Dylan 1965: I Wasn’t There

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I must’ve sounded like a freak when I asked it.

This weekend I had the pleasure of talking with a friend about some of the concerts he’s seen in his lifetime of going to live shows. And he calmly explained that he’d seen Bob Dylan in 1965 perform with the Hawks after the infamous Newport Folk Festival “going electric” folk fan fallout. My eyes popped out of my head and I think my voice cracked, too because I was so amazed at the thought.

This conversation made me think about how “older” music fans (my friend had about 20 years on me) have the advantage and pleasure of seeing icons like Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin in their prime—while I’ve had to settle for re-union tours or Dylan’s often unpleasant melodic remix of his classic songs.

Of course, I went through my usual list of questions, and asked him if he’d seen all the Dylan movies, and I at least had a leg up since I’d seen I’m Not Here. But then I thought, hey, he actually was in the audience that I was watching relived on screen.

We also talked at length about the state of the record industry in the digital age and how some of his favorite magazines like No Depression have folded or gone to the web in search of financial stability or just plain survival.

But back to this whole Dylan in ’65 thought.

I wanted to ask you guys what your thoughts were. How do you feel when someone of a earlier generation tells you about being at concert of an icon like Dylan? Do you stare at them in wonder or just shrug it off like ‘awh, it was just the case of being born in that era and each era has its own icons that future generations will pine over.’

Sure, a lot of what I was feeling was centered around the romanticism and nostalgia that surrounds an artist like Dylan and sure when you’re at a concert you don’t really think much in terms of it being a historical events that anyone beyond yourself will care about in the future.

But I still wanted to know what it was like. And my friend, to his credit, did a great job of painting the scene for me, right down to Dylan body language and clothing, confirming for me that it was a huge live music moment for him as a fan.

And what still gets me is how I feel after a talk like this. And I don’t know if any other music writers my age feel this way, but what ends up happening is that I end up feeling super-inadequate and inferior in the shadow of their great (Dylan) experience and sometimes even unworthy to write reviews at all. After all, all I have to go on is a third person account or a DVD.

But I guess, all our experiences are just that, our own. And when I think about it, to compare mine against someone else so much that it makes me feel inferior is just a waste of my time. And worst of all it takes all the fun out of talking about the moment with that person and keeps me from learning from them, too.

And who knows? Maybe someday someone younger than me will say ‘wow, you saw Kanye West live?! What was that like?!’

Could that really happen? It could, I guess.

But man, I still wish I had been in my friend’s shoes during that Dylan show.

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  • TCB Walsh

    I saw Nirvana in late 1993 in NYC and when I tell people about it I get that holy-moley reaction you’re talking about. I also saw REM in a tiny club in 1984 when they were changing people’s lives on a nightly basis and that was a similar experience. I think it is still possible to see those kinds of moments – they are just more infrequent these days.

    I do a music site too, called Rock Turtleneck. Lots of Dylan content. Check it out at rockturtleneck.blogspot.com

  • Laurence J.

    Sometimes you just get lucky. I was at Newport in ’65, rode up there on a BSA 650 motorcycle, and caught Dylan
    rehearsing with the Butterfield Blues Band – “Like a Rolling Stone”! Watched the infamous Forest Hills concert/riot from the nosebleed seats about a month later…just saw Bob, Levon Helm, Gillian Welch, Steve Earle and others at Saratoga…the magic moments are still available: keep lookin’!

  • Chris

    funny you bring up nirvana. I was just talking with someone who saw Nirvana too in 1993.

    Yeah, I think I have had a share of moments already. it’s just that the historical context carpet hasn’t fully unrolled yet. But I still take advantage of the vicarious concert moment whenever I can.

    Very cool site, btw.

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