of the purists. It was unthinkable, an outrageous slap in the face, the ultimate betrayal (imagine Noel Gallagher penning a ditty for The Eurovision Song Contest, or The Clash backing Robson & Jerome), and audiences vented their anger with jeers and catcalls at all 13 ports of call on the tour.
Curiously, this was big news for 1966, a time when 'popular' music rarely hit the headlines. But even the stuffy old Daily Telegraph got in on the act with a report of booing fans at London's Royall Albert Hall, and a review which described the show as "a series of noisy songs, most of whose words were incomprehensible, in which Dylan was accompanied by a quite ordinary rhythm group".
That "ordinary" group became The Band, one of the cornerstones of modern American music, and that May 26 concert has passed, ironically enough, into folklore as one of the most legendary shows of all time, and not just among Dylan obsessives. Frequently bootlegged over the years, "Live At The Royal Albert Hall" is likely to get an official release through Sony Records in the not-too-distant future, though not in time to mark the gig's 30th anniversary.
What made this particular show so special? Was it the novelty of one disgruntled fan audibly shouting "Judas!" near the end of the set? Well, that's certainly provided notoriert over the years, but the truth of the matter is it's an illustration of an artist at the peak of his powers, backed by arguably the best set of musicians ever to share a stage playing some of the most amazing music that anyone has ever heard.
Dylan's first electric performance took place in June '65 when he appeared at the Newport Folk Festival, Rhode Island, backed by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. It shocked folk diehards, but Dylan soldiered on, despite relentless barracking from a large section of the audience. Later that summer, the seeds of Dylan's regular band were sewn when drummer Levon Helm and guitarist Robbie Roberston backed the singer at the Forest Hills Festival, New York, again to the displeasure of the fans. One particularly unhappy punter shouted "Cocksucker!" at the newfangled Bob. "Aw, it's not that bad," was Dylan's deadpan reply.
Up until that point, Helm and Robertson had been playing as The Hawks, originally back-up for smalltime rockabilly artist Ronnie Hawkins. History is unsure, but it's generally thought that Dylan and The Hawks were brought together by legendary music biz mogul/talent spotter John Hammond, whose many discoveries, aside from Dylan, included Billie Holiday and, later, Bruce Springsteen.
The rest of The Hawks - bassist Rick Danko, pianist Richard Manuel and organist Garth Hudson - hooked up with Dylan for a full US tour later that year, although Helm decided to opt out of the ranks to be replaced by supper-club balladeer Trini Lopez's drummer, Mickey Jones. The group was never billed as The Hawks, however, and not once did Dylan introduce them during the shows, the majority of which attracted more than their fair share of jeering folk purists.
"They must be pretty rich to be able to go some place and boo," remarked Dylan when asked about the unruly crowd element during a San Francisco press conference in December 1965. "I couldn't afford it if I was in their shoes."
Dylan also joked about how he dealt with over-zealous fans: "Sometimes, you get people rushing the stage, but you just, y'know, turn 'em off very fast. Kick 'em in the head or something like that. They get the picture."
The marriage took a little work, as Robbie Robertson once recalled: "Bob didn't really know anything about music, he was all folk songs. We had no help; everyone who wasn't telling him the combination was wrong for him was telling us it was wrong for us."
Yet, out of this unlikely alliance emerged some classic rock music, and a radically revised manifesto as to what could be achieved in live performance. Dylan's trademark elaborate lyrics, amrried to fairly basic tunes, were given a lavish, atmospheric texture, mainly thanks to Robertson's emotive lead guitar work. Hudson's swirling, uplifting organ, meanwhile, gave the songs a depth and resonance that Bob's trusty harmonica previously only hinted at.
The shows were something else. At a time when the world's most exciting and sexual white performers - The Beatles and The Rolling Stones - remained rigid behind mic stands (except for the odd shake of a moptop or a loose-wristed handclap from Jagger), Dylan and The Hawks revelled in theatrics and, for want of a better word, stagecraft.
