Oct. 25, 2007
By ROBERT HILBURN
Los Angeles Times
There haven't been that many nights in rock 'n' roll when you could
say after a performance that music will probably never be the same
again, but two marvelous new DVDs let us revisit two such evenings.
"The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan Live at the Newport Folk
Festival 1963-1965," which will be released Tuesday, takes us back to
the night in 1965 when Dylan outraged folk purists at Newport by
going "electric" with a rock 'n' roll band.
Similarly, "The Jimi Hendrix Experience Live at Monterey" shows the
largely unknown guitarist captivating the crowd at the Monterey
International Pop Festival in 1967 with equal parts charisma and virtuosity.
Together, Dylan, through the power and majesty of his words, and
Hendrix, chiefly with his guitar wizardry, lifted rock 'n' roll to a
more artful and ambitious level.
Dylan was only 22 when he made his first Newport appearance, and he
looked even younger as he was joined by Joan Baez on "With God on Our
Side" during an afternoon workshop at the festival.
By the time he returned to Newport the following year, Dylan was the
darling of folk music, and he looked far more confident and polished.
Johnny Cash even slipped a Dylan tune ("Don't Think Twice, It's All
Right") into his own set.
But it's Dylan's dramatic performance at the 1965 festival that is at
the heart of this disc because he used the appearance to formally
declare he was moving from acoustic folk to turbo charged rock 'n'
roll, a move that angered many folk purists.
The hostility surfaced as soon as Dylan, who followed the
tradition-minded Cousin Emmy on the bill, opened his brief electric
set with "Maggie's Farm," a blistering statement of artistic independence.
In his 1986 biography No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob
Dylan, Robert Shelton reported that there was a flurry of boos as
Dylan finished the tune. "Bring back Cousin Emmy," someone shouted.
When Dylan and his band then tore into "Like a Rolling Stone," the
audience response became even more heated. "Play folk music," one fan
yelled, according to Shelton. Snapped another, "Sell out!"
Watching the moment on the DVD is fascinating because it comes across
as pure chaos: Dylan's determination colliding with the fury of the audience.
When Dylan returned to the stage with an acoustic guitar for the
encore, the jeering stopped as Dylan sang "Mr. Tambourine Man."
But his choice of a closing song made it clear that Dylan wasn't
going to back down from his rock 'n' roll pursuit, and he eventually
showed that you can maintain the social consciousness of folk in a
However, on that night, the words of that farewell song must have
felt like a slap in the face to the Newport audience: "It's All Over
Now, Baby Blue."
Hendrix was 24 when he stepped on stage at Monterey with bassist Noel
Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell. Though already something of a
sensation in Europe, Hendrix and mates were making their U.S. debut
at Monterey, where they were introduced by Rolling Stones guitarist
Even after all this time, you can't help but marvel at Hendrix's
energy and passion, both as a performer and a guitarist, as he moves
in the Monterey set between such songs as "Foxy Lady" and "Wild Thing."
Though he also sang, it was his guitar virtuosity that ignited the
imagination of the rock world. Indeed, Hendrix sacrifices some of his
power when he sings a song, such as Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone,"
that requires a focus on the words.
The DVD, which contains all existing footage shot by director D.A.
Pennebaker for the "Monterey Pop" film crew, also allows you to see
Hendrix's performance from three different camera angles. There is
also some documentary footage and a brief earlier Hendrix club date
in England. Like "Mirror," this is an essential moment in pop culture.