Martin Scorsese’s new documentary on Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue is brilliant — and laced with deliberate, mischievous fiction, from Sharon Stone spinning imaginary tales of hanging out on the tour as a teenager to interview segments with a pretentious documentarian who doesn’t actually exist.
On a new episode of our Rolling Stone Music Now podcast, two people involved in the tour — Byrds founder Roger McGuinn and Rolling Thunder producer Louie Kemp (Dylan’s childhood friend and author of the new book Dylan and Me: 50 Years of Adventures) join host Brian Hiatt and Andy Greene to tell true tales of the tour, react to Scorsese’s film and much more.
“I liked it,” McGuinn says of the fictional embellishments, adding that he consulted Greene’s Rolling Stone article on the film, which explained exactly what was added. “I thought it was really amusing. I think I would have remembered Sharon Stone being on the tour!” (Kemp was also amused, but he thinks they “took away from the realistic integrity of the tour.”)
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McGuinn sees Rolling Thunder as a revival of the spirit of the 1960s.
“It was something that occurred to me after the fact,” he says “It was like the Village. It was like the days in the early Sixties where we were all hanging out at coffeehouses and passing the hat around.”
Dylan may have been inspired to do the tour by actual carnivals he saw as a child.
“I think the carnival thing goes back to our roots,” says Kemp, who grew up with Dylan. “In northern Minnesota, there always was a carnival to that would come through our community and leave us excited. So that was in our DNA… [One day in 1975,] Bob called me to come down to his farm outside Minneapolis to hang out. So I went and it’s outside Minneapolis. He played me some of the songs from which would become the Desire album that was released about six months later. And then he told me that he wanted to go out and do a tour that was much different than anything he’s ever done, or anybody else ever done.”
McGuinn and Dylan’s Rolling Thunder-era collaborator Jacques Levy wrote the Byrds classic “Lover of the Bayou” with Dr. John in mind.
“We did that as sort of a satire on the late Dr. John,” he says. “Catfish pie and gris gris… trying to get that imagery of Louisiana, you know, kind of a swamp thing going.”
McGuinn had an unexpected backup dancer on the tour.
“Joan Baez would come up and dance with me on ‘Eight Miles High,'” he says. “So uncharacteristic! She was doing these really wild dances with me.”
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