In 1976, The Band decided it was time to call it a day… but not before they played one last show at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. They were joined by some incredibly special guests to mark the occasion such as Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell but it wouldn’t have been the same without Bob Dylan.
The Band famously made their name in 1965 when they accompanied Dylan on his first electric tour and, at the time, were a relatively unknown entity. Following a few years touring with the pioneering singer they would eventually then break out as a group in their own right and become a stadium filling outfit by the mid-70s.
The group’s final show—as The Band bid farewell to their fans—was famously released as a film by Warner Bros. in 1977 and titled The Last Waltz. With the event being directed by Hollywood legend Martin Scorcese, the film is largely hailed as one of the greatest music documentaries of all time. However, that wasn’t the only footage shot that day.
It’s rumoured, however, that Warner Bros. refused to fund the film if Dylan didn’t agree to take part in his old backing band’s farewell. Though Dylan would eventually come through for his old friends, he very nearly didn’t appear.
Dylan was in a difficult place at the time, he hadn’t performed live in six months and was in the midst of a tricky divorce from his wife Sara. On top of that, he was in the editing process of Renaldo and Clara and was reluctant to be involved in a rival project, preferring to focus on his own work. But eventually agreed to travel up to San Francisco at the last moment.
After arriving at the Winterland armed with a lawyer, Dylan agreed to perform a six-song set and later settled that only three would appear on the film. His set, comprised of a mix of their time together, included ‘Baby, Let Me Follow You Down’ and ‘I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)’ which are two tracks from Dylan’s earlier work that the Band would go on and electrify in 1965/66.
The iconic ‘Forever Young’ and ‘Hazel’ both come from Planet Waves, the only studio album Dylan and the group recorded together. This was followed by a rendition of ‘Baby, Let Me Follow You Down’ before Dylan then finished on his ground-shaking ‘I Shall Be Released’—which he agreed to let The Band cover on their debut record.
Following the show, Dylan and his lawyer allegedly seized the tapes from Scorcese so there would have to be negotiations on what songs appear and ‘Hazel’ is one that missed out on making The Last Waltz. However, what Dylan didn’t know, was that Martin Scorsese’s team didn’t control every camera at the Winterland Ballroom that night with promoter Bill Graham having a black-and-white camera running throughout the entire show and obtained the somewhat secretive footage.
Graham has since released the previously unseen footage of Dylan and The Band and the moment they took on ‘Hazel’ has us pining for more. Hearing ‘Hazel’ in a live setting is a glorious treat as it isn’t one that Dylan is known to perform live and this is some of the only footage we can find of him playing it from this era.
Enjoy Graham’s spine-tingling footage below of Dylan and The Band performing ‘Hazel’ below.