Hard Rain did a fall

Date: Thu, 22 Feb 1996 17:55:45 +1100
From: "J.McBride" (jmb@BOM.GOV.AU)
Subject: Hard Rain did a fall

There was a request a while back for an eye witness accounts of the 1965 Newport concert.

I wasn't at that; but I was at the 1976 Fort Collins Concert -- I know: that's not as important or as famous as Newport; BUT it was the concert where the T.V special "Hard Rain" was filmed; it WAS the concert where they recorded five of the nine songs on the "Hard Rain" Dylan album; and it WAS the essentially the end of Rolling Thunder the very last concert of that tour being two nights later at Salt Lake City.

When I say "I was there!", at least I think I was there. I never actually saw any of the concert. I had only been in the U.S a few months. When I heard on the radio that Dylan, Baez, McGuinn,and Ginsberg were visiting Fort Collins, I got pretty excited.

So, I organised a party the night before. This was 1976 and things were a little different then. The parties were full of beer and whiskey and joints and bongs and if you arrived late, you had to step over the bodies. We played Jerry Jeff Walker's "Love Sangria Wine" and "Red Neck Mother" at top volume along with Jerry Garcia and Peter Rowan yodelling "Panama Red", and Canned Heat boogie-ing for the whole side of an LP. And as we danced and drank and smoked, my eyes were wild and my energy was frenetic as I conducted the other partiers into crazeds chants of worship for Dylan. They say it was quite a party. The owner of the house has never forgiven me as apparently we blew his speakers.

But at about 2 am I had to head off to Hughes Stadium; as the concert was about 12 hours later; and it was "General Admission" to sit out there in the middle of the stadium on the grass; and I wanted to be close to the stage.

When I arrived at the stadium,(2.15 am) there were a lot of people there, in a long line stretching out from the entrance. They were huddled on the ground with blankets around them, and the odd little fire had been lit for warmth. So I joined themn there. I had a bottle of Southern Comfort (Well.. this WAS 1976, and it WAS Colorado); and we sat around on the gravel passing around tokes and bottles and chatting. It seems most of those there had driven through the preceding day from the east coast or from texas; and we chatted about travelling to see Dylan.

It started raining sometime during the night; so we were fairly cold and drenched in the morning -- but the level of excitement and community feeling, here among Bob's people, was pretty high.

Sometime in the morning, the staff of the stadium began worrying about controlling the wet and unruly crowd that was increasing in size. Some guy, staright out of Alice's Restaurant kept addressing us through a megaphone in a stentorian voiuce, saying how when he gives the command "Move", we can all move forward to the next barrier -- so that was a lot of fun as we all cried back at him using the colourful phrases about mothers and such that were popular at the time.

They finally let us in, and we raced to get a good spot on what used to be grass, but was quickly turning to mud. The stage was wonderful, with great colourful backdrops announcing Rolling Thunder. There were, by this time thousands of us there in the mud. We were wet and cold, and already drunk; and the rain increased in intensity. It didn't pour down, it just kept on coming down.., But there was a good P.A system; and from late morning they began playing comntinuous rock and roll; so we danced and drank and smoked and partied, for hours more.

It was getting near the time. The grassy area in the middle of the stadium was full. The stands were full. The mud was up around our ankles. Still we danced on. I was in some sort of a circle of people dancing and kicking and passing a bottle along. We were kissing and cheering.

The next thing I knew I was lying on a stretcher in a hosptital with a white sheet over me and a drip hanging out of my arm. F..., I said aloud, and looked at my watch. I'm missing the concert! The emergency room went silent, and they were ALL looking at me! Alice's Restaurant time again, but i didn't care -- I wanted to be back seeing Dylan.

I was trundled in to another room, and then a big, fat police officer was standing over me questioning me about illegal substances, and telling me I was forbidden to drive my car for 48 hours. They called a friend to take me home and make sure I stayed home -- My eyes and hair must still have had the crazed look from the party the nignht before -- because the friend stayed there at my apartment and wouldn't let me out of his sight.

I went back a few day's later to get my car. The Hughes Stadium car park looked like a battlefield. There were still quite a few cars spread here and there in the mud -- what happened to their owners, I don't know.

Because of the noise level, the trampled front yards and the urination on people's flower beds in nearby houses, rock concerts were banned from that stadium for many years. This is the second time I have closed a stadium, having been to the famous Rolling Stones Concert at Kooyong sometime in the early seventies, a venue at which didn't hold another concert for about 20 years.

I left Colorado and the U.S in early 1979. I still get back to Fort Collins occasionally, though. When I do, I find I am often asked to autograph someone's copy of the Hard Rain L.P. I guess my friends of the time, who had to put up with a Dylan fanatic in their midst considered it quite a story when I missed seeing him.

Ah -- well. I guess in those days we Dylan people acted something tehw ay Deadheads have the reputation of behaving. I hope this doesn't get me banned fromn the list.

In case anyone cares, I have seen Dylan on three subsequent occasions (Denver around the time of Street Legal, Kooyong on the with-Tom-Petty tour and a couple of years ago at the Palais in Melbourne.) As I grow older, I find I have to concentrate less on staying in one piece until the concert actually starts