Bob Dylan Goes Electric

I was invited to watch the session by the producer, Tom Wilson, who was a friend of mine, and I was just ambitious. When Dylan walked in, with [guitarist] Mike Bloomfield at his side, I was sitting outside in the studio, ready to play guitar. After I heard Bloomfield play, I packed up my guitar and went into the control room--where I belonged. Then they moved Paul Griffin, the organ player, over to piano, and I asked Tom Wilson if I could go out there and play the organ. He told me I was a guitar player. But he didn't say no. Pretty soon he was called to the phone, so I went out there and played the organ.

I didn't go to the '65 Newport Folk Festival with Dylan. I went as a regular person who always just bought tickets and went. But Albert Grossman, his manager, saw me walking around and said, "Hey, Bob is looking for you." And so he gave me passes and I sold my tickets. Evidently they'd been calling my house, but I'd already left. I was on vacation. They wanted to rehearse and re-create the sound of the album for the show, and we finally got three songs together.

They booed. There's no doubt about the fact that they booed. But the reason they booed is because he only played for 15 minutes and everybody else played for 45 minutes to an hour--and he was the headliner of the festival. They were feeling ripped off. Wouldn't you? The fact that he was playing electric... I don't know. Earlier in the festival, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band had played electric, and the crowd didn't seem too incensed. The Chambers Brothers played electric, and the crowd didn't seem too incensed. What was I thinking at the time? I was thinking we weren't playing too good. That's what I was thinking.

But after Newport, audiences had time to read what the newspapers promulgated as his betrayal and the audience's response to his betrayal. And so these people had been taught to boo. The concert at Forest Hills, N.Y., was particularly dramatic. That was amazing. It was like a Gothic novel. Before the show we had a meeting and Bob said, "Hey, anything could happen out there. Just ignore whatever happens and keep playing. It could be a circus out there. So just keep playing. Whatever happens, just keep playing." We said, "O-kay-ay." It rained briefly in the afternoon, and after the rain we did a sound check so we wouldn't have the problems we had at Newport. And then Dylan went out and played 45 minutes of acoustic music, by himself. Then there was a break and they moved our instruments out. And during the break, the temperature dropped about 10 or 15 degrees, and this wind started swirling around the stadium. It was really weird. Really, really weird.

[New York disc jockey] Murray the K came out and introduced the electric portion of the show. "Bobby-baby knows where it's at"--stuff like that. I couldn't believe it. Then Bob came out and his hair was blowing all over the place and we started playing. The crowd just booed through the whole thing. They were yelling, "Dylan, you scumbag!" and "F--- you!" But the most humorous thing was that "Like a Rolling Stone" was already at the top of the charts. So they sang along with "Like a Rolling Stone"--and then they booed.

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