What immediately strikes you about this newly repackaged version of D.A. Pennebaker's landmark documentary film on Bob Dylan's 1965 tour of England is just how cool the package actually is. It comes in a gorgeous box which folds out into a gatefold of sorts, housing two DVDs with graphics that look like little film cannisters. It also has a couple of pockets containing two of the great little extras that come with this set.
First, there's a cute little cigarette lighter sized "flipbook" of the original "Subterranean Homesick Blues" film. This recreates the film by flipping through it's pages in "old school" animation style. The larger side pocket however contains the real find here — a paperback book containing tons of photos and stills from the film, along with it's complete transcript. So for those Dylan fans prone to analyzing the man's every word, you now have the ability to follow the dialog, even as you watch the film.
But it gets even better.
A second one hour DVD contains rare, never before seen footage (including many scenes taken from the original negatives) excluded from the final cut of the film. This includes many near complete live performances of songs from the '65 tour. If ever there was a complaint about the original Don't Look Back film (not that there are or ever were too many complaints about it), it was the frustrating cutaways from these pivotal performances.
The original Don't Look Back is, of course, a landmark in the way it so uniquely captures one of the sixties generation's truest icons at what can only be described as an iconoclastic moment in time. Only one other rock documentary film from the same period — the Rolling Stones Gimmie Shelter — documents history no one seemed aware of at the time, as raw and nakedly as this film does (and in the Stones' case, ever so darkly).
In the decades since, several films have of course been made or otherwise come to light which reveal more about the notoriously guarded Dylan. Most notably, there is of course Martin Scorsese's No Direction Home, a film which remarkably verifies much of what had been previously regarded by many as myth (somebody really did cry "Judas" when Dylan went electric). More recently, the Dylan Speaks DVD of an infamous San Francisco press conference reveals Dylan letting his notorious guard down in some rare moments of candor (and even humor).
Both make great companion pieces to this film, but neither top it for uniquely capturing a specific moment in history. The still young Dylan is shown here to be what some view as an arrogant prick. What I've always preferred to think it shows is an artist just begining to realize who, or more importantly what, he actually may really be, and doing his best to come to terms with it.
Some of these moments reveal unique things about Dylan the artist. Here, he seems most comfortable in his own skin, seated at an old fashioned typewriter in a hotel room surrounded by friends and confidants like Joan Baez.
Other moments are genuinely humorous. Such as when the Animals obviously gushing Alan Price still manages to tell Dylan that his so-called British counterpart Donovan is a better guitar player (Dylan's reaction is equally priceless). For those interested in learning how the rock music business could actually be successfully run by what most believe to be hippies and beatniks during it's golden age, the backroom dealings of Dylan's infamous manager Albert Grossman are essential viewing.
Among the more telling of the other extras you'll find in this deluxe edition is the "alternate take" of the Subterranean Homesick Blues film — which is arguably the very first true rock video. We all know the world famous scenes of Dylan flipping cards in a back-alley sort of setting. The alternate version follows much the same script, but is shot in a park. As Dylan flips through the cards displaying those unforgettable lyrics, Allen Ginsburg completely changes his clothes in the background. Which in my opinion, for whatever reason, I find to be just priceless.
Even if you've already seen the original version of this landmark film, extras such as these alone warrant a second look. As for any serious student of history — be it rock, cultural, or otherwise — my only question is what are you waiting for?
Don't Look Back – 65 Tour Deluxe Edition is nothing less than an essential purchase for any serious Dylanologist, Rockologist — hell, any "ologist" period. It comes out next week.