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Bob Dylan’s on Fire, Rolling Down the Road

Bob Dylan’s on Hearth, Rolling Down the Road
November 10, 1974

Maybe it’s occurring because nothing was occurring. Perhaps it means more as a result of the strains of our interdependence are so strained, so fragile — yet overgrown, layered, and incestuous. Perhaps as a result of we’re so weak now; particularly in this impacted city, both hoofing it in the refrain line or hopscotching in the spotlight. However for whatever purpose that you simply may need Dylan, and for no matter want he has of you, he’s again.

It’s like the first page of a guide of miracles, Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, when the magic gypsy returned to Macondo, the metropolis in the jungle bearing the first magnet ever seen there. The pots and knives flew from their cabinets, the nails creaked from the beams, and the gypsy, an trustworthy man, proclaimed, “Things have a life of their own. It’s simply a matter of waking up their souls.” And so it is that Dylan, and Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Bobby Neuwirth, and associates are out on the street, in a bus named Phydeaux (a black-humored greyhound), waking up souls in what, alongside with Woodstock (and Altamont if you’ve gotten a style for that aspect of issues), might be the most meaningful musical power nexus of our time. The man has truly gone out and completed it, and in the course of found himself at the peak of his powers.


In early July Dylan was dragging round New York like an out-of-work folksinger, dwelling in a borrowed loft on Houston Road. His marriage had (reportedly) busted up and he had come back to the Village from Malibu for solace, for a transfusion, or simply to be residence to visit. In any occasion it was clearly “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog” time. He would show up virtually every night time at the Different Finish, often alone, sometimes with director Jacques Levy and boulevardier Bob Neuwirth.

At a show during the July Four folkie-smorgasbord, Neuwirth coaxed a reluctant Dylan onstage to sing concord. Neuwirth, the high potentate of Max’s backroom, high dwelling storyteller, song-writer, catalyst, and nonstop dancing associate to rock and roll royalty, ready to do every week lengthy Other End engagement. Rob (Rockin’ Rob Rothstein) Stoner on bass, guitarists Steve Soles and T-Bone Burnette and fiddler David Mansfield all have been pressed into service, with Soles flying in from California, and T-Bone from Texas. Ramblin’ Jack stopped in; English rockers Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson fell by. The show itself was splotchy and shapeless. Nevertheless it seemed to spark something in Dylan, and one night time the Different Finish’s bar instantly become Johnny Cash’s front room, as Dylan & Firm held forth until virtually 6 a.m. with a bunch of latest songs, including the wild-eyed “Joey,” about Gallo the mobster in jail reading Wilhelm Reich. At one point Dylan leaned over to Ramblin’ Jack and recommended that they all do a tour collectively. I don’t assume that anybody who heard it took the suggestion significantly. That week Dylan went into the studio to work on his new album. He then left New York for California and Minnesota.

In October, he returned to New York having undoubtedly decided to tour. It was to be primarily a folk-oriented assemblage, an virtually literal extension of the jamming at the Other Finish. Everyone will get to play and sing, making an attempt to deliver some music again right down to livable scale and into an accessible intimacy. He wanted professional assist and he introduced in longtime help and childhood good friend Louie Kemp from Duluth, ex-Invoice Graham affiliate and Santana supervisor Barry Imhoff, ubiquitous tour-lady Chris O’Dell, and Boston promoter Don Regulation. Joan Baez was referred to as and asked to return along. They arrange shop at the Gramercy Park Lodge and booked a midtown rehearsal studio. But when the tour arrangements have been in protected palms, the band was not.

