When Dylan greeted the Newport Folk Festival with amplified sound, it marked the beginning of a new phase in Dylan's musical progression. The protest songs that marked his early-sixties material (Blowin' in the Wind, The Times they are a-Changin') were complemented with equally compelling material and louder instruments.

During the month prior to the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, Dylan cut "Like a Rolling Stone" with a band featuring Al Kooper on organ/piano and Mike Bloomfield on lead electric guitar, whose roots were in electric blues with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. With the duo on "Rolling Stone," Dylan created a masterpiece that would fittingly later succumb to popular interest and overplay.

But in '65 it was something new. The Newport Folk Festival had never permitted electric instruments; when Dylan plugged in, organizers and fans were shocked. Folk musician Pete Seeger attempted to unplug Dylan by unsuccessfully attacking the power generator with an axe. The annoucer's voice cracks before Maggie's Farm: "ladies and gentleman the person who's gonna come up now has... a limited amount of time." Only "the person" wasn't one person, but a full rock 'n' roll band, with drums, electric guitars, a bass, all played loud. The crowd is restless and eventually applauds.

Dylan would never return to Newport, but he endured more unruly crowds over the next year. In Dylan's documentary, Don't Look Back produced by D. A. Pennebaker, he playfully spars with the crowd, though they remain reverential. In one scene, Dylan asks a teen-aged autograph hound, "you don't like my friends?" But the film was produced during the Europe 1965 tour and focused on Dylan's live acoustic work -- omitting much crowd animosity.

The most famous confrontation can be heard on the Manchester (U.K.) Free Trade Hall concert tape recorded May 17, 1966. Mislabeled on bootlegs as the "Royal Albert Hall concert," the crowd is unruly throughout the electric set. Prior to the finale, one fan screams "Judas!" to the delight of the crowd. After which, Dylan turns to the band and says "play fucking loud" before launching into Like a Rolling Stone.

The Manchester show was not an anomaly. In Birmingham, England on May 12, Dylan was subjected to "cries of 'Folk phony,' 'Traitor,' 'Give us the real Dylan,' 'Yank go home,' and 'we want folk'" (Shelton, p. 367). The familiar pattern at these shows is a respectful, adoring crowd for the acoustic set, followed by an insulting, angry crowd during the electric set. In Leicester, England, fans jeered "get them off" at Dylan's electric band -- Robbie Robertson and other future members of The Band.

Upon returning to the States, Dylan was involved in a motorcycle accident that would alter his music and lifestyle. Dylan would not formally tour again for eight years. By then, crowds learned respect the electric guitar in Dylan's music.

recordings

Maggie's Farm
Newport Folk Festival
Recorded July 25, 1965
Size = 5.56 MB

Love Minus Zero
Europe '65 Tour - London
Recorded May 9, 1965
Size = 4.31 MB

Like a Rolling Stone
Europe '66 Tour - London
Recorded May 26, 1966
Size = 15.2 MB

Don't think twice, it's alright
Don't Look Back promo Recorded May 9, 1965
Size = 4.24 MB

One too many mornings
Europe '66 Tour - Copenhagen
Recorded May 1, 1966
Size = 5.87 MB

early dylan 1964-1966 basement tapes 1974-1977 1990s bibliography email