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New Video Footage of Dylan's Second 1966 Concert
1966-02-05, Westchester County Center, White Plains, NY
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A few weeks ago, about 15 minutes of new 1966 Bob Dylan footage appeared on YouTube. It was shot by Murray Lerner and Howard Alk at a concert in White Plains, just outside of New York City, on the second night of Dylan’s 1966 tour.
Bad news first: the new footage is silent. The audio has been lost. This is a double bummer because, in addition to the concert footage, the filmmakers shot interviews with the crowd. Sure would be nice to hear what those people are saying!
Nevertheless, it’s still quite interesting. For one, you get a good overview of teenage fashion in the mid-‘60s. And teenage it is: this crowd looks to be almost uniformly under 25. Maybe that was more the norm in the era with a stronger divide between “you” and “your parents,” but Bob Dylan has seemed like the providence of “adults” for so long now, I found it noticeable. You can watch them leave the theater after the show at the end of the first video. They look a little shellshocked don’t they? Not a lot of smiles.
One of those teenagers actually wrote a review for his school paper, the Eastchester High School Eaglet. He hints at a touch of going-electric controversy, but from his description it sounds fairly mild. At the start of the second half, he writes, “after the first song the old Dylan fans left and the new Dylan fans ran up to take their seats.”
The second set of that new footage begins with some fascinating footage of Dylan and The Hawks soundchecking. It’s fun to watch them shot from the stage in an entirely empty auditorium. Dylan in silhouette here looks exactly like Cate Blanchett on the I’m Not There poster. The footage then continues to a lengthy elevator conversation, which feels fairly pointless to watch without sound. But one fun fact: the bowler-hatted guy is Larry Hankin, who questioned Dylan at the 1965 San Francisco press conference and later became a character actor.
As an actor, the role that jumps out at me is that he’s the dude who played “Kramer” on Seinfeld. That’s “Kramer” in quotes, from the show-within-a-show plotline where the character Jerry is casting a pilot based on his life. Here’s Hankin’s character getting pointers from the “real” Kramer:
The final clip of new silent footage is quite short and features more audience shots. No Dylan. Still, I wanna know more about that guy in the top hat.
All that footage may be silent, but as I teased yesterday, this is one of the two shows during this first week of 1966 where we do have an audio recording.
Is it a good recording? Is it a recording that’s particularly enjoyable to listen to? Look, let’s be thankful for what we got and not look a gift horse in the mouth. It’s a lot better than the nothing we had yesterday!
The mystery taper captured the entire acoustic set and the first two songs of the electric set: “Tell Me Momma” (which, since it debuted in the untaped Louisville show, makes this the first version we can hear) and the rewritten “I Don't Believe You,” which cuts out a bit in the middle but is close to complete. The full recording was included on The 1966 Live Recordings box set, though they stuck this and Pittsburgh at the end due to the subpar sound quality.
I’ll discuss Pittsburgh tomorrow – paid subscribers only!
Ed Kritzler reviewed the show for the Daily News in Tarrytown. I like this bit, which really puts this show in historical context.
You mob the Beatles, you sling the works at the Rolling Stones. When Dylan sings you listen silently and inwardly. Saturday night's audience was no different. One long haired youth in tight jeans, boots and brown suede vest, sat sucking his thumb. Another lay his head back, his eyes closed. Some rolled softly with the beat. All listened.
The dude sucking his thumb may have something going on other than intent listening, but Kritzler’s clearly right that the audience was focused. It’s fun to hear the crowd laugh aloud at certain lines in “Visions of Johanna,” a song they’d all be hearing for the first time.
Another reviewer said that Judy Collins and Phil Ochs were spotted. So was Andy Warhol, eating a Ring-Ding in the company of his regular collaborator Gerard Malanga.
And what of the dude sucking his thumb? Don’t worry, Ed Kritzler gives an update on him later in his review:
Twaaaaaang! Dylan’s electric. The soft-spoken brown guitar was gone, replaced by a plastic coated one, colored black-slash-white. A rubber coated umbilical cord connected it to the amplifier which blasted forth the metallic sound. A five-man combo joined him: two more galvanic strummers, two piano players, and a head shaking drummer. [This is The Band – except that head-shaking drummer is Sandy K, not Levon Helm]
The pace picked up. The thumb sucker switched to biting his nails and the head shakers davined [sic] to the beat. Some yelling is sanctioned when Dylan turns electric, but a cool should still be maintained. One kid, who ran into the aisle jumping and moaning with his hands to his head, blew his.
P.S. If you’ve been thinking, “Hmm, silent footage plus an audio tape, someone could sync it up,” good news: Someone has!
From a short clip of this footage that surfaced years ago, YouTuber Swingin’ Pig synced it with the audio. Well, sort of. This bit of footage shows Bob singing “Positively 4th Street,” a song that is not captured on the audio tape. So Mr. Pig synced it with the “Positively” audio from the next night’s show in Pittsburgh. Close enough!
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