January 24, 2004 -- “World Tour 1966, The Home Movies” is a video documentary loosely based on Bob Dylan's famous electric tour with The Hawks, a group that would soon become simply known as The Band (a band so famous it was the subject of its own classic concert movie, “The Last Waltz,” directed by Martin Scorcese). This landmark Dylan world tour with The Band is said to have changed the face of music.
This is actually the second movie made about that tour. The first was “Eat the Document,” which has never been released, but bootleg copies of it can be found on Ebay. The DVD of “World Tour,” which will be released on February 3 of this year, is based on different film footage, shot by tour drummer Mickey Jones. D.A. Pennebaker, the cinematographer who filmed “Eat the Document,” and “Don't Look Back,” is seen often in the footage shot by Jones, carrying what appears to be a 16mm camera, and wearing a top hat. You might think “World Tour” is a concert film, but it is not. There are relatively few full-motion images of Bob Dylan in the film. There is almost no film with sound of Dylan or The Band playing on the DVD. Instead, the bulk of the film is an interview with Mickey Jones, with a lot of behind-the-scenes footage of the tour. There are a few good silent clips of Bob Dylan doing his “Acoustic Set” on stage during the tour. Jones explains that for the first hour of every concert, Dylan played alone on stage with his acoustic guitar and harmonica. That left Jones free to take color pictures of Dylan with his Kodak 8mm movie camera.
First, we get some background on Mickey Jones, who is an interesting fellow in his own right, then we get to the tour, hitting Hawaii, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, England, Scotland, France and back to England. There is a brief stopover in Beirut, Lebanon. There are also refueling stops in the far east and India which are not shown. High points of the tour include the concerts at Royal Albert Hall and the concert at the Manchester Free Trade Hall. Audiences loved Dylan's Acoustic sets, but hated the electric sets with The Band. Dylan was viewed as a traitor to his folk music roots when he put down his acoustic guitar and picked up his Fender Telecaster. As Jones said in his interview “We were booed, big time.” In one concert, a fan yelled out,“Judas” to Dylan during the electric set on May 17, 1966 in Manchester. This is hard to imagine nowadays, but back in 1966, people were a lot closer to traditional acoustic music, and folk music was a lot more popular than it is now. Groups like Peter, Paul and Mary, the Kingston Trio, the Brothers Four, the New Christy Minstrels, the Weavers and others were still influential and popular at that time, although their influence was waning. Dylan himself was viewed as a successor to the legendary Woody Guthrie.
This documentary talks frankly about the reaction to the tour, the critical reviews, and the band's reaction to the chilly reception it got. Jones says, “We knew we were making good music.” He said Dylan and the band reviewed their performance every night after the shows by listening to tapes made by the tour's sound man. Jones said the booing was very audible on the tapes, but it didn't bother Dylan or The Band. The documentary is also a travelogue as Jones and other members of the band visited a number of tourist attractions on the trip. One of the stops on the trip was a day-long tour of Elsinore Castle (setting for Shakespeare's greatest play, Hamlet) in Denmark. This stop was also featured in “Eat the Document.” Jones also did tours of Raglan Castle and Hampton Court Palace (home of Henry VIII), as well as a cave where Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, hid out from English forces. Jones ended the tour by taking an oceanliner back to the United States.
There is some Dylan music on the soundtrack of the DVD, but it is performed by a group called “Highway 61 Revisited,” a tribute band with a singer who sounds like Dylan. Jones sometimes sits in with this band. Songs from this band on the DVD include, All Along the Watchtower, Ballad of a Thin Man, Highway 61 Revisited, Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues, Like a Rolling Stone, Positively 4th Street, Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again, Subterranean Homesick Blues, The Times They Are A-Changin’ and Watchin' the River Flow. All of this music is played faintly in the background. The documentary does not really get into music history very much. It doesn't explain what made this tour important. After all, Elvis, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and The Who were already popular at this time, so it is not like it was the first electric tour. Interestingly, however, a press report at the time, read on the DVD, claims that Dylan's band on the 1966 tour was even louder than The Who, if you can believe that. Eventually, a live album was released, based on a recording of the 1966 Dylan concert at the Manchester Free Trade Hall during the tour.
The documentary does a pretty good job of highlighting Micky Jones' varied music and acting career. In so doing, it gives us some insight into what it was like being a touring musician in the 1950s and 1960s. Jones got big break with the Trini Lopez band, before jumping to the Johnny Rivers band (for $500 a week, a big pay raise from what Lopez had paid him). He then switched to Bob Dylan's band in 1966 just before the world tour, for $750 a week, plus expenses. He later played drums for Kenny Rogers' band, The First Edition for 10 years. Later, Jones became an actor, fulfilling a childhood ambition. He appeared in such films as “Sling Blade,” “Tin Cup,” “Total Recall,” “Tom Horn,” and “The Fighting Temptations.” Jones' acting career is still going strong. He is now a member of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences. During his musical travels, Jones met The Beatles, Chuck Berry, Otis Redding and other great musicians. Some tour footage of The Beatles, Chuck Berry and Johnny Rivers is included in the DVD.
As you might expect, some the color 8mm footage on the DVD is pretty shaky. Some of the exposures are too light, too dark or too contrasty and the colors are not consistent. The show is, after all, called home movies, and the images were not taken with an expensive camera, or by a professional photographer. Dylan himself reportedly shot some of the footage himself. That footage, included in the DVD, is shakier than most. Of higher quality are some professional still photos of Dylan and others taken by Barry Feinstein (1996 tour photographer) included in the DVD's photo gallery. Some other good stills taken at the Manchester Free Trade Hall concert by Mark Makin are also included in the photo gallery. The last menu item in the photo gallery is a compilation of photos of Mickey Jones covering his music and acting career, including some publicity stills. The interview footage is fine. It was taken in some kind of video editing room with video monitors in the background. Mickey Jones can spin a pretty good yarn and he is interesting to listen to, but he does tend to overuse and misuse the word “unique.”
I am a big Bob Dylan fan, so I found this DVD very interesting. I think most fans of Dylan, The Band, or Mickey Jones would also find it interesting to watch. Among other things, it explains how The Band got its name, after starting out the tour as The Hawks (after band front man Ronnie Hawkins, who is also featured in “The Last Waltz”). For those of you who never saw Dylan when he was a young man, you are in for a shock. Robbie Robertson of The Band (who is also an actor) also looks extremely young in this film, but after all, this tour took place nearly 40 years ago. If you are expecting to hear some dirt about Dylan, or anyone else, you won't find it here. Mickey Jones was and is a big Dylan fan, and he has nothing bad to say about the enigmatic singer-songwriter. The closest thing to criticism uttered by Jones is about Trini Lopez, who was a major music star in the early 1960s. Jones indicates Lopez was tight-fisted when it came to paying the side men in his band. This DVD rates a B.
The home page for this DVD is www.1966tourhomemovies.com. The DVD is directed and produced by Joel Gilbert and Mickey Jones. There is also a poster at the site about a screening of the film, combined with a concert of Dylan songs.
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