Dylan, Danko and Robertson would turn their backs to the crowd at the beginning of a song, and Jones would hold his arms aloft, drumsticks crossed. As they crashed into the opening chord, the guitarists would either leap in the air or spin on the spot, before kicking into the most almighty racket, knocking another few years off the average old folkie's life (remember, this is Bob Dylan on college campuses in the mid-'60s we're talking about, not Kiss in basketball stadiums ten years later).
Whenever Robertson took a note-bending solo, Dylan would stalk edgily in the background, pointing his guitar in all directions, looking like Elmer Fudd with an itchy finger on a shotgun trigger ("Shhh... I'm huntin' Wabbits!"). In short, the band were a bunch of show-offs.
It's also worth remembering that Dylan and The Hawks, like many of their mid-'60s contemporaries, were rumoured to be going through various phases of chemical experimentation, whcih may or may not have had a bearing on the calibre of their performances...
Dylan gradually won the dissenters over during the American tour, but faced fresh opposition when he took his electric buddies to Europe in 1966. British audiences which had taken the acoustic Bob to its collective heart in 1965 were scandalized by the new, noisy model, the most vocal of which are immortalised in the recordings of his forst two Albert Hall shows.
Having started with a 30-minute acoustic set, Dylan returned with The Hawks after the interval, kicking into a frenzied version of "Tell Me Momma". In "Mystery Train", Greil Marcus' essential book on American music, the author described it as "one of the most exciting pieces of music ever made... the musicians' timing is unlike anything else in pop." However, the reserved Limeys were dumbfounded, and the close of the song was greeted with muted, perfunctory applause. By the time Dylan and Robertson were retuning for the start of the third number, "Baby Let Me Follow You Down", a section of the audience was giving the band the slow handclap.
It would be wrong to suggest that Dylan alienated the entire audience, and some of the songs ("One Too Many Mornings", "Leopardskin Pillbox Hat") were received enthusiastically. It was just before the start of the closing number, "Like A Rolling Stone", that the infamous cry of "Judas!" rang out across the cavernous venue. An audibly tetchy Dylan responded with a seething "I don't beliveeeve you... You're a fuckin' liar." Backing away from the mic, he mumbled "fuckin' liar" again, as Robertson whispered "C'mon, c'mon", urging the wounded wordsmith to get on with it regardless.
All of this is captured forever on tape and will, sooner or later, be available as an official Dylan album. There's no word on a definite date from Sony, and insiders suggest that the label's plans for a 30th anniversary tie-in have been scuppered by Dylan himself, currently renegotiating his contract and keener on seeing an album of new material in the shops this year.
Ironically, back when the label was known as CBS, they planned to release the album in the mid-'70s even though none of the company's high-rollers seemed to think it was any good. Dylan had temporarily defected to Asylum Records to make the "Planet Waves" album, and CBS wanted to put out a 'spoiler' to take the wind out of their former charge's sails.
The intrigue doesn't stop there, as most Dylanologists subscribe to the theory that most of the famed bootleg wasn't actually recorded at the Albert Hall. The smart money says that the first six of the eight tracks come from a show earlier in the tour, most likely Manchester Free Trade Hall a week before, and only the closing "Ballad Of A Thin Man" and "Like A Rolling Stone" are from the London concert. There is certainly a marked difference in sound quality between the two tracks and the rest of the set, so who knows?
One of the more outrageus rumours to emerge over the years (though still worth repeating) is that the unwitting source of the original bootleg was the BBC. Allegedly, a 'fan' wrote to the Beeb's transcription service, which recorded dozens of live events in the UK every year, asking them to send him a recording of the show for his private collection!
Will the official Sony release be the accepted mix'n'match, or do they intend to go with the whole London hog? Only time will tell, but meanwhile bootleg versions still do the rounds and continue to delight diehards and newcomers alike. A monumental souvenir of some magnificent music.