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Bob Dylan and The Band perform at the Isle of Wight
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September 2nd, 1969: Bob Dylan and The Band perform at the Isle of Wight

"Even if he had levitated, produced stigmata and electric bolts from his finger-tips, it would have been a letdown."

The events we write about at Gaslight Records happened in some form or another 50 years ago to the day. Roll along with us and imagine you are back in 1969.

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September 2nd, 1969: Last weekend, Bob Dylan performed a full concert for the first time since playing at The Royal Albert Hall in May 1966. Dylan closed out the second annual Isle of Wight festival late on Sunday evening, playing for a little over an hour.

After the event, John Lennon - who was at the show along with George Harrison and Ringo Starr - talked about the potential of The Beatles appearing with Dylan on stage.

"We went to the Dylan show, and if there had been a jam, we would have got up. It was killed before it happened. It was so late by the time he got on. We would have jammed if it had been earlier. The crowd was dying on their feet by the time he got on."

Bob Dylan and The Band perform at the Isle of Wight
John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr watching Bob Dylan last weekend.

American folk-singer, Tom Paxton went back to the farmhouse where Dylan was staying after the show.

"I went with him and The Beatles to the farmhouse where he was clearly in a merry mood because he had felt it had gone so well... The Beatles had brought a test pressing of Abbey Road and we listened to it and had quite a party."

Listen to Paxton's "The Last Thing On My Mind" below.

Reporter Barry Miles from the International Times was also in attendance at the Isle of Wight Festival. Below are a few excerpts from the original article.

On Dylan's arrival to the stage: "When Dylan finally appeared, in a white ill-fitting country singer's suit with a yellow shirt, it was a bit of an anti-climax. His appearance had been super-hyped to the extent that even if he had levitated, produced stigmata and electric bolts from his finger-tips, it would have been a letdown. One's ass can get very bruised sitting on the ground for 8 hours waiting. The festival publicity had concentrated solely on him and the popular press had elevated him to a messianic position with phony interviews, non-event news, and general-purpose pin-up space fillers. No-one could live up to it, particularly Dylan who has never been Mick Jagger on stage and has always maintained a no-bullshit approach to what he is saying and how he says it."

On the songs performed: "He did a lot of numbers: "Don't Think Twice It's Alright"; "To Ramona"; "It Ain't Me Babe"; "Mr. Tambourine Man"; "Highway 61"; "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine", "I Pity the Poor Immigrant"; "Mighty Quinn"; "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" (which produced some coos from the audience); "I Threw it All Away"; he dashed off "Lay Lady Lay" as if it were an obligation and did three new numbers all country style, "Springtime is Nearly Here" and one about a "Minstrel", all of which sounded good to me. He did an inspired version of 'Like A Rolling Stone' and dwelt heavily upon the chorus of "Everybody Must Get Stoned" to the delight of the audience, and accompanied by a grin throughout."

Listen to Dylan and The Band perform "Quinn the Eskimo (Mighty Quinn)" live at The Isle of Wight.

On his voice: "His voice has changed more than was evident from his later recordings: it is smoother and rounder and he rolled lines around the octave, giving each line a small tune of its own within but independent of the major melody of the number he was singing. His word emphasis remains the same but in this new context it gives rise to new literal and melodic meanings in his work."

On the performance: "From his performance it was obvious that he wanted to be regarded not as a figure-head, saint, savior or leader, but as a performer – this is what he has always said and on Sunday he affirmed this again. His emphasis on the words of "It Ain't Me Babe", together with searching looks into the audience, affirmed this. Dylan proved that he is great, that no one sings Dylan like Dylan, and that he is one of today's greatest composers. What more could you want? He played for over an hour – a long time to sing."

On leaving the event: "After Dylan came the great chaos as over 120,000 people were set loose upon unfamiliar countryside at 1.30am in the morning in darkness. The lack of organization of this exodus was appalling and it is lucky that no one was seriously injured in the crush. Most people were up all night, scrambling for buses outside the grounds, waiting for ferries or trains after walking to Ryde, looking for food and shelter from the cold night air."

Watch below a clip of footage from the festival.

After the show, Lon Goddard (Record Mirror) spoke to Robbie Robertson of The Band. He asked about why The Band aren't well received in their home of Canada.

"That's not true. We make frequent trips back to Canada and we are pretty well received. We all live in New York, though, so we spend the majority of our time in the States. We also do most of our recording in New York and Dylan most of his in Nashville, so that is another reason why we don't get together all that much."

And on whether we'll hear more from The Band/Bob Dylan basement sessions.

"Those demos were recorded in the basement of Big Pink, but we moved out of there. After that, we released Music From Big Pink and Dylan did John Wesley Harding, so the obvious thing we could have done to follow up was an album with Dylan. For that reason, we didn't do it -- not the reason given at the press conference. Besides, there is all the time in the world to do it. We have until we are 45 or 50 and even then it may not be done. Nobody knows. It was all for fun. This festival is all for fun."

*Miles (1969) "Bob Dylan, The Band: Isle of Wight Festival". International Times.

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