In 1966, Bob Dylan’s career had skyrocketed over the earth. Mary Campbell summed up what had happened in a lede that contains multitudes: “1965 was the big folk-rock year in pop music and slightly built, shy-spoken, gritty-voiced Bob Dylan was the big man of the year.”
Who had thought of folk, rock, and pop in the same basket, from the same gritty voice, on the same disc? Bob Dylan. Even — and especially — as a young man, Dylan never felt what Harold Bloom would call the anxiety of influence. He reveled in his influences, all of them, and had made that clear in 1965 with three wild records recorded that year: Bringing It All Back Home (spring), Highway 61 Revisited (summer), and Blonde On Blonde (spring 1966). From February through May, 1966, Dylan, heading a road show now legendary on record, film and in print, rolled around the world spinning out something entirely new.
Much of the music from these shows remained rather subterranean for decades. D.A. Pennebaker filmed what would become, in the hands of Dylan and Howard Alk, Eat the Document. You can find it if you look, but even today, only one scene from it has had wide release — Dylan and John Lennon, in altered states, riding in a car — though Martin Scorsese used footage in his 2005 documentary No Direction Home.
Bootlegged Dylan recordings have been catnip to his fans since 1969, when Great White Wonder slid into circulation. With a rather good-natured acknowledgement of the immense popularity of illegal Dylan tapes, in 1991 his longtime label, Columbia Records, began releasing “The Bootleg Series.” Volumes 1-3, Rare & Unreleased, 1961-1991 still astound, twenty-five years after their official debut. Some of the bootlegged and unreleased material from 1966 has already appeared officially, including a couple of tracks on Biograph (1985), and most notably on Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966 (1998) — the “Royal Albert Hall” Concert, actually recorded in Manchester at the Free Trade Hall.
The Manchester concert was in mid-May, 1966, near the end of the road. Dylan’s original band was, some would say, the best group of musicians ever assembled live on a stage or under one of their own roofs in Woodstock, New York. Levon and the Hawks, known soon as The Band: Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson. Helm had played with Dylan in 1965, but for him it was downhill after the famous evening in Forest Hills, Queens. As Helm put it in his autobiography This Wheel’s On Fire, “Robbie asked where I was going, and I told him I didn’t exactly know, but that they could always find me by calling J.D., my dad down in Springdale, Arkansas. And that was it.” In November 1965, Bobby Gregg, and then Sandy Konikoff replaced Helm on drums; in April 1966, and for the rest of the tour, Mickey Jones replaced Konikoff.
Scraps of recordings of the shows, from Pittsburgh in February and Vancouver in March, Sydney and Melbourne in April, were handed around among fans. Some tracks from the time period sound out gloriously, particularly on the “hotel sessions” on the 18th disc of the massive The Bootleg Series Vol 12: Bob Dylan 1965-1966 The Cutting Edge, Collector’s Edition (2015). Now, though, comes something so separate, special and complete it’s standing alone — and affordably, too.
Bob Dylan: The 1966 Live Recordings is straight from soundboard and CBS Records Mobile Recordings, supplemented by audience tapes. The idea for the record arose during the research for The Cutting Edge, said Adam Block, President, Legacy Recordings. “While doing the archival research for The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12, last year’s box set of Dylan’s mid-60s studio sessions, we were continually struck by how great his 1966 live recordings really are. The intensity of Bob’s live performances and his fantastic delivery of these songs in concert add another insightful component in understanding and appreciating the musical revolution Bob Dylan ignited some 50 years ago.”
From November 11th, you can spend the next month and more going to a different Dylan show every night. These meticulously researched and restored recordings Dylan has been releasing let you do that. To quote a phrase, he was born in spring, and I was born too late. The time travel of The Live 1966 Recordings is a road trip, a TARDIS spin, a neverending tour I can’t wait to take.
Bob Dylan: The 1966 Live Recordings
Disc 1 – Sydney, April 13, 1966 (Soundboard recorded by TCN 9 TV Australia)
Disc 2 – Sydney, April 13, 1966 (Soundboard recorded by TCN 9 TV Australia)
Disc 3 – Melbourne, April 20, 1966 (Soundboard / unknown broadcast)
Disc 4 – Copenhagen, May 1, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 5 – Dublin, May 5, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 6 – Dublin, May 5, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 7 – Belfast, May 6, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 8 – Belfast, May 6, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 9 – Bristol, May 10, 1966 (Soundboard / audience)
Disc 10 – Bristol, May 10, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 11 – Cardiff, May 11, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 12 – Birmingham, May 12, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 13 – Birmingham, May 12, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 14 – Liverpool, May 14, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 15 – Leicester, May 15, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 16 – Leicester, May 15, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 17 – Sheffield, May 16, 1966 (CBS Records recording)
Disc 18 – Sheffield, May 16, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 19 – Manchester, May 17, 1966 (CBS Records recording)
Disc 20 – Manchester, May 17, 1966 (CBS Records recording except Soundcheck / Soundboard)
Disc 21 – Glasgow, May 19, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 22 – Edinburgh, May 20, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 23 – Edinburgh, May 20, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 24 – Newcastle, May 21, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 25 – Newcastle, May 21, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 26 – Paris, May 24, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 27 – Paris, May 24, 1966 (Soundboard)
Disc 28 – London, May 26, 1966 (CBS Records recording)
Disc 29 – London, May 26, 1966 (CBS Records recording)
Disc 30 – London, May 27, 1966 (CBS Records recording)
Disc 31 – London, May 27, 1966 (CBS Records recordings)
Disc 32 – White Plains, NY, February 5, 1966 (Audience tape)
Disc 33 – Pittsburgh, PA, February 6, 1966 (Audience tape)
Disc 34 – Hempstead, NY, February 26, 1966 (Audience tape)
Disc 35 – Melbourne, April 19, 1966 (Audience tape)
Disc 36 – Stockholm, April 29, 1966 (Audience tape)
Available November 11, 2016
*read about The Cutting Edge 1965-1966 here.