Notes: Of course the title of this book is taken from the first line of a Dylan masterpiece, Visions of Johanna. If you read this book as a companion to your listening enjoyment of the Live 1966 album, you begin to feel what it really must have been like that night.
In July 1998 a reader of the Dylan newsgroup posted the following question. "I was wondering what (available) Dylan book has the best, most in-depth treatment of 65-66 era? " My reply follows.
With Dylan books, the "best" and "available" are often mutually exclusive categories, as most Dylan books don't remain in print for very long.
As recently as a few months ago, my answer to this question would have been to start with Volume One of the Performing Artist series by Paul Williams, which covers 1960-1973. The 1965-66 period spans 100 of the 281 pages of the book. This is an essential Dylan book that every fan should read.
Two books have focused narrowly on 1965-66, but neither would be easy to find...
"The Circus Is In Town" by Chris Cooper & Keith Marsh is a 52 page booklet published in 1988 that focuses on the 1965 England tour. It gives a chronological account of the tour and includes transcripts of several interviews and press conferences, as well as a handy scene by scene breakdown of Dont Look Back. It also has one of my favorite photos of Dylan with a trumpet.
"The Ghost Of Electricity" by John Bauldie, published in 1989, is a 223 page account of the 1966 World Tour. It is by far the best of Bauldie's many Dylan books and certainly in the top ten (or even five) of all Dylan books of any kind. It is also extremely difficult to find and commands a high price when you are lucky enough to actually locate a copy. If you should be so lucky, pay the price, as another chance won't come soon, and you won't be disappointed. As with The Telegraph, which Bauldie published for many years before his untimely death, the text of this book is enhanced with plenty of excellent photographs of Dylan on the tour. The cover photo on the original edition (not the 1993 reprint) is worth the price of admission alone!
But while you're searching for "Ghost" you should get a copy of the newly published book by C. P. Lee: "Like The Night: Bob Dylan and the Road to the Manchester Free Trade Hall" (Helter Skelter Publishing, London: 1998).
This is a wonderful 190 page book that focuses on the famous May 17, 1966 Manchester concert. It is a perfect companion to the Live 1966: The "Royal Albert Hall Concert" album that every fan should own.
The book begins with the engrossing first person account of Dylan's May 1964 television appearance in Didsbury that was recently published in Mojo magazine (Feb 1998). In his Day By Day book, Heylin lists three songs at this performance: Times, Blowin' and Chimes of Freedom. In Lee's account we discover that the announcer introduced Dylan by referring to the first two songs, but then Dylan sang only two songs: Don't Think Twice and Chimes. Lee's account is based on interviews of those who were there, especially the production assistant who acted as Dylan's host at the studio (and who asked Dylan to do Don't Think Twice!), as well as an audio tape of the show.
Lee's book has been carefully researched in considerable detail, and he gives the musical and cultural history that led up to the controversy that rocked the 1966 tour, culminating in the famous Judas incident. The reader learns a lot more than the usual "the Folkies were aghast that Dylan went electric at Newport." And though you can tell an academic has assembled the information, it does not read like a textbook, but as a personal account of events that changed the lives of those involved.
The book covers Dylan's appearances at Newport (1963 & 1964, as well as 1965) and Forest Hills (1965) in considerable detail, and other parts of his 1965-66 touring in lesser detail. But it is all a prelude to the account of the Manchester show, which takes up the last half of the book.
Greil Marcus makes an accurate observation on the cover of the book when he says, "C. P. Lee was there, but the point is that he can put you there too." He really does succeed in that way. He was able to locate many others who were at the show, and we get to hear their accounts, as well as his own. In the last two chapters he describes the concert song by song, and this is where you will, of course, be following along by playing your copy of Live 1966. It makes a great album even better.
The results of his exhaustive research make for interesting reading. Lee traces the history of the Free Trade Hall from when it was first built in the 19th century. We discover that the taping of the show could easily have been scuttled because of the failure of Columbia to give the required 21 days advance warning to the hall. They assumed that they could just show up and tape the show without asking!
Then there were the patrons who were told that it was in their power to stop the show from proceeding if they chose to do so. And my favorite, we learn what the audience is cheering about just after Dylan introduces Pill-Box Hat.
The Bauldie book covers the whole 1966 tour in more detail, expertly assembled by a journalist from the press clippings, interviews and press conferences that appeared at the time. This new book gives much more of the background to the cultural war that was raging, while focusing on fewer of the concerts. And it gives more of a personal account of the events, as it is based on the interviews of those who were there. Dylan's voice is heard more in the Bauldie book because of its many interviews and press conferences. But the personal approach of Lee's book is very appealing as well, especially since it was during this period in Dylan's career when he began to turn inward and write more personal songs about his experiences.
