By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood
“Soundstage : The World of John Hammond” was broadcast on December 6, 1975 and lasted almost 3 hours! Tributes were made to Hammond from all the many and varied artists whose careers he had touched including Bessie Smith, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, and others.
Highlights of the show included a performance from Benny Goodman and for the first time on television in over 6 years, Bob Dylan.
I found an article from The NY Times archives discussing the show from 1975 which makes for interesting reading:
“the main attraction, of course, the reason Channel 13 is running the segment twice tomorrow, is Bob Dylan, accompanied by two men (drums and bass guitar) and a woman (violin).
“Displaying his well‐established genius for tapping the most fashionable of politicalsocial causes, the millionaire chronicler of modern folk opens with “Hurricane,” his version of the Rubin Carter story, a story now being played out in the courts and prisons. Mr. Carter, the former boxer (“It’s my work, and I do it for pay”) is Mr. Dylan’s idealized hero. His villains, needless to say, are all those “criminals in coats and ties.” Also, needless to say, all, the coats and ties in the “Soundstage” audience applaud lustily.
“Mr. Dylan’s other numbers are “Oh, Sister” and “Simple Twist of Fate,” both performed a bit sullenly but attractively. While not generating the sheer excitement of the Benny Goodman group’s appearance, the Dylan set provides an effective, oddly lyrical, close for these two exceptional instalments of “Soundstage.””
Here are Bob’s performances
Hurricane – the single had been released by this time but the album was not released until January 1976.
Tony: Watching what Bob does before he starts playing I think he is actually suddenly deciding to change the key at the very last moment. He couldn’t be could he?
Whether that is me just trying too hard to understand the moving of the capo and changing the harmonica – or whether it is all a sleight of hand (or indeed maybe they had been warming up prior to the film starting and Bob had forgotten to remove the capo) I’m not sure. Interesting see the look the violinist gives him at one point as if to say, “If that’s what you do, I’m not playing for you again.”
But whatever was going on, this is a brilliant performance and a half.
Tony: Ah the old “she knows who she is” line – not one of Bob’s, but the song fits perfectly well with the quartet approach of guitar/harmonica, violin, bass and percussion.
And contradicting my thought about the sudden change of key – these are beautiful renditions.
Simple Twist Of Fate
Aaron: This isn’t on YouTube but it is on Dylan’s official Facebook page, so hopefully if you click this link it should take you there!
Tony: This is indeed a superb collection and one that I didn’t know about. (My excuse is being British, I had no chance to watch this, as it was never shown in the UK.) It is a beautiful song, but the move into declamation rather than singing at certain points removes some of the beauty in my view.
And dare I say it, I think the format of the quartet’s accompaniment isn’t varied enough to carry us through a whole series of songs. At first, it is incredibly attractive, but by this third song I am starting to think, well yes, I can see how this song will go when played by the quartet – so is there anything else they can put into the arrangement?
But the answer is no. The accompanying instruments are all playing the same way on each song – and if there is a problem with this performance, then that’s the problem. There’s no musical variation, so we are left enjoying the songs we now know so well.
Of course, they were much newer when this was recorded, so the impact then would have been very different. And I am at this moment influenced by having started my little “Dylan cover a day” series on this site, which focuses on what interests me – the way the songs can be varied and changed. Perhaps if I were not writing that each day, I’d appreciate the undoubted beauty of these arrangements more.
Aaron: As a bonus, I did a bit of detective work and found the missing track from the article in this series on Quest (Girl From The North Country) on YouTube. This was track 4 on the program. Here it is…
Tony: Ah you took me by surprise there Aaron. I wasn’t ready for the jump – but it does give some emphasis to my point above. Now, after a lifetime of Dylan, we appreciate how he has changed his style and approach to songwriting and performance. That was a bit of serendipity.
But when we hear a complete concert not just performed with the same instrumentation (they normally are) but with the same style of performance, that makes it a bit less Bob, somehow. But still these are exquisite performances and arrangements; maybe I’m just demanding too much these ays.
Dylan released and unreleased
- Part 1: Dylan Released and Unreleased
- Dylan Released and Unreleased: 2 – The usual, Pretty Boy, People get ready.
- Dylan Released and Unreleased: 3 – Hard to Handle the full one hour video
- Dylan Released and Unreleased 4: from the nursery to looking back
- Dylan Released and Unreleased: Girl From the North Country
- Dylan Released and Unreleased: Quest
- Dylan Released and Unreleased 7: Down along the cove
- Dylan Released and Unreleased 8: The Compilation Albums
- Dylan released and unreleased 9: the Galas
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