Dylan doesn’t have the musical chops to steer or create the type of band he’d wish to have. That activity fell to Rob Stoner. He’d been knocking around New York for years, falling in with Neuwirth and ultimately Dylan in July. Stoner’s a tremendous rock and roll mutant, a kind of a cross between Jerry Lee Lewis and Fabian. Fabian? But he actually put the touring band collectively, with the assist and stage path of Jacques Levy. The musicians, to a man, all credit Stoner with “taking a diverse and formless group, who’d never really performed together in a context that demanded any precision, and whipping ’em into form. He introduced in his previous associates Howie Wyeth, who does unlikely double obligation on drums and piano, and percussionist Luther Rix. Violinist Scarlet Rivera, who’d been enjoying with Dylan since June, additionally signed on. Surprisingly, things fell into place, institutionalizing the loopy informality of the late night time jam periods.

On Wednesday, October 29, Dylan, Neuwirth, and a few others arrived for David Blue’s closing set at the Different End. Ronee Blakley showed up as did Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, and Denise Mercedes of the glitter group Stutz. After the club closed, Dylan and Ronee Blakley shared the piano and crooned, Roger McGuinn performed guitars, and Ginsberg sang. “Allen, you’re the king,” stated Dylan repeatedly. “You’re the king but you don’t know your kingdom.” That night time Ginsberg was invited to hitch the tour, adopted two days later by invitations to Denise and the all the time helpful Orlovsky, who was type of given a job as a baggage handler.

At three a.m. Eric Andersen phoned from Woodstock. He spoke to T-Bone Burnette, asked if he should come down (one-and-a-half hour drive). “Well,” T-Bone replied, “it’s really happening.” “Has it peaked yet?” Eric requested. “It won’t peak for another month,” came the answer.

The subsequent night time (Thursday) they performed Mike Porco’s birthday celebration at People Metropolis. They rehearsed Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. On Monday at 1 p.m. they left the Gramercy Park with the band on board the $125,000 Phydeaux and Dylan in a pink Cadillac El Dorado convertible. The tour was to be unadvertised, enjoying principally small halls, $7.50 prime, with only five days notice given by handbills in every city. The secrecy was such that even the musicians didn’t know where they have been headed.

In the meantime, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, residence of the Rock and Pilgrim fame, the largest thing in 355 years was about to occur. Advance men Jerry Seltzer and Jabez Van Cleef walked into the city ironmongery shop. That they had booked the Plymouth Memorial Auditorium earlier for a Joan Baez concert. The town fathers requested that Joan not make any overtly political statements on stage. The hall was rented, 1800 seats, for $250 dollars per night time (two nights), $100 over the common rental worth after assuring the home manager that, sure, they might fill the second balcony. In the hardware, store they gave a Rolling Thunder Revue handbill to 2 younger guys shopping for spackle. The first man screamed, “Get out, I don’t believe it.” He was reassured. “You’d better be right or I’ll rip this town apart.” “It’s your town,” Van Cleef replied. The second man turned and stated, calmly, “Look man, there are some things in life that’re real. This isn’t one of them.” He was incorrect, and he was right.


The Sea Crest Lodge in North Falmouth, Massachusetts, (“on captivating Cape Cod”) is true on the seashore. It has 200 rooms and is magnificently secluded. The tour arrived there Monday afternoon. On Tuesday I referred to as for a reserva­tion and was asked if I needed an ocean-front room. “Something close to the Dylan party,” I re­plied. The clerk lied telling me that the only giant group in the lodge was a Mah-Jongg convention. That evening, Dylan, introduced by the Borscht Belt MC as “a dynamite entertainer,” sang in the dining room, Ginsberg recited “Kaddish” and danced a pas de deux with Ronee Blakley. Thursday night I flew into Boston. The subsequent morn­ing I headed for the Sea Crest.

I met Peter Orlovsky in the foyer. He stated I shouldn’t be there, safety was very tight. No press, no woman associates, no business like present business. He recommended I speak to Louie Kemp. Kemp was amazed that I’d found them. I’d have to go away. I stated I’d register. We struck a discount. They’d give me a room and send individuals as much as speak. They’d send up lunch and two security guards, one to run errands for me, the other to make sure I didn’t depart the room and to ac­company me if I did. Like Camp David, or Los Alamos. Truthful enough. So, underneath digital house arrest, I enjoyed my first customer, Steve Soles, who informed me that “Everyone cares about everyone else here, we’re all feelin’ good, no tension. It’s really run by pros and it’s a grown-up tour. Nobody’s on a bad trip or fucked up with drugs. And it’s all spontaneous. We don’t know where we’re goin’, neither does Dylan. We just walk out, tune up, and fall into the song.” Soles is half-N.Y., half L.A., however all of it got here together in N.Y. “L.A. doesn’t breed this kind of en­ergy.”

