Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, allegedly high on speed, perform backstage in 1966
We’re dipping into the Far Out vaults to look back at two friends sharing a particularly energised performance behind the scenes in Cardiff back 1966 as Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan allegedly try to keep moving with the help of some extra pills.
Bob Dylan can’t really recall his tour of England and Wales in 1966. The singer-songwriter had solidified himself as a folk legend but, as he introduced the world to a new set of amplified tracks, he seemingly struggled to keep his wits and suffered sleepless nights, for a few reasons.
The singer was struggling to reconcile his new artistic pursuit with his audience. Still regularly finding himself performing for hostile audiences thanks to his decision to “go electric,” Dylan had a tough old road ahead of him in ’66 and its widely assumed that the musician found some extra help in the form of various narcotics. While some say heroin, others suggest its copious amounts of booze and amphetamines.
It’s not something Dylan himself can really recollect, “I was on the road for almost five years,” he told Rolling Stone in 1969. “It wore me down. I was on drugs, a lot of things. A lot of things just to keep going, you know? And I don’t want to live that way anymore.” It’s clear in D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary about the tour that Dylan is on something or other.
We’ve shown you Bob Dylan allegedly dabbling with substances with an icon before. He shared a suitably stoned taxi ride with John Lennon on the same tour back in 1966 but, as the huge tour landed in Cardiff, Wales on May 11th, there was another star waiting for him, Johnny Cash.
Cash was equally reliant on drugs to keep the motor running. The country legend was nearing the peak of his own prescription pill addiction in 1966 when he met Dylan in Cardiff. The Man in Black was putting away Dexedrine and Equanil like it was going out of fashion. It was a penchant which nearly put him in an early grave.
Cash and Dylan had been friend since the 1964 Newport Folk Festival while Cash has always spoken very highly of Dylan. It’s fair to say that the duo are best of friends.
“In plain terms, Cash was and is the North Star; you could guide your ship by him—the greatest of the greats then and now,” Dylan wrote upon Cash’s passing in 2003. “Truly he is what the land and country is all about, the heart and soul of it personified and what it means to be here; and he said it all in plain English. I think we can have recollections of him, but we can’t define him any more than we can define a fountain of truth, light and beauty. If we want to know what it means to be mortal, we need look no further than the Man in Black. Blessed with a profound imagination, he used the gift to express all the various lost causes of the human soul.”
When Cash and Bob Dylan did meet on that night in Cardiff, Pennebaker was there to capture the moment. The duo decide an impromptu performance of some Hank Williams’ classics while hopped up backstage is the perfect thing for filming and Pennebaker duly obliges.
Below watch the rarely seen footage of Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan performing some Hank Williams classics while allegedly using amphetamines: