Once they were giants, now dinosaurs? It’s been quite a month for the Big Three rock heroes of the 1960s.
The latest installment in Bob Dylan’s neverending bootleg series emerged, unleashing dozens of acoustic demo recordings from the early part of that decade. Then Keith Richards’s long-awaited memoir appeared—to prominent and favorable reviews, no less—complete with a Members Only critique of partner Mick Jagger. Now, today, with little warning, the "other" Apple has finally opened The Beatles catalog at iTunes, as fans twist and shout.
All of this only serves to remind me of a personal anniversary: Forty-five years ago this week, I attended my first rock concert. Many others naturally followed, from Blind Faith to Springsteen, Elvis Costello, the Clash, The Wailers, U2, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and the Swell Season, many while I served as an editor at the legendary Crawdaddy. But that first concert remains vivid, and historic, as it was one stop on what many consider the most significant (and craziest) tour ever—Bob Dylan’s first full road trip after going electric.
In October ’65, still in high school, I was a huge Dylan fan—I can honestly say that it was his "protest" phase that made me turn left. He had only recently picked up the electric guitar at Newport and hit the top with "Like a Rolling Stone." I took a really bold step: ordering a pair of tickets for a Dylan show on November 20 at Kleinhan’s Music Hall in Buffalo. I still don’t know how I managed to get tickets from my local music shop, but even more amazing: this would be my first rock concert.
That wasn’t anything to be ashamed of back then. Only a few kids I knew had ever been to shows, usually girls who drove up to Toronto for the Beach Boys. Few bands came to Buffalo, only twenty miles away but another world, with a thick knot of highways and byways to navigate and a then-huge downtown. And until senior year, I didn’t have a license that would allow me to drive after dark. Now I was all set, if I dared make the trek to Buffalo.
I didn’t know what to expect from the concert. This was long before the "rock press" appeared, wire service tour reports were virtually unheard of, and the net, of course, did not exist. No sets lists posted online. All I’d heard was that the show opened acoustic and then went electric—and was causing disturbances everywhere. No idea who was in the backing band.
A Buffalo paper (I still have the clipping) ran a three-paragraph story, with the last two amounting to this: "He has performed at the Lincoln Center and Town Hall, and has made a series of personal appearances in England. Dylan’s music has dropped most of its original overtones of the wandering troubadour. His beat is sharper and heavier and the words are more complex." This was the state of "rock journalism" back then.