My conclusion: start with this new book, follow it up with Paul Williams and then the Bauldie book, when you can find it.
Subjects: Dylan, Bob, 1941-; -- Criticism and interpretation -- Performances
ISBN: 1-900924-07-2 UK £12.00 US $16.95
Reviews: Reviewed in ISIS #79 & On The Tracks #15. Other reviews from Amazon.com below.
Bob Dylan's tour of Europe in May of 1966 has long been a point of fascination for his most dedicated fans, thanks mostly to the tapes of incendiary gigs that leaked out and were bootlegged over the years. Treasured tapes of the phenomenal show he gave in Manchester, England, on May 17, 1966, have been passed among fortunate collectors for decades, and the show has finally been officially released by Dylan's record label as Live 1966: The "Royal Albert Hall Concert." Now those who've only attended the legendary Manchester gig in dreams can journey back to join C.P. Lee and his mates. Lee, a professor today, was at the age of 16 one of the lucky 1,800 to be blasted and blown away by the intense aural assault Dylan unleashed inside Manchester's Free Trade Hall. Writing with an eye for the quirky detail, Lee takes the reader along to the concert, introducing us to the steadfast fans as well as those who came to heckle. Not only is Like the Night great fun, but the author possesses keen understanding for Dylan and his music, and his insights into Dylan as both performer and as a cultural force should be required reading for anyone who claims to be a Dylan fanatic. --Robert McNamara
The author, C P Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org) October 13, 1998
Ever since seeing Dylan in 1966 during his historic tour I've always wanted to write this book. Dylan's gig changed rock 'n' roll for ever. It also changed me. Drawing on my own experiences and those of other people who were there that night, this book is not just about Bob Dylan - it's about rock music, it's about culture, it's about performance, it's about history and, above all, it's about our times. All these aspects are within its pages, including Paul's unique shots - enjoy!
John Howells (email@example.com) from California, January 12, 1999
It used to be like that, now it goes like this...
Well, what have we here? Only the best book yet written about the 1966 Bob Dylan world tour, and by focusing on the crucial Manchester 5/17/66 concert (now officially released), and by providing fascinating background detail surrounding the events leading up to this particular concert, Lee has demonstrated in a very entertaining way the reasons why we should care about Bob Dylan and the direction his music took in the mid 1960s. It's hard to believe now, after listening to the recently released Live 1966 double-CD set, that this music was dismissed as trash and the tour itself considered to be a disaster. In fact, the music created by Dylan and the Hawks at Manchester (and other venues in Europe in 1966) has proven to be more influential and longer lasting than most other contemporary music of the time. 1966 was truly the year that the music changed, and Dylan was there leading the way. C.P. Lee's eyewitness account shows us why music fans still talk about this amazing concert 33 years later.
Eric Scott Bloom (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Tempe, AZ, October 10, 1998
Lee proves 1966 was Dylan's and rock's quintessential year!
I am a Dylan freak if ever there was one. For numerous reasons, 1966 was my favorite year. Not to have lived through (I was only four) but historically speaking. This was Bob Dylan at the height of his writing and performing powers, most Dylanologists/fans would agree, made even more amazing and controversial for the fact that at this stage of his creative genius, he was barely twenty-five! In addition, BLONDE ON BLONDE was, and still is, my favorite album, and the European tour of said '66 is undoubtedly rock's crucial moment. The songs that threw audiences and journalists into a frenzy that has not yet, to this very day, let up, were mainly from the most famous one-two punch in popular music's short history; HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED and BLONDE ON BLONDE. CP Lee's LIKE THE NIGHT is a book I've been waiting on for twenty years. This is not just an historical account of a moment in history which had enormous impact on music and culture in general, but a recollection from the author and a group of individuals who possess a real passion and heart-felt affinity for a man who became a hero not only for his artistic genius, but as much for his courage. Like so few artists before him, and even fewer after, Dylan spent the better part of two years doing things his way, regardless of how any other soul in the whole world felt about it. This book will entertain you, educate, surprise, and inspire you. It will take you back to a split second in popular music history when it actually mattered what kind of music and what kind of words an artist presented to his public. In 1966, rock and roll was twelve years old, still breast feeding on the teet of its public's expectations. Bob Dylan was perhaps its one-and-only rebel with a monumental cause: artists' rights/poetic license. LIKE THE NIGHT is a crystal clear snapshot from Bob Dylan's march on Manchester and the world of rock and roll. Read this book, and join the march.
