Thursday, January 7, 2010

LOOKING BACK: Bootlegs & My Life Part 4

In the summer of 1971, I was acting out my own personal On The Road fantasy. After driving cross country with a college friend, I ended up in San Francisco. I stayed for a week in Haight-Ashbury where I met up with some old friends from Philadelphia. From there, we spent three weeks hitchhiking up the coast to Vancouver, around Canada and back down to Big Sur, where we camped for a few days on a beautiful beach.

Before hitching back across the country by myself (another great story), I stopped in Monterey to visit a college friend named Ducky Millard, whose family owned a house there. It felt good to sleep in a bed, eat a real meal and have some clean clothes on my back.

On the night before I was to resume my journey, we went into Monterey for dinner. At a local record store, I found my copy of Looking Back. For reasons that are better left untold, I had Ducky mail the record to my parent's house in Rhode Island instead of bringing it with me on the rest of the trip.

When I made it back to Rhode Island a week or so later, the record had just arrived at the house. At a small gathering to celebrate my safe return, I unwrapped the album and gave it a spin. When I heard the sound of the music from Tour 66, I couldn't believe my ears.

The double album contains music from three different live performances. Sides 1 and 2, which claim to be from Royal Albert Hall, are actually from the show at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester the week before. Sides 3 and 4, which are advertised as coming from a show at the Berkeley Community Theatre, contain material from two other shows. Side 3 features some of the great acoustic songs from the first half of each concert on the Tour 66. These particular tracks were recorded in Dublin on May 5th. Side 4 was recorded in April of 1963 at Town Hall in New York. All this bad information proves that truth in advertising was never the strong suit of the bootleggers. It has been written that the mislabeling was done to make the record more attractive to the West Coast buyers.

Except for a single cut of Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues, I had not yet heard any of these songs from a very important period of Bob's career. The music from Tour 66 would the soundtrack of my life for most of the '70's. When you compare it to the new music that Bob was making at the time, there was a reason I played this record to death. Do you want to hear Self Portrait, New Morning or this?

When the first notes of Tell Me, Mama came out of the stereo, I was stunned. Beginning with Garth's circus organ and Micky Jones' whack-a-mole drumming, it was a sound unlike anything I had ever heard before. The raw power of the band mixed with Bob's tortured vocals to create music that left me spellbound. Listen for Robbie's solo before the last verse. It is breath taking.

The next thing on the record is Bob in his road weary voice introducing the next number: "This is called I Don't Believe You. It use to be like that and now it goes like this." A familiar cut from Another side of Bob Dylan is given the Tour 66 treatment and the addition of the band is excellent.

On all 8 songs on two sides of this record, Dylan and the band take the best songs from his early catalogue and turn them into magical pieces of music history. Over 40 years later, I wonder what it would have been like to see one of those great shows.

In addition to this, on side 4 of Looking Back, there is the first taste of the acoustic set that started each show on the tour. I wrote about this portion of the show in a post called Before Judas: Tour 66 Acoustic Set (June 10, 2009).

It might be hard to find a copy of Looking Back today, but you can hear the music from Tour 66 on The Bootleg Series Vol 4. It is available on iTunes and from Amazon. It should be on your playlist.


  1. This is so interesting. When I was in my 20s (back in the early 90s) I went to see Dylan at a G.A. show on the side of a ski slope in Pennsylvania. Being the hardcore Dylan fan that I was we arrived (from 5 hours away) at the venue at 3am the day before, camped in our car in a state park nearby and then went to the venue gate at around 6am knowing we would be the first in line for this general admission show. Lo & Behold there was already some dude sitting there who'd traveled from NYC!! We were amazed that we'd been beaten there, the show wasnt until 6pm that evening and thought we had the #1 spot all wrapped up. After of course befriending this person he asked if I'd ever heard a bootleg...I said "no". He pulled out a tcassette ape and we went to my car and stuck it in the player. It was the most awesome thing I'd ever heard, like you were standing right there! "She's got everything she neeeeds, she's an artist, she don't look baaack" and I was reeling! He ended up giving the tape to me, my first bootleg. The show was "The Royal Albert Hall 1966" which of course i found later to really be Manchester. I played that tape until if fell apart, then CDs became big in trading circles and ended up with the Swingin Pig version of it...then of course it was officially released.

  2. What a stunner to see that jacket. In fall of 71 I was a freshman at Fairhaven College in Bellingham Washington. I clearly remember one evening walking down a stairwell and hearing Bob 66, something I'd never heard before coming form a dorm room. I knocked on the door of that room, and the guy in there had this very album. We became friends, and listened to it often. He wouldn't lend it to me, of course, but he did record it onto cassette, a tape I still have. Later I got an LP of a different copy of the bootleg; I still love that show, and my sons inherited that. One of the great rock recordings of all time!