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Bob Dylan Bids a Restful Farewell to Tour '74

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At 12:30, one final get-together took place, all the celebrities crowding up the Forum Club, toting glasses and praising Dylan and the Band. Dylan made a quick visit; Robbie Robertson acknowledged the difference between the last show and all the ones previous. "We felt great up there," he said, "knowing we were coming onto the end, and that we had done it.

"Yes, we're very tired. With me, it's not my voice, but my fingers." Robertson, who usually stays away from pop gatherings, looked over the crowd — movie stars, pop stars, record producers, company presidents, clustered together in minor constellations, waiters scurrying about filling drink orders.

"So this," said Robbie, "is Hollywood!"

And, around 2 AM, the true final gathering took place at the Beverly Wilshire hotel, set in the heart of Beverly Hills.

The Evolution of Bob Dylan

This time around, no stars. Just Dylan with his quiet wife Sara, Robbie Robertson, David Blue, Bobby Neuwirth, Lou Kemp, Dylan's Minnesota boyhood friend, and a few others. Kemp, who still lives and works in Duluth, Minnesota, had been on the entire tour, keeping Dylan company and protecting Dylan's privacy with a Ziegler-like zipper-lip zeal. Between shows in Oakland I asked him about the 36 shows he'd seen so far. Did any of them particularly stand out?

"I'd rather not say."

I heard the matinee show in New York had been outstanding.

"Well . . . they've all been good."

So it was a very private party, a restful farewell to what, on backstage passes, was called Tour '74, and it lasted past four in the morning, the men in the band feeling free. They were finally out of their job and headed for a rest at their homes in nearby Malibu.

Bill Graham was in and out of the Beverly Wilshire suite that morning, a part of the party but, as he did throughout the tour, maintained what he saw as a respectful distance.

A week later, he was back in his San Francisco office, on the phone again, dealing with Premier Talent Agency for Black Oak Arkansas, Spooky Tooth, King Crimson and Mott the Hoople for Winterland dates.

Graham and FM Productions moved last year out of the Fillmore West building, into a roomy building in midtown San Francisco, at one tip of the industrial sector. Graham's office is modest, modern furniture on light creme carpeting. The walls are filled with photos and gold records and a huge county-town map of the US, all the Dylan/Band stops marked with little paper flags. Near the door is a framed letter from Elvis Presley's manager, signed "The Colonel." Tom Parker had sent an "energy lamp" for Graham and Dylan's use, "to light your way in '74," along with the best from Elvis for the upcoming tour.

And beside Graham is his briefcase, stickered with the logos of the Grateful Dead and the Stones, along with a bumperstrip issued a couple of years ago by David Geffen, chairman of Elektra/Asylum Records, asking: Who Is David Geffen and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?

Geffen and Graham did not appear to get along particularly well on the tour. Now, Geffen was at the peak of his lightning-quick trip to the top of the record business, celebrating his 31st birthday February 21st with a party reportedly hosted by Dylan, with the news that his three most recent album releases — Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon — were all in the Top Ten, and with a profile piece in Time. Geffen is quoted: "'The record business is the only part of show business where names are still important. It's still the star system. And this is one of the few places in show business where an executive like me can be a star, too."'

Iconic Rock Shots of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Johnny Cash and More

Geffen also made the cover of Movie Mirror magazine, out the same week Sonny Bono filed for divorce from Cher. The headline, with an arrow pointing to the photo of Geffen, read: Cher Is Rushing Into Marriage With This Man! Geffen, between parties and other celebrations, could not be reached for comment.

Bill Graham, meantime, is not thinking about Geffen. "I'm full of superlatives," he said. "It's not that I'm hiding negatives; it's that I don't have anything negative to say."

Graham recalled most of the stops on the tour: "Denver was great," he said. (Dylan apparently felt the planet waves and declared from the stage: "It's a full moon!") "The second show," Graham continued, "they were super-energetic, and I don't mean they just yelled and screamed. They were very attentive. It was like the last audience at Fillmore East, people who really came to listen to the music. It didn't feel like 12,000 people. It was like a hootenanny. They really let it out verbally at the end of the songs, and the Band, when they finished the first half, they finished with 'Cripple Creek.' It was just this tumultuous ovation. Very seldom was the reaction out of kilter in relation to the quality of the music that night. And that says something about the audience that Dylan and the Band drew. They drew, I think, a very knowledgeable audience. And I think a lot of people who came to revere didn't revere; they listened.

"Seattle," he continued, "was the only place other than Miami that was festival seating [no reserved seats], which means the earlier you get there the closer you're going to get to the stage, but the people were very orderly, very friendly. Montreal, the energy there was great. Boston . . . a very attentive audience. In Houston, great response. We played a little football with the students once we set up the stage, outside in the soggy grass." A ticket controversy dampened the Ann Arbor concerts at the University of Michigan's Crisler Arena; the local promoter, Bob Begaris, was accused of holding off a block of choice, arenafloor tickets that ended up selling for up to $100. Graham called Begaris "a good promoter, a good friend. Because it was a college campus we didn't do mailorder, and supposedly X amount of tickets — I'd say 500 — were held back for VIP treatment, and a scalper got hold of them. I haven't gotten to the bottom of that yet."

The Madison Square Garden concerts — aside from another ticket mess — gave Graham his "non-music high" for the concert: "I'd never produced a show in the Garden and I know what the cost of union men is. The union can strangle this town. In many large buildings they make it almost impossible to be creative. They have a reputation for being hard, by-the-book.

"The beginning of the day was almost 'the fastest gun in the West' 'We're the fastest guns in the East. You have to prove yourself to me before I prove myself to you.' And I suggested, 'Let's relax and enjoy the day. Let's get along. Let's play ball. You guys play ball?' And they said, 'Yeah, we play ball."'

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