This nearly four-hour surrealist odyssey (232 m.) is written, directed and starring Bob Dylan himself.
Bob Dylan, Sam Shepard
Bob Dylan, Sara Dylan, Joan Baez
Howard Alk, David Meyers, Paul Goldsmith
Bob Dylan, Howard Alk
January 25, 1978
There is a myth about this film, it is considered to be incoherent and confusing, well, it isn’t. Everytime I see it, it strikes me as a unified vision, one man’s vision, where he puts different kind of film stocks and styles together to create an entertaining and, yes, demanding movie. The film is a mixture of fantastic concert footage, documentary style film (dealing with the Hurricane Carter case), and ficitonal, seemingly improvised footage.
Never let me go:
Drawing structural and thematic influences from the classic film Les Enfants du Paradis, Dylan infuses Renaldo & Clara with lots of shifting styles, tones, and narrative ideas. Similarities between the two films include the use of whiteface , the recurring flower, the woman in white (Baez), the on-stage and backstage scenes, and the dialogue of both films’ climactic scenes.
Also evident is the Cubist approach of the two films, allowing us to see the main characters from the different perspectives of various lovers. This also echoes some of the songs from this Dylan period (Simple twist of faith and Tangled up in blue coming to mind). Running time is also relatively similar.
It’s a free associating epic that feels pulled straight from Bob Dylan’s brain, Renaldo and Clara is a work of misunderstood genius.
The result is a sound and a set of songs unlike anything Dylan or anyone else has ever done before…. The lyrics of “Sara” and “Abandoned Love” (and, for that matter, of “Isis” and “Hurricane”) could not be more perfect, but overall the triumph of Desire is musical
~Paul Williams (BD performing artist 1974-86)
Recorded in the summer lull before the first
Rolling Thunder tour and released soon after it,
the stand-out tracks are ‘Isis’, ‘Romance in Durango’
and ‘Black Diamond Bay’, but ‘Hurricane’,
‘One More Cup of Coffee’ and ‘Oh Sister’ are
breathing down their necks.
~Michael Gray (BD Encyclopedia)
Desire is considered by many Dylan fans to be among his 5-10 best albums. It’s not top 10, but probably top 15 in my opinion.
The overall sound is fascinating, but looses some of it’s initial charm after 20-30 years ….. but live recordings of these (the best) songs from Rolling Thunder 1 still sounds as fresh and brilliant as ever.
Let’s kick off with Dylan’s performance of Hurricane on Sept. 10 – 1975 (WTTW-TV Studio, Chicago for “The World of John Hammond”):
And this fantastic version of Isis (Renaldo & Clara):
And “Isis”, on the Rolling Thunder tour, was (each night) Bob Dylan’s biggest risk and greatest triumph….
The filmed footage of “isis” as seen in Renaldo & Clara is also riveting: what sticks in my mind are the images of Bobby Neuwirth flickering his tongue like a snake, and Dylan holding up his crossed wrist as though trying to ward off a vampire (“I picket up his body…”)
~Paul Williams (BD Performing artist 1974-86)
January 5, 1976
Rock, folk rock
Desire is the seventeenth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released in January 1976 by Columbia Records.
It is one of Dylan’s most collaborative efforts, featuring the same caravan of musicians as the acclaimed Rolling Thunder Revue tours the previous year (later documented on The Bootleg Series Vol. 5); many of the songs also featured backing vocals by Emmylou Harris and Ronee Blakley. Most of the album was co-written by Jacques Levy, and is composed of lengthy story-songs, two of which quickly generated controversy: the over-11-minute long “Joey”, which is seen as glorifying the violent gangster ”Crazy Joey” Gallo, and “Hurricane”, the opening track that tells a passionate account of the murder case against boxer Rubin Carter, whom the song asserts was framed. Carter was released in 1985, after a judge overturned his conviction on appeal.
The last show of the 1975 tour @ Madison Square Garden, New York City - 8 December 1975.
The show was a benefit concert for the imprisoned boxer, Hurricane Carter, hence the name of the show: “The Night of the Hurricane.” Special guests for the night: Robert Flack and Muhammad Ali.
The people from the Hurricane Carter movement kept calling me and writing me. And Hurricane sent me his book, which I read and which really touched me. I felt that the man was just innocent, from his writings and knowing that part of the country. So I went to visit him and was really behind him, trying to get a new trial.
~Bob Dylan (to Bill Flanagan, March 1985)
We’re gonna play this song now. This is what this concert, or this show is all about, and this person, he’s a beautiful man, and beauty should never be in prison.
~Bob Dylan (before Hurricane)
The hard rain is gonna fall is in the last verse when I say “when the pellets of poison are flooding the waters”. I mean, all the lies, you know, all the lies that people get told on their radios and their newspapers which, all you have to do is
just think for a minute, y’know, try and take peoples brains away, y’know, which maybe’s been done already. I dunno, maybe, I hate to think it’s been done, but all the lies, which are considered poison, y’know, er…
Bob Dylan (to Studs Terkel, April 63)
‘Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’… I wrote the words of it on a piece of paper. But there was just no tune that really fit to it, so I just sort of play chords without a tune. If all this comes under the heading of a definition, then I don’t care really to define what I do. Other people seem to have a hard time doing that.
~Bob Dylan (to Max Jones, May 64)
From “The Witmark Demos” (Bootleg Series 9):
@ #16 on my list of Dylan’s 200 best songs. The original version from “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” was recorded on December 6 – 1962…. 50 year’s ago today. The Witmark version above was recorded sometime in December 62.
‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’, recorded December 6, 1962, is another song whose genius and power are so great that our analytical minds (not our hearts) may have difficulty accepting and recognizing it’s simplicity.
~Paul Williams (Performing Artist 60-73)
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1. Visions Of Johanna
2. Like A Rolling Stone
3. Tangled Up in Blue
4. Ballad Of A Thin Man
5. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
6. Blind Willie McTell (electric version)
7. It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
8. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
9. Desolation Row
10. Idiot Wind (New York version)