TONIGHT: The ‘Judas’ Priest

WIKIPEDIA: The polarised responses of Dylan’s fans were exacerbated by the structure of his concerts in late 1965 and 1966; the first half would be ‘folk,’ Dylan solo accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica; with the second half ‘rock,’ Dylan and the Hawks with electric guitars and a full rock and roll combo. The rock segment was often greeted with hostility, as seen in shows in Sheffield and Newcastle upon Tyne in No Direction Home. Footage from the Manchester concert, at the end of that film, includes the infamous “Judas” heckling incident. During a quiet moment in between songs an audience member shouts loudly: “Judas!” Dylan replies: “I don’t believe you, you’re a liar” before telling his band to “Play it fucking loud!” as they launch into “Like a Rolling Stone“.[23] This incident was recorded, and the full concert was eventually released in 1998 as Live 1966: The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert in Dylan’s Bootleg Series. One fan who claimed to have shouted “Judas!” was John Cordwell; when interviewed by Andy Kershaw he explained:

“I think most of all I was angry that Dylan… not that he’d played electric, but that he’d played electric with a really poor sound system. It was not like it is on the record [the official album]. It was a wall of mush. That, and it seemed like a cavalier performance, a throwaway performance compared with the intensity of the acoustic set earlier on. There were rumblings all around me and the people I was with were making noises and looking at each other. It was a build-up.”[24]

Another claimant to the “Judas!” shout was Keith Butler.[25] Butler’s presence was documented in the film Eat the Document, when the then 21-year old was filmed leaving the Manchester Free Trade Hall, saying “Any pop group could produce better rubbish than that! It was a bloody disgrace! He’s a traitor!” In 1999, he took part in a BBC Radio documentary about Live 1966, and asked about his reaction at the time, he replied, “I kind of think: ‘You silly young bugger.'”[26]

In 2012, Dylan referred to the incident while addressing criticism that he hadn’t clearly acknowledged his lyrical sources for his new album Tempest:

Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff. It’s an old thing – it’s part of the tradition. It goes way back. These are the same people that tried to pin the name Judas on me. Judas, the most hated name in human history! If you think you’ve been called a bad name, try to work your way out from under that. Yeah, and for what? For playing an electric guitar? As if that is in some kind of way equitable to betraying our Lord and delivering him up to be crucified. All those evil motherfuckers can rot in hell.[27]


RELATED: Zimmerman, Robert: Aka Bob Dylan, aka the Mystery Tramp, aka Napoleon in Rags. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Bob Dylan was the all-seeing eye atop the pyramid of rock–a razor-thin, tousle-haired visionary speaking in stoned parables and meth-riddles about the nature of transcendental consciousness from behind impenetrable black shades. His status as generational oracle was earned by a triumvirate of hallucinatory folk-rock albums–1965’s Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited, and 1966’s Blonde on Blonde – that he would spend the rest of his career simultaneously trying to live up to and live down, never quite succeeding on either count. — JONATHAN VALANIA

For most of the aging multitudes at the Mann last night, it was like the Second Coming of Christ, except he’s no longer able to perform miracles, just magic tricks. But they are pretty good tricks (“I will now pull a hair-raising “Ballad Of A Thin Man” out of my cowboy hat!”) After 45 years of howling on the cross, his voice sounds like the proverbial emphysemic cow with its leg caught in an electric fence, but all the eternal verities still hold true: He’s still tangled up in blues. His hat still balances on his head like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine. He’s still keeping company with jokers and thieves and sideshow freaks, still has many contacts among the lumberjacks who get him facts when someone attacks his imagination. Willie McTell is still blind. The levee still breaks (just ask ‘Brownie’) and there is still plenty of thunder on the mountain (just ask Jack White and Wanda Jackson). They’re still selling postcards of the hanging and painting the passports brown (Tea Party much?), beauty parlor is still full of sailors whenever the circus is in town. He still wants to know, after all these years, how does it feeeeeeeel, to be on your own, with no direction home, like a complete unknown? Because, it’s been a long, long time since he still knew how that feels, back before he got on the last bus out of Hibbing headed to the center of everything. Back then he still gave a damn, but things have changed. – JONATHAN VALANIA

PREVIOUSLY: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Bob Dylan