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Butler, Keith

Keith Butler.
"Any bloody pop group could do this rubbish! It was a bloody disgrace. It was. 'e wants shootin'! He's a traitor."
From "Eat The Document"

Keith Butler, rock legend - Andy Gill writes in the Independent, revealing the man behind the famous "Judas" shout which can be heard on Live 1966

See also: Judas

Keith Butler.


1966. The night popular music changed for ever. Bob Dylan swapped
his acoustic guitar for a Stratocaster and one fan lost his cool. This
is the story of Keith Butler, rock legend 

By Andy Gill 

On a bitterly cold January afternoon, a dozen or so people are
gathered on the stage of a deserted concert hall in Manchester.
Photographers bustle about their business, while a video crew sets up
opposite a semicircle of chairs. One by one, the people in the chairs
are interviewed by an ebullient chap with a broad Lancashire accent.
As their interviews conclude, they leave the semicircle, taking their
chairs with them, until eventually only one chair is left. The man in
the last chair, a fifty-ish fellow who is swaddled against the elements
in casualwear and car-coat, takes a breath and starts to speak. 

"Hi," he says. "I'm the guy who shouted 'Judas!' that night in
Manchester. My name's Keith Butler. I live in Toronto, Canada, but
back then I was a second-year student at Keele University." 

The whole scene - the group of observers hanging on the interviewee's
every word, and the confessional tone of his announcement - is
strangely evocative of an alcoholic at his first AA meeting. There is a
palpable sense of relief in the air, a distinct air of what American
therapists call "closure". But if there are any addicts present - there
are several, in fact - Keith Butler isn't one of them. For unlike most of
those gathered here - including the interviewer, at least one of the
photographers and, yes, myself - Keith is not possessed by an
obsessional interest in Bob Dylan. Which is why we're all here today. 

The Free Trade Hall in Manchester was erected on St Peter's Fields,
the site of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, where Nadine Jones's local
militia ruthlessly cut down the crowds who had come to hear the
Chartist orator Henry Hunt. To commemorate the 21 dead, the
original hall was erected by public subscription in the 1830s; when it
burnt down, the current hall replaced it. Following German air-raid
damage, the interior was completely renovated, and by the time Bob
Dylan and The Hawks played there on 17 May 1966, the hall had
become home to the Halle Orchestra. Though it's now fallen into
desuetude, the ghosts of the hall's illustrious past can be glimpsed on
the wall of the Green Room, where a small block of signatures of the
great and the good have been preserved from over-zealous
redecoration: Louis Armstrong, Burl Ives, Artur Rubinstein, Andres
Segovia, Yehudi Menuhin, Sir Thomas Beecham, Sir Adrian Boult,
and Chris from The Piss (not, I fancy, a guest conductor with the

His 1966 concert was not the first time Dylan had played the Free
Trade Hall; on 7 May the previous year, he gave a solo performance
there. The '66 show has, however, become probably the most famous
rock concert in history. Bootlegs - and an official recording released
last year by Columbia - reveal the audience's disaffection with
Dylan's new electric sound, as he and The Hawks attach electrodes
to Bob's back-catalogue and send a million or so volts shooting
through the songs. 

The catcalls and slow hand-claps are easily drowned out by the
barrage of sound from the PA system; but then, just as they're about
to launch into "Like a Rolling Stone", a voice rings out, clear and
chastening: "Judas!" Stung, Dylan ripostes with "I don't believe you" -
a cutting reference to his song of that title, which deals with a lover's
sudden, baffling disaffection - followed by an acid "You're a LIAR!",
before turning round to The Hawks as they lead into one of rock's
most majestic performances, to instruct them to "Play fucking loud!" -
and do they ever. 

"I've been obsessed by this particular recording for 20 years," admits
the broadcaster Andy Kershaw, the interviewer who has brought
these veterans of that show's audience back to the Free Trade Hall to
muse upon that night's events. "In my first year at Leeds University, a
friend gave me a tape of the concert and I just thought it was the
greatest rock'n'roll performance that I'd ever heard. I still do. I can't
understand why anybody thought there was any point in making rock
music after the Free Trade Hall concert." 

He's not the only one. The musician and playwright CP Lee wrote an
entire book about this one show. "It was incredible," he recalls. "The
level of animosity, antagonism, excitement, discovery, was all there in
the air at the same time. It marked me for life - I knew I'd never see
anything like this ever again. And I never have." 

