Friends And Other Strangers (The Soundboard Master Tapes TSMT-001/002)
Warehouse, New Orleans, LA – May 3rd, 1976
Disc 1: If (Dennis Hopper), Battle Of New Orleans (Bob Neuwirth), Rock And Roll Across The USA (Kinky Friedman), Dear Abbie (Kinky Friedman), Asshole From El Paso (Kinky Friedman), Mr. Tambourine Man (Bob Dylan), Love Minus Zero/No Limit (Bob Dylan), Vincent Van Gogh (Bob Dylan & Bob Neuwirth), Maggie’s Farm (Bob Dylan & Guam), Mozambique (Bob Dylan & Guam), Isis (Bob Dylan & Guam), Jolly Roger (Roger McGuinn), Lover Of The Bayou (Roger McGuinn), Chestnut Mare (Roger McGuinn), The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (Joan Baez)
Disc 2: Diamonds And Rust (Joan Baez), Railroad Boy (Bob Dylan & Joan Baez), I Pity The Poor Immigrant (Bob Dylan & Joan Baez), Shelter From The Storm (Bob Dylan & Guam), Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again (Bob Dylan & Guam), You’re A Big Girl Now (Bob Dylan & Guam), Rita May (Bob Dylan & Guam), Lay Lady Lay (Bob Dylan & Guam), Idiot Wind (Bob Dylan & Guam), Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan & Guam), Gotta Travel On (Bob Dylan & Guam)
Bob Dylan and the RTR played two shows at the Warehouse in New Orleans on May 3rd, 1976. The evening show is sourced from an excellent quality soundboard recording. One of the earliest titles featuring material from this show is Memphis Blues (Excitable Records 4500) released in 1979 on one disc with most of the Dylan numbers. Together (Bob Dylan & Joan Baez) (Reunion) is a German release from 1985 that highlighting their duets and contains “Rita Mae” from New Orleans. Another vinyl title with this show is At The Warehouse (“TAKRL”) also from 1985.
Dared To Be Free (Rock Calendar 2109) is one of the earliest compact disc releases and is a copy from the vinyl TAKRL. Rolling Thunder Revue (Flashback 01.94.0225) was issued 1994. This release contains all but two of the Dylan songs (dropping “Isis” and “You’re A Big Girl Now”) but containing most of the non-Dylan numbers. The same year Wanted Man released Hold The Fort Lock Up The Warehouse (WMM 040/041) with “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again,” “You’re A big Girl Now,” “Rita Mae,” and “Lay Lady Lay” from this set along with tracks from Forth Worth and Oklahoma City.
The following year Live At The Warehouse (Yellow Cat YC 038/039) was issued with only the Dylan numbers except for “Isis.” This title was copied in 2001 on non-label release from Japan. Acoustic Thunder (Wild Wolf 75/76) is compilation released in 1999 containing rare acoustic numbers during the RTR and contains “Love Minus Zero / No Limit” from this show. Creatures Void Of Form (Razor’s Edge RAZ 001) documents “Mr Tambourine Man,” “Love Minus Zero,” “Vincent Van Gogh.” “Maggie’s Farm,” “Railroad Boy,” “I Pity The Poor Immigrant,” “Rita May,” “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” and “Gotta Travel On” from this show along with tracks from San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
Friends And Other Strangers on the TSMT label utilize a copy of the master soundboard recording. The sound quality on this is a considerable improvement over all previous release and can be considered definitive. All of the Dylan performances are present and a selection of the other numbers fill out the balance of the set with “Isis” being the biggest cut in the tape, eliminating the final several minutes of the song. The first disc picks up the show after the first eight numbers played by Guam: “Cindy (When I Get Home),” “Flint Hill Special,” “Werewolves Of London,” “Too Good To Be Wasted,” “Mad Man,” “Tears On My Pillow,” “A Lady Is Still A Lady,” and “Is There Life On Mars?” It picks up when actor Dennis Hopper hits the stage and him remarking how dark it is. He says, “if is the middle word in ‘life’ in the English language.” (This is close to what he says also in his role as an American photojournalist in the movie Apocalypse Now, filmed that same year). He gives a dramatic reading of the Rudyard Kipling poem “If”:
“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
“If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
“If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!”
“The Battle Of New Orleans” sung by Bob Neuwirth is an appropriate song given the place, and three irreverent songs by Kinky Friedman follow. The first two Dylan songs are played alone accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. “Love Minus Zero / No Limit” makes its only appearance on the second RTR tour. Dylan’s work with Guam begins with the duet “Vincent Van Gogh” with Bob Neuwirth which is followed by the intense “Maggie’s Farm” played during this tour. Dylan exaggerates the hillbilly accent during the chorus lending a counterpoint of irony to the song, but he sings so intensely he has to pause before the final “I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more” and clears his throat. Two songs from Desire follow. “Isis” is played with a heavy rock beat and is unfortunately cut after four and a half minutes, but that is a flaw on the source tape and there is nothing that can be done (unless an audience tape were to surface).
Three of the four Roger McGuinn songs (“Eight Miles High” being the omission) and two of seven Joan Baez are included (“Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” “Turn Me Around,” “Love Song To A Stranger Part II,” “Sweeter For Me,” and “Dancing In The Streets” omitted). “Diamonds And Rusts” begins with Baez saying in her best Ernestine accent, “oh Mick Ronson I’m gonna die. No I have my little program all worked out and I can’t go around begin too flexible. Just trying to learn how to breath again. I know it’s difficult for you down there. It’s difficult up here too.” The two Baez duets with Dylan, “Railroad Boy” and “I Pity The Poor Immigrant” follow.
The final Dylan set takes up the bulk of disc two beginning with “Shelter From The Storm.” The acoustic arrangement from Blood On The Trackswas transformed into an electric, fuzz laden stomper with Dylan shouting out the lyrics. The vulnerable desire for salvation is changed into a diatribe from one demanding respect wrapped into the hero’s hubris. After “You’re A Big Girl Now” the only ever live performance of “Rita Mae” follows. This Desire outtake, released two years after this show on the rare Masterpieces LP, sounds awesome and one that should have made more live appearances.
The weight of these performances lay in “Idiot Wind” which effectively replaced “Hurricane” in the set list for giving purpose to the proceedings. This performance seems to drag as Dylan spits out the lyrics. “We’re gonna go after this song – get a transfusion” are Dylan’s words before the final eight minute version of “Gotta Travel On” where everybody it seems takes a solo. Friends And Other Strangers is packaged in a gorgeous digipack with many period photos on the artwork and given the sound quality and excellent performance is worth having.