Bob Dylan – Don’t Look Back: The Outtakes (Tambourine Man Vision-003/004)

Don’t Look Back:  The Outtakes (Tambourine Man Vision-003/004)

Disc 1: The Times They Are A-Changin’, To Ramona, Gates Of Eden, If You Gotta Go Go Now, It’s Alright Ma I’m Only Bleeding, Outlaw Blues (Rehearsal), reading fan mail, train ride (silent film), It Ain’t Me Babe, Love Minus Zero/No Limit (Savoy Hotel), All I Really Want To Do, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, To Ramona (II), She Belongs To Me, interview, Airport Departure, radio interview, piano improvisation, The Times They Are A-Changin’ (II), To Ramona (III), Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll, Talkin’ World War III Blues, Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright

Disc 2: The Times They Are A-Changin’ (III), It’s Alright Ma I’m Only Bleeding (II), Talkin’ World War III Blues (II), She Belongs To Me (II), Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright (II), Gates Of Eden, It’s Alright Ma I’m Only Bleeding (III), Mr. Tambourine Man, She Belongs To Me (III), It’s All Over Now Baby Blue (II), Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll (II), It’s All Over Now Baby Blue (III), Love Minus Zero/No Limit, Dylan/Lennon 1966 taxi ride (upgrade)

D.A. Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back is one of the most unique films, and certainly the most unique music documentary, ever made. Although it’s a record of Dylan’s tour of England in the spring of 1965 there are very few interviews and even fewer musical performances. The concert footage is brief and fragmentary and nothing much really seems to happen. However Don’t Look Back is a classic example of cinéma vérité which is more like a voyeuristic portrait of an artist as a young man rather than a specific publicity piece to promote an artist or a specific album and the viewer is forced to draw his own conclusions about Dylan by watching and listening him interact with the people surrounding him.

This new two disc set by Mr. Tambourine Man is the first time in forty years the public has been able to witness, watch, discuss and listen to the copious outtakes from this classic. The pre-release publicity for this release states: “Someone, somewhere dusted off that old film footage that may have been sitting in a basement for the past 40 years and decided it was time for it to be seen. This raw footage, obviously filmed for usage in Don’t Look Back, arrived without annotation, so much of the recording locations and details remain unknown apart from the (slightly educated) guesswork of this writer. Maybe the Dylan scholars will put the pieces together or those that were present will have their memories jogged when they see this remarkable film. Perhaps it will lead to debates, arguments and frantic discussion among dedicated Bobcats the world over, but most likely it will lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of this era of Bob Dylan’s artistry and most of all enjoyment of the fantastic footage that we now have of this tour.

“Watching the film takes you back to another time. The film is occasionally grainy, unpolished and flawed. Many of the performances are frustratingly incomplete. Those seeking perfection need to look elsewhere. Those looking for a glorious snapshot of Dylan at the peak of his powers need look no further. We present this footage exactly as it arrived, transferred to DVD to maximize quality and minimize generational loss. This is another piece of Dylan history, another piece of the puzzle, the enigma and the fascination that surrounds this icon.”

Much of the performances are fragmentary and some film is in worse condition than others, but all of it is definitely watchable and enjoyable. Some of the highlights from the first disc include the opening five tracks with cover most of the first set of the Royal Albert Hall show on May 10th. The audio is cut at the beginning of “Times”, “Gates Of Eden” is cut half way through and “It’s Alright Ma” has no picture at the start. There are alternate angles for “Times” and “Ramona” at the end of disc one which were shot from behind with a dramatic spot light on Dylan. The sound is excellent on all of the tracks. The sixth track is more of the rehearsal footage from Manchester featured in the movie. It was impossible to know what Dylan was rehearsing, but “Outlaw Blues” is clearly audible. The reason more wasn’t included in the film was because of the boomy and distorted audio.

The non-musical footage really isn’t too interesting. There is about two minutes of Dylan sitting backstage reading fan mail. He picks up four letters and makes remarks about Jukebox Jury with the first, says the second is a “nice letter” and reads the other two in silence. The train ride is about ninety seconds of Dylan staring out the window at the houses holding his cigarette. The interview is a bit more footage of his conversation with Maureen Cleave of the London Evening Standard. She asks where he’s living and he replies, “right here”. The other reporter asks him about boots. The radio interview consists of Dylan pointing to a piece of paper saying, “He’s an old friend of mine…I didn’t even know his name”.  

One of the most discussed parts of Don’t Look Back is Dylan’s meeting with Donovan at the Savoy Hotel on May 8th. The scene in the movie, after the infamous glass incident, consists of Donovan singing “To Sing For You” to a nervous looking Dylan, and Dylan responding by singing “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” to a nervous looking Donovan. This outtake contains the second song Dylan performs, “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”. The camera is focused upon Dylan singing for the most part, but by the end pans to the left and then to the right upon a very agitated looking Donovan, first taking a puff on his cigarette and then biting his lip. A third song, “She Belongs To Me” was also performed but it is unknown if footage exists of that.

The quality of the film is remarkable given it is forty years old. I believe this has surfaced now because of the Martin Scorsese project “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan” to be aired this fall on both PBS and the BBC. Reuters states “Scorsese and his crew had access to rare material from the Bob Dylan Archives’ film, tape and stills collection, including footage from Murray Lerner’s film festival documenting performances at the 1963, ’64 and ’65 Newport Folk Festivals, outtakes from D.A. Pennebaker’s famed 1967 documentary Don’t Look Back and interviews with Allen Ginsberg, Pete Seeger and Joan Baez, among others.” It will be interesting to see what was used in the new documentary.

Tambourine Man also includes as a bonus the famed taxi ride with Bob Dylan and John Lennon filmed the following year for the aborted film Eat This Document. It is the only footage on this set in color and is very good and clear. The content of the footage isn’t too interesting, with Dylan trying to bait Lennon and the latter not taking. But it is nice to see. There is one mistake on the track list to note. Track 13 on disc 2, which is listed as “She Belongs To Me (IV)” is in reality “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”. This title was released with a lot of fanfare and hype and I have to say it’s all justified. The film is in better condition than we could have expected and contains a lot of the great musical footage that wasn’t included in the final cut and for that this is an absolutely essential purchase. (GS)

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