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When He Was on His Own(3)

2005-09-12 00:00

  When Dylan went electric, the folkies reacted as if they had been electrocuted. In the documentary, Seeger still seethes at the memory of Dylan's set at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. "I said,‘Goddammit, it's terrible,’" he recalls. "'If I had an ax, I'd chop the mike cable right now.'" Some old fans felt the same. In those days the second half of a Dylan concert, when he worked in front of a small band (later known as the Band), was frequently punctuated by audience cries of "Traitor!" and "Judas!"

  You won't find out much about Dylan's private life from this film, on which his manager, Jeff Rosen(who also conducted the main interview), served as a producer. But 40 years later, who cares? The good conversation and the plethora of clips from Dylan's archive are revealing enough.

  And by the end, when Dylan is 25 and exhausted by the touring, the hostility and the inanities of the press——"Could you just suck on your glasses?" one photographer keeps asking——he's starting to see a Buddy Holly——style fate looming before him. "You end up crashing in a private plane in the mountains of Tennessee. Or Sicily," he says backstage. "I just wanna go home."

  He went home, was seriously injured in a motorcycle crash and stopped being Bob Dylan for a while. In truth, he was never that Bob Dylan again; the past four decades have been a fascinating coda to the brief musical miracle this documentary captures.

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