I was lucky enough to attend the premiere of Murray Lerner's new film about Bob Dylan's crucial three years, 1963-65, at the Newport Folk Festival. You can see it on BBC Four on Sunday as part of a tasty looking Dylan at Newport night curated by Arena.
When Bob Dylan sang political songs like With God On Our Side and Only A Pawn In Their Game at the 1963 festival he appeared youthful, bright-eyed and in thrall to hobo chic. Three years later he looked wired, wore a leather jacket and was met with boos and brays when he played Maggie's Farm on an electric guitar.
This superb film charts these momentous three years by simply showing the full performances of songs Dylan played it Newport in 1963, 64 and 65. There are no interviews or narration. There doesn't need to be. What's apparent from the music is a total transformation in Dylan's songwriting and his audience's reaction to this change.
With God On Our Side w/ Joan Baez - 1963
Maggie's Farm - 1965
There are some great non-musical moments too: Joan Baez constantly molly-coddling Bobby; Dylan asking if anyone has an E harmonica and the crowd bombarding him with mouth organs. But it's the subtle shifts in Dylan that are most intriguing. In 1963, when he sits on a small stage with the likes of Clarence Ashley, he's part of the folk tradition. By 1966 he's a bona fide rock star - not just because he sounds like one, but because he's got hordes of teenage girls trying to get in his car.