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New 'Last Waltz' Videos Surface 46 Years Later
The taper tells me how he snuck in 32 rolls of film
Flagging Down the Double E’s is an email newsletter exploring Bob Dylan concerts throughout history. Click the button below to get new entries delivered straight to your inbox. Some installments are free, some for paid subscribers only. I’ve also got a book now available for preorder: ‘Pledging My Time: Conversations with Bob Dylan Band Members’
Last week, a new YouTube channel appeared with some surprising concert footage. Is comes from The Last Waltz – but not the Martin Scorsese version of it. These videos were never-seen bootlegs that a fan named Leo Buckvold surreptitiously filmed sitting up in the balcony and had never shared publicly until now.
Though the recording quality is (obviously) nowhere near as good as Scorsese’s, Leo’s footage includes quite a few songs that didn’t make the film. It also offers a different angle on a concert many of us have watched dozens of times. For instance, here is “Helpless” without the cocaine hanging out of Neil Young’s nose edited out. (Admittedly, you can’t really see it here either…but at least you know it’s still there!)
In addition to Neil Young, Leo’s tapes include The Band (duh), Dr. John, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Muddy Waters, Ronnie Hawkins, Van Morrison, and, of course, Bob Dylan.
That includes several Dylan performances that didn’t make the official movie: “I Don’t Believe You,” “Baby Let Me Follow You Down” (the post-“Forever Young” reprise is in the movie, but not this first go), and “Hazel” (the one clip from Leo’s footage that’s not new, having leaked years ago). “I Don’t Believe You” is up top; here are the other two:
I asked Leo to tell me how he managed to tape all this amazing footage. Here is an edited excerpt of his story:
When I saw The Band on Saturday Night Live announce their retirement from live performances, something clicked inside of me that I must record the concert. Like Field of Dreams and the character Ray Kinsella, I was compelled to document the event and eventually people would come and see it. At the time I did not know that Scorsese was planning his elaborate production. I shot close to 93 minutes worth; The Last Waltz [movie] has 72 minutes.
In the month between the announcement and actual concert, there were some confirmed guests and many rumors. One could not be certain who was actually going to show up, especially Dylan. The staff didn’t hand me a guest list; if they had, I could done a better job selecting which song to record.
Also as soon as I arrived, I skipped the food, dancing, relaxing and rushed to my perch in the balcony. Attendees were calm and friendly; people were in high spirits, no pun intended. Bill Graham was in his white suit finest with the staff in fake formal attire. They made us concertgoers feel as important & significant, like a fancy night at the opera. The sights and smells of a Thanksgiving made for a grateful night.
Quick break to set the scene there. Here’s a clip he took before the concert began of attendees eating dinner and dancing:
The Last Waltz movie strips that away. With macro closeups of the artists and their music, the movie is fussed over and made perfect like a Simon & Garfunkel tune. Garth hit some beautiful notes on organ during “I Shall Be Released” that they mixed out.
I filmed it on Kodak Ektachrome Super 8 film. We had to hide 32 rolls of film, 3 battery packs, and a movie camera. I wore a black leather blazer which had several pockets. I was a worried man with a worried mind if I were caught.
First three songs, I used multiple cartridges, then I realized I had to ration film. I captured a lot of cinematographers & sound crew, and The Band playing multiple instruments. Van was incredible as usual. I saved almost enough for Bob who was in good form. With all the friendly competition from other artists, I think he felt he had to be more animated and theatrical, but I enjoyed it. I put down the camera so I could close my eyes and listen to “The Weight.”
This was my seventh Band concert experience. In reality, it was my first Robbie Robertson and the Hawks concert. Robbie gets slammed as a showboat and arrogant and thoughtless for pulling the plug on The Band. I’m 70 years old, and I’ve found that many countries, businesses, families, and even music groups need strong personalities to achieve artistic greatness. I love Levon and wish there was no rift in the brotherhood, but it’s clear Robbie worked his butt off the night of 11/25/1976, and it was his vision that put the immortal stamp on The Band’s legacy.
In 1977 [a year before the movie came out], I drove down 500 miles to St Louis with the film and projector to show it to about a dozen people who had a fan magazine Zimmerman Blues. At the time I was so pleased that a big group saw the film. In the eighties, my brother had contact with a Dylan fan who we lent a VHS copy of Dylan’s set. Someone put “Hazel” up on the internet from my film years ago.
Around the year 2000, I, at a cost of four hundred dollars, had a local guy with a setup in his basement transfer the film to DVD. The soundtrack was okay, but the image quality was poor. So it sat on the shelf for twenty years. The pandemic hit, I retired (wife’s insistence), and there is now a company in the Twin Cities with multiple locations that transfers photos, home movies, slides etc to DVD & flash drive. This summer, at a cost of 580 dollars, I put it on DVD. It’s not copied in focus and the sound is degraded; I need someone like a Paul Allen to restore to its full bootleg glory. Warts and all, at least people can see and enjoy my The Last Waltz Revisited.
Thanks Leo! Both for braving Bill Graham’s big police all those years ago and for sharing your footage and story now.
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Here are some more clips of songs not in the official Last Waltz movie – mostly Band numbers, plus additional Eric Clapton and Van Morrison tunes, as well as Neil and Joni singing backup on “Acadian Driftwood.” You can find even more footage at Leo’s YouTube page.
PS. I know just two days ago I said I wouldn’t mention my book again. But I wrote that before this Last Waltz footage turned up! So, last time for real, five more days to preorder Pledging My Time: Conversations with Bob Dylan Band Members. The crowdfunding campaign ends this Friday. Thanks for all the support.