Bob Dylan is an act so historic that many of his finest and most memorable performances are only available on film in black and white. Now, we can look at Dylan’s legendary performance at the Newport Folk Festival in colour for the first time.
It was the year before his defining decision to ‘go electric’ but still Dylan caused controversy when he took the stage at the 1964 event. Now, we can have colour the footage to perhaps put one or two questions to bed.
Bob Dylan, the mercurial artist and bastion of the sixties spirit, had begun to assert himself as the leading light of folk music when he was asked to return to the Newport Folk Festival in 1964. Having performed the year prior alongside Joan Baez, after her introduction, the singer was finding more and more notoriety with every release and performance.
Dylan had transcended the role of smart mouth kid in the Greenwich Village coffee shop and had become a figurehead for a growing counter-culture movement. It meant that the singer was under even more scrutiny when he performed at the legendary folk festival. Suddenly Dylan was a role model as well as a freewheelin’ troubadour.
He performed two tracks that hung log in the memory that evening. Taking on ‘With God On Our Side’, the third track from his 1964 record The Times They Are A-Changin’ with typical authorship, it is naturally his rendition of ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ that has caught our eye.
The song has become a touchpoint for any casual Bob Dylan fan. In fact, the song is a point of note for any casual music, poetry or literature fan. Often used as a way of highlighting the ambiguous poetry and doublespeak Dylan embued all his work with, it also hinted at something a little more scandalous. Namely, Dylan’s use of drugs.
With several hints to narcotics throughout the song, it seems fitting that during this performance Dylan, while the music was still of top order, the star’s attitude offstage had begun to hang heavily over the show. One critic wrote that “being stoned had rarely prevented his giving winning performances, but he was clearly out of control”
We won’t say whether we think Dylan was stoned during the performance or not. But we are happy to try and see if Dylan has red eyes on this colourised footage. As we look at the clip from Colouring the Past, we’re really excited to see more of our favourite Dylan moments a splash of colour.