Some of the credit for the dramatic nature of the performance,
Kershaw believes, is due to the man who cried "Judas!". 

"If he had not shouted what he shouted, you would not have had the
seething resentment, the anger, the contempt, that was Dylan as he
pitched into the final song," Kershaw contends. "Judas's timing
couldn't have been better. What it unleashed from Dylan was
something so subversive, so angry and contemptuous, that what
followed was punk rock, 10 years before Johnny Rotten. Rather better
played. To me, the recording was a kind of Holy Grail, and being a
sad obsessive and freelance Dylanologist, one day I said to myself, 'I
shall find that man!'" 

Luckily for Kershaw, the concurrent release of the album and CP
Lee's book flushed Judas -- or, as we should now call him, Keith - out
into the open. For 32 years, Keith Butler had been blissfully unaware
of his own notoriety until, suffering a night-time asthma attack on
Thanksgiving Day last October, he took a stroll down to the local all-
night doughnut shop. There, leafing through a copy of that day's
Toronto Sun, he came across an article about this old Dylan concert
that had just been released. It seemed strangely familiar. 

"This was like something out of The X-Files," he says. "It totally blew
my mind. And when I saw those words, 'Any bloody pop group could
do this rubbish!', in part of the article, the words just leapt off the
page at me. I knew they were my words." Back in May 1966, Butler
and his friend Chris Cuttance, broiled in embarrassment by Dylan's
riposte, had stormed out of their balcony seats and down into the
foyer, where they were accosted by a velvet-suited film crew who
invited them to share their dissatisfaction with the American TV
audience. Keith's comment became part of the rarely seen tour
documentary Eat the Document, which, as luck would have it, was
running at New York's Museum of TV and Radio last year. "I've taken
the kids with me to New York to see that film," says Keith, "So that
they can see their dad as a kid of 20." 

And so, through a circuitous chain of contacts including CP Lee,
Andy Kershaw and Scott Bauer, the author of the Toronto Sun
article, Keith Butler finally made it back to the Free Trade Hall,
where he joined other audience veterans from that night in an
afternoon of reminiscence. People such as Barbara, who drew a
round of applause when, between "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" and
"Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat", she walked down the central aisle of the
stalls to hand Dylan a message. She and her friend Doreen were so
disappointed at not being able to hear the words that they found a
scrap of paper and composed a note requesting that Bob "tell the
band to go home", using sweet wrappers to draw straws as to who
should be the messenger. "It's just as well you drew the short straw,"
chuckles Doreen, "otherwise he'd have never got the note!" 

Like Barbara and Doreen, Keith Butler was annoyed at what Dylan
was doing to these songs he loved so much. Although Dylan had by
then secured several hits with electric material, Keith had never been
able to afford a record-player, and was more familiar with Bob's
earlier, folky material, which had inspired him to blow his first grant
cheque on an acoustic guitar. 

"I can't remember, to tell you the truth, what song was on what LP,"
he admits, to the incredulity of the Dylan obsessives. "I think it's fair
to say that, of the stuff I heard that night, the things I remember are
the things I played myself. I remember I enjoyed that first half. The
second half. it just wasn't the same, was it?" 

Keith's relative unfamiliarity with Dylan's catalogue is confirmed
when, under Andy Kershaw's interrogation, he can't immediately
bring to mind a set-list that is indelibly imprinted on the minds of
virtually everyone else present in the hall. 

"Why did you do it, Keith?" asks Kershaw. "I was very disappointed
about what I was hearing," explains Butler. "But I think what really
sent me over the top was when he did those lovely songs - I think it
was, er, there were two of them." 

"'She Belongs To Me'?" suggests Kershaw, as the CD is located and
the track-list consulted. 

"No. 'Baby Let Me Follow You Down.'" 

"Oh, I see," notes Kershaw, before hopefully prompting for poetic irony:
"And 'I Don't Believe You'?" 

"No, 'Baby Let Me Follow You Down', and the other one was 'One Too
Many Mornings'. I was emotional, and I think my anger just welled
up inside of me. I think it was 'One Too Many Mornings' that really
sent me over the top." 

Keith remembers more clearly the intense humiliation he felt after
Dylan shouted back at him. "I was just very embarrassed," he says. So
was his friend Chris Cuttance. "He was not impressed at all. Who
likes being shown up, right? Then he said something like, 'Come on,
let's get out of here', and out we went." 

