Monday, April 16, 2012

The Isle of Wight: Bootlegs & My Life Part 6

It was August of 1969 at the Isle of Wight. Bob Dylan was in his white suit. With The Band at his back, he took the stage and opened with She Belongs to Me. After the first song, he uttered the famous words of his comeback: "Thank you very much. Great to be here. Sure is."

 Except for a short appearance at the tribute to Woody Guthrie, three songs on the Johnny Cash show and a cameo with The Band in 1969, Bob had been off the stage since the Tour 66 ended in April of 1966. Three years is a very long time in the Rock and Roll business.

His performance at the Isle of Wight was greatly anticipated and was covered widely by the English press. The audience of 150,000 included the cream of English rock and roll royalty: all of the Beatles except for Paul, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman, and Eric Clapton. It was even front page news in the New York papers. I can remember reading all about it. It was very exciting time for a Dylan fan who was starved for live music or news from Bob.

Bob played a 17 song set that mixed his old songs with two covers: Wild Mountain Thyme and Minstrel Boy and five songs from John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline: I Threw Is All Away, I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine, I'll Be Your Baby Tonight, Lay Lady Lay and I Pity the Poor Immigrant. Although the entire show lasted less than 60 minutes, it was well received by the crowd and sounds very good today.

My first taste of the concert came when Self Portrait was released in June of 1970. That controversial Dylan record included four songs from the show.  The complete set was not available in the United States until this bootleg was released on the TMQ label in 1972. The sound quality of the record reflected the improvement of the bootleg industry. Bootlegs had come a long way since the Great White Wonder.

I can remember listening to this record at Floyd's hotel. Being a big fan of The Band at the time, I loved the playing between Bob, Robbie and the rest of the group. There is some great energy on the Mighty Quinn. I love when Bob calls out for Robbie's guitar part after the third verse and Robbie blisters it.

 When I listen today and compared these tracks to the frightened, speed freak versions of many of the same songs that were delivered on the 1974 tour, the Isle of Wight tracks sound like gold to my ears. Bob might have been rusty that night, but he delivered a great show.

If you don't own this record or have a turntable to play it on, the concert can be found on several different bootleg CDs. There is a copy called the JTT Master Reel Copy that has very good sound. That's the version that I have on my ipod.

 Here is some audience video from that night. It starts with The Band playing The Weight, but stay tuned the Bob tunes come next:


  1. great article--this brought me way back...

  2. Great video, how the hell did you find that?

  3. IOW is one of my prized vinyl boots from the 70's and I have always held its musical and historical value in high regard. Wish Sony would release it in undubbed, non Self-Portrait form. The unearthing on YouTube of a filmed document of the event confirms the long held rumor that such footage existed.

  4. Cool post, and particularly poignant given Levon Helm's apparently final days in his battle against cancer.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Levon Helm. RIP

    2. Bob Dylan's from his website:

      April 19, 2012
      In response to Levon’s passing

      He was my bosom buddy friend to the end, one of the last true great spirits of my or any other generation. This is just so sad to talk about. I still can remember the first day I met him and the last day I saw him. We go back pretty far and had been through some trials together. I'm going to miss him, as I'm sure a whole lot of others will too.