Monday, 7 September 2015

The Electric Judas

Finished reading Dylan Goes Electric, Elijah Wald’s excellent and sober account of Bob Dylan’s controversial appearance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 when he stunned and enraged audiences with an 18min electric set. Wald brilliantly chronicles the events of the day, the furor caused by Dylan’s loud (and shambolic performance), as well as the long road leading to Newport, examining the ideological battleground that was the folk revival and the reasons why Dylan’s embrace of amplified rock music was considered in certain quarters as a gross sellout. Another important element of Wald’s book is his appraisal of Pete Seeger, often cast as the villain of the Newport saga, famously roaming around back stage looking for an axe to cut the power cables (Wald offers a fine explanation for this apocryphal story) but here emerges as a man of idealism, integrity, energy, generosity and good sense. The story of Dylan at Newport is the stuff of great theatre, of young gods and old guards, ambition clashing with tradition, and betrayals real or imagined. Highly recommended.

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