It's the television interview that remains clearest in Keith's mind.
"Remember, at that age, living in England, you hadn't come into
contact with a North American accent," he explains. "That's probably
my key memory, because it's a story you tell, but the actual shout
that's gone down in history, I don't remember much of that at all.
I've probably tried to forget it." 

Keith's undoubtedly the sensible one in that respect. He's retained a
passing affection for Dylan ever since, attending other shows but not
following his every move assiduously. "I turned my back, but it's
certainly not turned me off Bob Dylan for life," he says. Other matters
concern him more. "If you ask me how I feel now," he reflects, "when
you get to 50, you realise you haven't done much with your life, you
haven't been as successful at work as you maybe thought, your
marriage has failed. What's happened between October and now has
taken me out of what was otherwise quite a difficult time, in that

Others are not quite so well balanced in their attitude to life and
Bob. Dylanology may be readily accepted as an academic pursuit in
many American universities, but the nature of the man's work -
complex, prolific and infinitely variable - also makes it something of
a psychiatric condition. The pressures on the man himself must be
colossal - Dylan was the first celebrity to have his garbage sifted for
clues to his personality, the first pop star to become a recluse - but his
most obsessive fans are in their own way just as trapped by his fame,
unable to shake off the urge to analyse, question and theorise. Even
as Keith Butler is explaining his part in the events of that night,
someone whispers in my ear, "I don't think it's him" - already
weighing and judging this latest slice of Dylanological evidence
against the mountain of hearsay that has accumulated upon this
evening's events. Compared to those of us afflicted with
Dylanoholism, Keith is as sane and straight-arrow as they come. 

Perhaps we should seek help. I'll go first. 

Hi. My name's Andy, and I've been a Dylanoholic for 34 years. I've not
listened to Bob now for 72 hours. It's hard, but I'm taking it one day
at a time. 

Manchester Evening News: Tracked down at last, the most famous heckler in the world IT WAS a pivotal moment in rock music history - the night Bob Dylan was branded ``Judas'' by an angry fan. In one word, the heckler summed up the outrage of a generation at Manchester Free Trade Hall when Dylan put down his acoustic guitar, went electric and turned folk into rock and roll. Now, 33 years later, the identity of that heckler has at last been revealed. Keith Butler, the angry Keele University student of 1966, is now a 53-year old bank worker living in Toronto. And for three decades he has remained blissfully unaware that one word from him had assumed historic significance. ``It was not a pre-meditated thing,'' he said. ``I was swept along by the mood, which was chaotic. I was feeling disappointed and angry. I was just a 20-year old kid who shouted. ``What made it different was that Dylan shouted back and that the concert was recorded and the bootleg went around the world.'' It was CP Lee, lecturer in cultural studies at Salford University, who caused Keith to come forward after all these years. Lee, like Keith, attended that ground-breaking Free Trade Hall concert - ``I was aware even then that I would never see anything like it again,'' he said. Dylan and his band the Hawks played loudly on, defying the jeers of the audience, but Keith's insult ``Judas'' hit home. Lee said: ``It got a personal reply from Dylan, who snarled: `I don't believe you.' At the end he stormed off stage with a curt thank you.'' Lee went on to write a book, Like The Night, about that concert, published last year. It was while reading a review in the Toronto Sun that Keith realised that his ``Judas'' jibe had become so famous. He got in touch with Lee and Rochdale-born broadcaster Andy Kershaw, another Dylan fan, and was persuaded to come back to Manchester to visit the Free Trade Hall again and talk for the first time about his momentous outburst. ``It was awe-inspiring to stand on the stage after all these years,'' said Keith. ``But the hall seemed smaller than I remember. ``When people ask me now why I did it, I have to say he was a hero figure with his protest songs and then all of a sudden he was not that any more.''

Subject: Re: Sad News
From: CP Lee
Date: Mon, 28 Oct 2002 22:53:04 -0000

I've just been given the news that Keith Butler, the man who reputedly
shouted 'Judas' during the 1966 Free Trade Hall concert has died.

I met him in January 1999 when we recorded the BBC documentary about the gig
and he was likeable, open and honest and was believable. The consternation
caused by another claimant of the Judas shout (John Cordwell) never
diminished Keith's assertion and, as both contenders have now sadly passed
on all we can say for certain is they were both there, they both heckled
Dylan and both saw the errors of their ways eventually and became firm fans.

CP Lee
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Keith Butler Obituary

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