The tour represents an enor­mous monetary funding for Dylan. There are not any tremendous banks of amplifiers or special lighting, however it still includes at the least 50 individuals. It’s been a dream of the collective rock consciousness to do a tour like this. Small halls, no promoting — “the real magical mystery tour,” as Neuwirth says. And whether or not or not Dylan makes a revenue — there can be a film, in fact — he’s still doing something admirable. Nevertheless it’s like the previous J.P. Morgan riposte: “If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.” If you’re a large enough star to warrant a secret tour you a) don’t want the cash, b) reap compensatory free publicity, c) stoke up your personal emotional capital, and d) what the hell else would you be d0ing — sitting around the pool with Ali McGraw and infrequently switching your drink from hand handy?

Meanwhile, outdoors on the seashore, Jack Elliott, wanting like a lawyer in Miami, is chasing Joan Baez, extremely lovely in just a towel. The cormorants are diving for fish and the Mah-Jongg women are walking round with their palms behind their backs.

Howard Alk and Mel Howard are there making a movie with Sam Shepard feeding them pictures; Jack Elliott speaking to the wax pilgrims in the Mayflower museum; Rob Stoner as Gene Vincent and T-Bone Burnette as Buddy Holly in rock and roll heaven with Joan Baez as a red-afroed hooker and Paul Colby as a nightclub owner. Or, a scene in an area diner with Ginsberg as “the emperor” and Dylan as “the alchemist.” Allen: “Are you the alchemist? I’m the emperor, here’s my card”; he arms Dylan an orange maple-leaf. Dylan: “Your kingdom is bankrupt after all the wars, after sending off to Indochina for a shipload of tears you still haven’t paid your karmic debt.” Allen: “What’s the alchemical secret that’ll help?” Instantaneously (all improvised), Dylan smiles: “Invention.” And he proceeds to mix up a bowl of remedy, going behind the counter for Ritz crackers, honey, pepper, milk, Tabasco sauce. “Your using ordinary materials,” cries Ginsberg. “That’s the point,” says Dylan.

But like all rock and roll tours this operation is functionally schizophrenic. It’s understandably bizarre, this institutionalized intimacy, this paramilitary folkyness. Dylan’s aides are there to protect him, and like some other zealots, they overdo issues. My incarcera­tion was in all probability only a mistake, however a mistake very much in line with the tone of the tour. Kemp put an indication “Quarantine — Lepers Quarters” on my door.

So I threaten to sue, to call the police, the FBI (kidnapping is a federal crime), and so forth. And abruptly they’re very nice to me. McGuinn, Neuwirth, T-Bone, and Rockin’ Rob arrive. Room service is available in with a tuna salad and some wine. I insist McGuinn taste the wine first. I flip down some ha­shish because smoking makes me paranoid.

Mick Ronson, sporting only a towel, wanders in. He’s a type of English guys who, if rock ‘n roll hadn’t intruded, would’ve been a hairdresser. He’s a gen­uinely candy man, and totally blown out by the entire concept. “I can’t believe it, this is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me,” like a Youngster of God or a Hari­-Krishnoid, “the rest of my life, before this, was all bullshit.”

McGuinn, considered one of the world’s great gadget freaks, brings out a Polaroid and waits for a gull to fly previous the sun. Neuwirth, wanting calmer and softer than ever, starts talking about the 10 years of speak­ing that preceded the tour. “It’s gonna be a new living room every night. This is the first existential tour, it’s a movie, a closed set, it’s rock and roll heaven and it’s his­torical, no, hysterical. No, spell it h-y-s-t-o-r… “and never finishes the word. “It’s been Ramblin’ Jack’s dream for a long time, he’s the one who taught us all and the dream’s coming true.” After which, “Aw, shit, let’s just watch the sunset over the Atlantic.”


