As Bob Dylan has announced his first new album of original material in eight years we thought it was the perfect time one of the first momentous occasions of his career. Bob Dylan’s final acoustic solo tour as he took to the stage on this day 55 years ago.
When a 23-year-old Bob Dylan arrived in England as part of his 1965 tour he did so in a cloud of mystique and intrigue. The poet from New York had made his name with an idiosyncratic brand of protest folk songs. Little did those in attendance know it would be the last time they saw Bob Dylan the “folkie.”
The England Tour as it was known saw Dylan quickly assert himself on the British public. Always a beast pleased by the written word, the British people soon fell in love with the singer-songwriter. His dry wit and expert craftmanship had quickly made him a star and his fans weren’t restricted to the public.
The Beatles were also huge fans of the singer. His songwriting style, sometimes deliberately obscure and always poetic, had been an inspiration for Lennon and McCartney and when the singer confirmed his final tour dates would be at the Royal Albert Hall in London the group were determined to see him on stage.
Two dates were scheduled to finish the tour, May 9th and May 10th would see Dylan take to the famous stage and give his last performances as an acoustic solo act. Of course, The Beatles had already met Dylan in his native New York and were keen to see how his brand of folk would translate to a British audience in the flesh. But this was a different Bob Dylan.
Dylan had just released his fifth studio album Bringing It All Back Home and was happy to share a back catalogue quickly gaining notoriety but something was nagging at him. The event was filmed as part of D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary film Don’t Look Back, which provides some candid footage. The film saw the singer in transition, unable to sustain the public perception which was being forced upon him, Dylan is intent on his artistic pursuit.
It would lead to one of the most controversial performances of all time as Dylan “went electric” and was labelled a ‘Judas’ by his then-adoring crowd. He’d return to the Albert Hall the following year, plugged in and fully electric. That one would make Dylan’s own Bootleg Series but this show, which included such high esteemed guests, has rarely been surfaced.
Below you can listen to the bootleg recording of the performance which includes renditions of classics ‘The Times They Are A-Changin” and ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ that captures Dylan’s power at the time. The singer is captivating with such a small set up.
It’s unbelievable now that an artist would set up in such a venue, with the good and great of the London’s swinging scene and deliver a folk set performed entirely on one single acoustic guitar. The sound quality is far from perfect but the feeling is there in bucketloads.