It Was FORTY Years Ago Today


                                          by James Fox
                                          Manchester Evening News
                                          17 May 1966

Bob Dylan, the original magician of folk-poetry, blew into town today on another wave of sell-out concerts to sing at the Free Trade Hall.  And this "modern minstrel genius," as American poet Allen Ginsberg called him, this self-elected reject from the middle-class backwoods of Minnesota, becomes more of an enigma every day.

The atmosphere at his concerts is one of tense and silent rapture, with the crowd leaning forward to catch every cryptic syllable of the songs they quote daily, like a religious manifesto, on street corners.

Now there is something disturbing about Dylan:  he is said to have disowned all the songs he ever wrote before he turned to "folk-rock."  He is said to have become an introvert.  He was nearly booed off stage in Dublin recently when he came on with three tons of sound equipment and his new backing group – simply called the Group.

There were pleading shouts of "We want the real Dylan. Leave it to Mick Jagger" as he belted out the endless choruses of his hip-orientated rhythm and blues songs.

There is a growing uneasiness with Dylan among his fans.  It is that he is changing without telling them why.  They are in the dark, and they feel perplexed.

If there is a change, it has come about between these two British tours.  The old Dylan, at the Albert Hall in London last year, was the poetic Dylan with one guitar, a handful of harmonicas, and a few wry jokes.

This time the magic’s still there, but he might throw a few fans off the track.  For one thing, the existentialist Dylan has married.  For another, the man who took contemporary folk music out of its hermetic shell and has shaken it and enriched it has seemingly turned his back on it.

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