Nowadays the residents of Ply­mouth eat grinders and drive around rotaries. It’s like some other medium-sized New England town full of nice clean-looking youngsters, a variety of ’em still sporting their Military area jackets because the working class fought the last warfare. Even $7.50 is a steep ticket in Ply­mouth.

The Memorial Auditorium seats about 1800, including 400 folding chairs on the flooring, ordinarily a basketball courtroom. With the chairs set up it’s identical to your high school auditorium, in the event you went to a small previous highschool. It was Halloween, but with the exception of a human toothpaste tube the Plymouthians have been all dressed up as Bostonians. And the native police frisk you for wine at the door, but two New Yorkers, singer Garland Jeffreys and guitarist Alan Friedman, out­smarted them with bottles of Soave Bolla and Southern Com­fort, respectively.

At eight:20 the show started. The band came out in Lone Ranger masks, with Steve Soles, who appears like John Astin, made up in whiteface. Neuwirth was wear­ing a khaki flak vest and served as MC. Throughout the present a man behind me stored referring to him as “‘Nam,” saying, “He’s all right, see that vest, he’s been to ’Nam.”

Everybody on the show is in another band or performs solo, so the first half-hour was taken up by their solo spots. Rockin’ Rob Stoner did “The Moment’s Too Good to Be Wasted, But I’m Too Wasted to Be Any Good,” assisted by Quacky Duck’s David Mansfield on fiddle. David, solely 19, seems to be like a Tintoretto angel and regularly amazes everyone together with his virtuosity. Neuwirth waltzed throughout the stage in those sliding glide steps you used on polished levels once you have been a kid, he sounded great as a singer, too. T-Bone, who seems like Roy Orbison singing underwater, got here subsequent adopted bizarrely by Ronson’s Bowie-ish “Is There Life on Mars?” Then Ronee Blakley as Betty Boop with a mustache, the only real stiff on the bill. In toto, although, they’d taken all the dumb random jam session power and drew it into focus. Then Neuwirth sang Kristofferson’s music to Jack El­liott, while Jack wandered out wanting loony as ever in a Hawaiian shirt, knickers, and ever-present Brooklyn-Cowboy hat. El­liott’s certainly one of the threads that ties the entire thing together. Ginsberg first met him in 1950 once they dated the similar woman. She fell for Jack, sez Ginsberg, and Allen turned gay. Anyway, Jack’s the actual thing, an genuine beatnik weirdo and he acquired tremen­dous applause, like they recog­nized a real freak. He sang, howlin’ and completely happy, getting down on his haunches or pointing his guitar like Lou Costello with a bayonet. At that time the show actually took off.

Now, I need to say this now, earlier than I get into telling about Dylan. Regardless of all this horseshit, like beginning in Plymouth (“How Bicentennial of him,” says my good friend David Schwartz), and all the too obvious loops of symbolic meanings and nice chain of po­etry, i.e., Blake to Whitman to Ginsberg to Dylan, it’s just a show. I’ve seen plenty of exhibits. And this one is the biggest show I’ve ever seen. Better than the Russian Circus when the troika disap­peared. Better than Fiddler on the Roof.

Dylan comes out in a mask, like a Clockwork Orange droog, in his black leather-based coat, lengthy scarf, and that previous porkpie sombrero of his festooned with flowers. He and Neuwirth start “When I Paint My Masterpiece” collectively and that’s the only metaphorical teat to suck on. This tour is Dylan’s master­piece. With a tiny little Gibson sunburst guitar, it was previous “Alias” again, bizarre like a Goya, in the land of Coca-Cola.

