Fifty years ago yesterday (17 May 1966), one of the seminal moments in 20th Century popular culture took place in the Manchester Free Trade Hall. Bob Dylan, who had burst onto the folk scene a few years before, was playing to a packed crowd towards the end of his gruelling 1966 World tour. The first half of his set was vintage Dylan, just the man (poet) and his guitar. The crowd were enraptured.
But, it all turned sour in the second half, when Dylan was joined by his band, The Hawks, and proceeded to do an ‘electric’ set. The crowd became restless. Many left; others booed, stamped their feet or started chanting. When he came back on to do his encore, things came to a head.
“Judas!” a man shouted.
“I don’t believe you.” Dylan replied. Then he started getting ready for the encore song. A few seconds later Dylan added
“You’re a liar!”
Then, he turned to his band and said “Play it fucking loud”, and they ripped into an angry version of Like a Rolling Stone. This is the moment as captured on film, it forms the closing scene of Martin Scorsese’s fascinating documentary No Direction Home.
There is also a very interesting in-depth audio documentary about this whole seminal incident, Ghosts of Electricity, made by Andy Kershaw for BBC Radio 1 and broadcast in 1999. It is available here on Andy Kershaw’s website.
The whole concert was recorded and circulated as a bootleg for many years. For some reason, it became known as the Royal Albert Hall Concert, even though it had happened at the Manchester Free Trade Hall; possibly because the 1966 World tour ended at the Royal Albert Hall on the 26 and 27 May. Dylan sanctioned an official release of the concert in 1998.