Mighty Mockingbird (Hollow Horn Encore)
Isle Of Wight Festival, Isle Of Wight, UK – August 31, 1969
(57:54): Press conference, She Belongs To Me, I Threw It All Away, Maggie’s Farm, Wild Mountain Thyme, It Ain’t Me Babe, To Ramona, Mr. Tambourine Man, I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine, Lay Lady Lay, Highway 61 Revisited, One Too Many Mornings, I Pity The Poor Immigrant, Like A Rolling Stone, I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn), Minstrel Boy, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
Bob Dylan’s appearance at the 1969 Isle Of Wight Festival marked his first significant public appearance in more than three years. Backed by The Band, he performed a set lasting just under an hour before more than 100,000 people. Mighty Mockingbird on the Hollow Horn Encore label use a brand new virtually complete recording that has never been circulated. This is a “back to basics affair… a complete recording of the concert from a single source, recorded on a portable reel to reel machine direct from the audience” to quote the liner notes. The sound is very sharp and clear and although still not perfect is very enjoyable. There are cuts between the songs in the latter half of the show but no music is lost.
Previous releases of material from this set are chequered. Less than a year after four songs, “She Belongs To Me,” “Like A Rolling Stone,” “Quinn The Eskimo,” and “Minstrel Boy” were issued on Self Portrait and two, “Like A Rolling Stone” and “Quinn The Eskimo,” found their way onto Masterpieces, the limited edition LP released in March 1978 in Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
The previous releases of this show were culled from various tape sources. While this practice is commendable for producing an entire performance, it makes listeing to the show a difficult task at times. And this is the stat of previous unofficialy released including Minstrel Boy on GWW and Island Man on Archive both issued on vinyl in 1986. The first compact disc release is Minstrel Boy (World WPOCM 0690 D 053) released in 1990 with the songs out of proper sequence. An improved version came out with Isle Of Wight (Wanted Man WMM 39) in 1994 and its copy Isle Of Wight (Golden Archive) in 1995.
A press report gives a general snapshot of the events surrounding his appearance, saying: “With much pushing and shoving, more than 100.000 people crammed into the arena here tonight to see Bob Dylan the American singer, making his first major concert appearance for more than three years. He finally appeared about 11 o clock tonight more than two hours late. He walked on to the stage and without any preliminary announcements went straight into his first song. A tiny figure, dressed in a white suit, white shirt and trousers, he was enthusiastically applauded by the audience who had been getting restive earlier in the evening when empty beer cans were thrown towards the stage. After his first song he said:
“‘Hello. Great to be here’ Then he went into his next number.
“The programme ran late because there were simply too many people with special passes to the so called press enclosure. The organizers tried to clear the area without much success. Eventually the press were sitting on each other’s laps. The main audience was no less crushed and there were several calls for doctors and stretcher bearers. Dylan’s performance was the climax of the three day festival of pop music. But the concert ended shortly after midnight after Dylan had been on the stage for just one hour. After repeated cheering and whistling from the audience he returned to perform for another 10 minutes, then finally left.
“Jeering and booing broke out from some sections of the audience and the compere, Mr. Ricki Farr, placated them by saying: ‘Bob Dylan came here to do what he had to do and he’s done it and I’m afraid that’s the end’ : In all, Dylan and his musical group, called The Band, had been on stage for less than two hours. Mr. Dylan is reported to have been paid about £35,000 for this performance.”
Mighty Mockingbird begins with a short snippet from the press conference several days prior to the event where Dylan states he has no opinions about drugs and he came to England to see the home of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The set itself is uneven. But although it isn’t exactly an artistic success, it is fascinating since it is the only live concert in which to hear Dylan sing his songs in his late sixties “country twang” singing voice. The first three songs are played accompanied by The Band including “I Threw It All Away,” his current hit. “Wild Mountain Thyme,” “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” “To Ramona,” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” are all played by Dylan along with acoustic guitar.
“I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” from John Wesley Harding begins the second half of the set followed by “Lay Lady Lay.” This performance is the only chance to hear him trying to duplicate the Nashville Skyline arrangement including the tenor of the vocals. Future performances in the seventies would be extremely hard and borderline sarcastic. The set ends with the basement tapes track “Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)” which was a hit for Manfred Mann in the UK the previous year. “Minstrel Boy” and jamming version of “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35” are the two encores performed. Mighty Mockingbird is packaged in the standard excellent gatefold sleeve utilized by Hollow Horn for all their releases. Their Encore offshoot has been responsible for some of the most exciting Bob Dylan release the past year and this is no exception.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)