You see him and also you hear him and also you say No Means. You’ll be able to’t consider it. He’s tight like a mata­dor and he turns slowly into a dark, bloody version of “It Ain’t Me, Babe.” He sounds more pure than ever earlier than, in order that his vocal affectations work higher. Ronson drops a letter good solo and Dylan slowly takes up a harmonica and lifts it to his mouth. However he can’t play it because he’s still received the mask on. He turns round, takes it off, faces the viewers, the place goes loopy like a Saint Vitus’s dance or Saint Elmo’s hearth. Dylan responds with digital Clapton on the harp, hips thrust ahead, electric on the balls of his ft. Abruptly it’s over, and Neuwirth says just one phrase — “Dylan.”

He plays “Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” subsequent, reciting the overlong verses, the words rolling quicker and quicker and Ronson takes one other solo, together with his guitar low on one knee, proper foot forward. And I feel, “Yes, if he lives to be 100 this is the best thing Ronson’ll ever do.” Dylan takes it all in, strutting, sauntering around the stage, abso­lutely 100 Per Cent All There.

He does the new “Durango” and “Isis,” each coauthored by Jacques Levy. Throughout a guitar solo someone tosses a rose on stage. Dylan turns on left heel, throws scarf over shoulder, and in one motion, like a shortstop, picks up the rose and tosses it back. And throughout the rest of the music he rocks on his heels, arms hanging in fists, tossing his head back and forth. You gotta see Dylan dance.

That’s only half of the present. When the curtain comes up once more there are four legs displaying and two of ’em are Joan Baez’s, on the left. Collectively they sing ”The Occasions They Are A-Altering,” “Baby, You Been on My Mind,” and a brand new Dylan track that seems like “For Sentimental Reasons,” with Joan and Dylan trucking in and out of the mike like Sam and Dave.

Then Baez solo: her Dylan track, “Diamonds and Rust,” an exces­sive a cappella “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” a Lily Tomlin imitation, and three more numbers. Next McGuinn, who’d been enjoying banjo, does “Chestnut Mare,” another Jacques Levy tune, and Joan returns for “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” Garland Jeffreys, sitting next to me, appears to explode with happiness.

Dylan comes again alone, harmonica holder on his neck, for a syncopated, quicker version of “I Don’t Believe You.” Even his guitar enjoying is getting better. Followed by his new single, a topical music, “Hurricane,” about Reuben Carter in prison. The lyric is long and chilling, accentuated by Scarlet Rivera’s enjoying. Followed by two more new Mexi-Gothic love songs. Then, yet one more love music. Superb: “Sarah, loving you is the one thing I’ll never regret, Say-­rah, Sweet love of my life.” And the way might it’s, how might his personal life, the part that counts, come to so much ache as he segues into “Just Like a Woman”? Last­ly Ginsberg comes out all in white, (inexplicably he doesn’t do much on stage; he ought to open the show) and Joan, in a Bozo-the-Clown mask for, inevitably, “This Land Is Your Land” with Ramblin’ Jack singing the verses no one else knows, cause Jack knew Woody Guthrie and Guthrie knew William Blake.


“It’s Dylan’s mudra,” stated Gins­berg, holding up three fingers to make a sign like a Bombay Boy Scout (which he is). “It’s his ges­ture, his act of significance. It’s the actualization of his best fanta­sies. His lesser, aggressive fanta­sies have been exhausted.” From one Jewish Gemini to another, Planet Information to Planet Waves, 10-Four.

Dylan’s survived, grown up. He’s not burnt out; his greatest work may even be forward of him. He’s an enormous, like Chaplin or Picasso. Like Brando or Muhammed Ali. He’s all the time received a plan. This one works on each degree — body, head, intel­lect, heart. No one else even comes close — Jagger, Springsteen, Paul Simon.

The radio, subsequent day, appeared to play only Dylan and Baez. It was some kind of reassurance that the miracles had truly taken place. Or have been about to take place, because Dylan was on hearth and the Rolling Thunder Revue was filling the sky.

“Aw, shit,” stated Neuwirth, “let’s go watch the sunset.”