Derek Keogh (Blind.Derek@edlis.org) from Dublin, Ireland, October 8, 1998
Go back in time to the greatest rock'n roll tour of all time
CP Lee was there. At a time when Dylan was revolutionising rock music. At a time when audiences got what they wanted Dylan gave them the opposite and got booed and barracked for giving us some of the greatest shows of all time. In 1966 if you went to see a Chuck Berry concert, you got just that, he looked and sounded the same as he did on the records you bought. Up to this point in time it was the same with Dylan, he was the acoustic folk troubador, Woody Guthrie clone bringing folk music to the masses. A snobbery existed in folk circles towards rock music and when their flagship artist, their darling, played with a kick ass rock band ('The Hawks')all hell broke loose.
CP Lee takes the whole context of the times. The stringent and puritanical folk music ideals and shows us why they couldn't react in any other way than how they did.
He introduces us to characters both pro and anti Dylan and follows them to the gig, during the gig and after. He breathes life into a concert performance describing the atmosphere in haunting detail. I wanted to be there, I listened to the album of the show whilst reading and it brings a whole new meaning to it.
A definite must buy, not just for Dylan fans but for those with even a passing interest in the History of Rock 'n Roll. You cannot get from Chuck Berry to the angst ridden rock of Nirvana without stopping off in Manchester in 1966.
A joy, pure and simple.
The Thin Man (email@example.com) from Manchester, England October 6, 1998
Warm account of most confrontational night in rock history
A rarity in Dylan books in that it treats its subject matter with a sense of perspective and also a sense of humour.It is a paradoxically warm account of probably the most vicious night in rock history. Lee was at the gig, along with the book's photographer, and ably describes how a mid 60's English audience was confonted by an electric wall of sound. Many of them had come to see a folksinger and simply could not 'cope' with the flagbearer of radicalism as Rock n' Roll singer.They reacted in a pure English manner by booing and trying to appeal to Dylan's sense of fair play. The funniest bits in the book by the way are the heckles, and if you get chance to see Lee read from the book you'll probably hear his booing compilation tape.Most importantly it's written by a fan who's not a fanatic.
(Tiernan.Henry@ucg.ie) from Galway, Ireland, October 6, 1998
Blow-by-blow account of Dylan's legendary '66 Manchester gig
Thirty-two years ago some bloke in Manchester called Bob Dylan "Judas!". Dylan called him a liar, and finished a breathtaking show by uncorking a truly incendiary "Like A Rolling Stone."
While the exchange has long passed into rock mythology, for years it was thought to have taken place at London's Royal Albert Hall. Now, CBS are releasing the show as part of Dylan's Bootleg Series, coinciding nicely with C.P. Lee's book detailing the lead-up to, and the events of, that night in May 1966.
Lee - unlike most people who claim to have been there - was actually there, as was a young Paul Kelly, who took some excellent shots of Dylan alone on stage, and Dylan fronting his five-piece band of junkyard angels (then they were just 'the band', though they would later become The Band).
Lee sets the scene perfectly by contrasting the immediacy of today's pop scene with the mid-60s; no MTV, little radio or tv coverage, sketchy details in the press... it was hard to keep abreast of what was going on. Though he had already released a brace of electric (or electric dominated) albums the previous year (Bringing It All Back Home, and Highway 61 Revisited) with another in the pipeline (Blonde On Blonde), Dylan was still largely known as a folk artist, rather than as a rocker.
Many felt that by plugging-in, Dylan was selling-out, and even though he was playing with a band many attending the shows hoped that he'd "see sense" and send the noisy five-piece home.
Rounding up many people who were there that night, Lee gauged their reactions to the events that unfolded. Some are still unrepentant that they booed and catcalled the Minnesotan singer, still feeling that he had somehow "betrayed" the folk movement.
And it's here that Lee excels; he paints a wonderfully vibrant picture of the folk revival both in Britain and the USA, detailing the almost Stalinistic regime of rules that applied to performance of folk material. As the millenium approaches it may seems quirky, quaint even, that folk music could stir up such feelings, yet the fears were obviously genuinely felt that something would be lost to an all too attractive youth culture.
Building the tension of the day of the show with all the skill of a thriller writer, Lee reveals that a put-upon stage manager almost cancelled the show (when unannounced to him the road crew turned up with recording equipment and rather more amplifiers than he was expecting), and his song-by-song account of the show really makes the whole thing come alive.
Lee's descriptions of the performances tingle with excitement, bringing the reader right into the Machester Free Trade Hall. Paul Williams' books on Dylan's performances are renowned among Dylan fans, and Lee now joins Williams in making the music dance and sing on the page.
It's hard to read Lee's book and not want to stick on the cds - you'll be "pausing" and "playing" as you read! And it's hard not to listen to this wonderful, timeless, and breathtaking music, without thinking of the swirling tempest Dylan was stirring up, so wonderfully captured by C.P. Lee in this excellent book.
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Last updated: 5/25/99