ROLLING STONE: When Bob Dylan‘s five concerts in the San Francisco Bay Area were scheduled in December 1965, the idea was proposed that he hold a press conference in the studios of KQED, the educational television station. Dylan accepted and flew out a day early to make it. He arrived early for the press conference accompanied by Robbie Robertson and several other members of his band, drank tea in the KQED office and insisted that he was ready to talk about “anything you want to talk about.” His only request was that he be able to leave at 3 p.m. so that he could rehearse in the Berkeley Community Theater where he was to sing that night.
At the press conference there were all sorts of people. The TV news crews of all the local stations were there; so were reporters for three metropolitan dailies (their stories were subsequently compared to the broadcast of the interview by a University of California journalism department class) plus representatives of several high school papers, and personal friends of Dylan including poet Allen Ginsberg, producer Bill Graham and comedian Larry Hankin.
Thus the questions ranged from standard straight press and TV reporters’ questions to teen age fan club questions to in-group personal queries and put ons, to questions by those who really had listened to Dylan’s songs. He sat on a raised platform facing the cameras and the reporters and answered questions over a microphone all the while smoking cigarettes and swinging his leg back and forth. At one point he held up a poster for a benefit that week for the San Francisco Mime Troupe (the first rock dance at he Fillmore Auditorium and one of the first public dances featuring the Jefferson Airplane). At the conclusion of the press conference, he chatted with friends for a while, jumped into a car and went back to Berkeley for the rehearsal. He cut the rehearsal off early to go to the hotel and watch the TV program which was shown that night and repeated the following week.
This is the only full length press conference by Dylan ever televised in its entirety. MORE
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Bob Dylan @ The Philadelphia Academy Of Music 1964
The Academy of Music opera house in Philadelphia opened in 1857, which, if memory serves, is where and when Bob Dylan first went electric — much to the consternation of the stovepipe-hatted folkies in attendance, who felt he was selling out the purity of old-timey steam-powered protest anthems. It is said that Stephen A. Douglas was so incensed he attempted to chop the cable supplying power to the Academy stage with an axe and had to be wrestled to the ground by none other than Abraham Lincoln, who “licked him,” as Huckleberry Finn used to say. Historic records indicate that the mutton-chopped Whig Judge Theophilus Lyle Dickey shouted out ‘Judas!’ from his stage right second floor luxury box. A yellowed and wrinkly YouTube of the incident records Dylan responding with a laconic “I don’t believe you…you’re a liar.” Then he turned to Robbie Robertson and yelled “Play fuckin’ loud!” as The Band kicked into “Like A Rolling Stone” with amps set on KILL. Thus began the The Never-Ending Tour, which, after 157 years, came full-circle with a three night stand at The Academy Of Music that kicked off Friday night.
Never one for nostalgia or sentimentality, Dylan made no reference to those historic events of 157 years ago when he took the stage last night dressed in a cream suit and matching, wide-brimmed hat, as the band launched into the slow-gait gallop of the ironically-titled “Things Have Changed.” In fact, the only thing Dylan said all night was “We’ll be right back” before exiting the stage and signaling the onset of intermission. Many of us declined bathroom and smoke breaks to parse Dylan’s gnomic utterance for generational import on our newly acquired iPhone app designed specifically to parse gnomic Dylan utterances for generational import. Results were inconclusive. The only things that’ve changed about Bob Dylan shows in the last century and a half is that he shuffles his feet instead of picking them up when he walks and he doesn’t wear a guitar anymore, which used to give him something to do between verses. Instead he steps back from the mic, takes a wide stance and puts his hand on his hip like an old man at a urinal and nods slightly to the crowd as his magic band takes flight. “Look, Bob’s dancing!” the septuagenarian fellow next to me enthused to his wife. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that wasn’t dancing, that was rheumatism.
After 157 years of howling in the wilderness, Dylan’s voice sounds like the proverbial emphysemic cow with its leg caught in an electric fence, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Beyond that, the Platonic ideal of Dylan remains immutable and 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 sword swallowers and sideshow freaks. He 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 — high water everywhere — and there is still plenty of thunder on the mountain. Down in Ferguson they’re still selling postcards of the hanging and the beauty parlor is still full of sailors whenever the circus is in town. The fiddler still steps to the road, writing that ‘everything’s been returned which was owed,’ on the back of the fish truck that loads while my conscience explodes. His harmonica still plays the skeleton keys and the rain and these visions of Johanna are now all that remain. – JONATHAN VALANIA
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