Bob Dylan Bids a Restful Farewell to Tour '74

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Graham had a backstage storage area cleared out and set up a basketball halfcourt, out of a forklift, pipes and masking tape. "And they got four guys and it was early in the day and we had a couple of games, and they said, 'Holy shit! This is great. We won't have to hang around and listen to that goddamned rock & roll.' And the foreman, when we left, he said, 'Hey, Billy, we got to have this in our contracts from now on.' They saw that we weren't just hippies earning money on the road with rock & roll freaks. It mellowed everything out. It wasn't 'We love one another,' but for two days we got along. We got along because they respected us as people. And for New York it was a great feeling."

In Oakland, Dylan and the Band had shows at 6 and 10 PM and seemed to hurry through the first show, starting only eight minutes past six, skipping the usual half-hour wait, and, altogether, trimming the normal two-and-a-half-hour show by some ten minutes. He looked particularly defiant, having mastered a head-down, eyes-glaring-up posture. "Isn't he wearing eyeliner and pancake make-up?" one woman noticed through binoculars. (He was; a make-up artist was found on each stop to treat Dylan's face.) And in "Wedding Song," Dylan spat out the phrase, "The past is gone," spit showering his microphone.

Dylan seemed looser for the second show. In the audience was the San Francisco pop scene, members of the Grateful Dead, Santana, the Airplane and the Doobie Brothers, along with the dread, full staff from the home office of Rolling Stone. On the first number, "Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine," he broke a string, smiled, and, after the song, roared into the mike: "Back in San Francisco — at last!"

In San Francisco, Graham took Dylan and the Band on a visit through his warehouse district offices, then up to Marin County, where he showed them his home in Mill Valley and took them to the original dockside restaurant in Sausalito, the Trident, where they stayed two hours past the midnight closing.

In the Bay Area, Graham also helped prevent Dylan from seeing an open letter to Dylan, written by Mimi Farina, singer (and sister of Joan Baez). Published in the San Francisco Chronicle two days before the group's arrival, the letter questioned Dylan about a rumor that had followed his entire tour. The rumor was that Dylan was sending part of his tour profits — Dylan is reported to be getting between 50 and 60% of the expected $3-million net — to Israel to aid in the Mideast war. Another rumor had Dylan sending money to a kibbutz in Israel, for the purchase of food and clothing.

Dylan, in the few interviews he gave during the tour, either denied the rumor or side-stepped the question. He responded to one reporter's question: "That's like asking if I'm doing this tour to raise money to go to the moon in 1983." He told Rolling Stone (February 14th) the rumors were "just gossip."

Farina, who works with her sister, a founder of the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence, was married to the late Richard Farina, musician and novelist who had been a friend of Dylan in the early Sixties in New York. In her letter she said she doubted the rumors, partly "because of your compassionate understanding for those who suffer." But, she wrote, "The money you earn is the money we are willing to give you . . . if it is going to support the taking of more lives, we should know that before we buy our tickets. Perhaps the question could be clarified by a statement to the press."

Joan Baez said she approved of the letter, but added: "I don't know if it's even our business. But when there's that much money involved, there are bound to be questions."

Mimi did attend an Oakland concert — as Joan's guest — and had an ambivalent response.

"I was glad to see him," she said. "I had dreams later surrounding the concerts. But I wished he'd have communicated more with the audience. Most people were satisfied with the music, but it bothered me that someone with so much power would flippantly ignore it. There was a branch of that old nastiness coming through, by the intonation of his voice. It was snarly, a put-down, even, in tone.

"I brought Kleenex with me. I was ready to cry. But I never had an inkling of emotion, of the poetry behind the songs."

In a national audience of just less than 658,000, Mimi's was a minority voice. Despite the ticket hassles, some obstructed views for several hundred customers in several cities, and an unanswered political question, Tour '74 was a triumph for Bob Dylan, the Band, the producers, the crews and the audiences. If you didn't have expectations left over from the last time you saw Dylan, eight or 13 years ago; if you could give the man room to do what he wished with his songs — songs that changed the direction of popular music so many times; if you could stand inside his shoes for just one moment, you would have been a satisfied customer. I remember the young girl in Oakland, a Joni Mitchell-like beauty in long jeanskirt outfit, standing with her hands clasped as if in prayer, while the rest of the Coliseum went crazy.

Graham was watching the audiences, too. "You could say, 'greatest thrill of my life,' 'greatest event.' You can't say those things. But it was the kind of thing . . . years from now you remember that picnic; that game where we beat Notre Dame . . . a very special cluster of events that will be with a lot of people. If I don't ever do anything again, I will have thought that I was a part of something very special.

"It's those faces at the end. Those beautiful faces."

This story is from the March 28th, 1974 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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