Bob Dylan Tour Snowballs: 'It's Not a Nightclub Show'

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The tour's financial setup remains a carefully guarded secret. Finkel and Imhoff continue to deliver a chorus of no comments and local hall managers are told not to talk about the financial arrangements. Lou Kemp will say only that "everybody's on salary [excluding per diem expenses of $20 a person]. We've got 70 people to house, move and take care of. We gotta pay for this film that's being shot and that's costing an arm and a leg. So far Dylan has not seen a penny. He's the only one who hasn't gotten paid yet."

Joan Baez is second-billed only to Dylan on a show that includes Elliott, Roger McGuinn, Bobby Neuwirth and Ronee Blakley. (In New Haven, Joni Mitchell joined up for the two shows, singing several numbers from her new album. The day after she left, Dylan asked: "Is she on the tour? I don't know if she is or not. She just showed up and she got on the bill. There are points in the show where that kind of thing can happen." The week before, in Springfield, Arlo Guthrie performed.) Baez shied away from hard questions about the tour and dwelled instead on the ambiance.

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"I've never seen such a spirit among people," "she said. "You've never been in our bus [called Phydeaux and strictly off-limits to the press] to see what happens. On Phydeaux some nights after a long day and two shows, out comes a little Kahlua and milk and roast beef sandwiches. One night McGuinn took out the 12-string and sang every hit we'd ever known. Then one night Jack Elliott took the guitar and sang every yodeling song that ever existed and everyone yodeled with him. We all sing and sing and sing and laugh until we pass out.

"For us, it makes no difference if we just play for 15 people or 15,000. It's a medicine show. For $7.50 you get an offbeat, underground, weird medicine show. How much am I making? I'm getting a set fee. We settled on a number."

Roger McGuinn, who continues to draw ovations for his "Chestnut Mare" portion of the Revue, is also ebullient: "Man, this is indescribably delicious. This tour is like better than tripping out because it's on the natch. I've been hugging everyone and telling them I love them and it's not bullshit."

Those at the New Haven shows who could hear did not deny that the Revue is one of the more satisfying musical presentations to come down the pike in some time, from Revue band member Mick Ronson doing "Life on Mars" to Joni Mitchell previewing "The Jungle Line" from her album, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, to Jack Elliott's "Muleskinner Blues," to Dylan's "Durango" (which he dedicated to Sam Peckinpah) and his and Joan Baez's duet on "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine" (dedicated to Gertrude Stein) to Mimi Fariña's surprise appearance. Finally, after three-and-a-half hours, it wound down with Dylan following "Sara" with "Just Like a Woman." The entire cast gathered to sing "This Land Is Your Land" and the house lights went up instantly. Dylan had left the stage during the finale, both hands raised triumphantly over his head, and there were not that many calls for an encore.

Among those applauding were such stalwart fans as Bill Graham, Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen, who had been asked to do a guest spot on the show but declined. Springsteen had never seen Dylan perform before and said, "I loved it."

From New Haven the show rolled on to Niagara Falls. The itinerary remained a guarded secret but one persistent rumor refused to die: that the Revue would end with a giant benefit in Madison Square Garden for imprisoned boxer Rubin Carter, the subject of Dylan's single release, "Hurricane." The benefit, rumors had it, would be December 8th and would be emceed by Muhammad Ali with appearances by Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Dylan. Dylan's people weren't saying one way or the other. A spokesperson for the Garden said December 8th was tentatively booked for a rally to save New York City. Richard Solomon on the Carter Defense Committee said only that a benefit would be held sometime and that Ali was committed to host it.

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"Dylan will be there," insisted a journalist who had talked briefly with him. "Don't be surprised if he becomes politically active."

One indication of Dylan's frame of mind was evident in a private sunrise ceremony held November 5th at a Newport, Rhode Island, beach. Cherokee medicine man Rolling Thunder (who had appeared onstage the night before in Providence, stroking a feather in time to the music) directed the ceremony. Rolling Thunder asked each of the participants, who stood in a circle around a fire, to add their own private prayers. Allen Ginsberg expressed "thanks to those who brought us together and remembrance for those who are not here." Ramblin' Jack Elliott said, "I pray that the spirit that we've generated here extends to everyone we meet on our travels." And Dylan shyly mumbled, "I pray we realize soon we are all of one soul."

This story is from the December 18th, 1975 issue of Rolling Stone.

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

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