Before The Flood
Track Listing
  1. Most Likely You'll Go Your Way
    (And I'll Go Mine)
  2. Lay Lady Lay
  3. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
  4. Knockin' On Heaven's Door
  5. It Ain't Me Babe
  6. Ballad Of A Thin Man
  7. *Up On Cripple Creek
  8. *I Shall Be Released
  9. *Endless Highway
  10. *The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
  11. *Stage Fright
  1. Don't Think Twice, It's Alright
  2. Just Like A Woman
  3. It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
  4. *The Shape I'm In
  5. *When You Awake
  6. *The Weight
  7. All Along The Watchtower
  8. Highway 61 Revisited
  9. Like A Rolling Stone
  10. Blowin' In The Wind
*Performed by The Band

Bob Dylan: Vocals/ Guitar/ Harmonica/ Piano
Robbie Robertson: Guitar/ Vocals
Rick Danko: Bass/ Vocals
Garth Hudson: Clavinette
Richard Manuel: Drums/ Organ/ Piano/ Vocals
Levon Helm: Drums/ Vocals

Tour '74
Chicago, Illinois
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Boston, Massachusetts
Largo, Maryland
Charlotte, North Carolina
Hollywood, Florida
Atlanta, Georgia
Memphis, Tennessee
Fort Worth, Texas
Houston, Texas
Nassau, New York
New York City, New York
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Bloomington, Indiana
St. Louis, Missouri
Denver, Colorado
Seattle, Washington
Oakland, California
Los Angeles, California

Recorded at The Forum, Los Angeles 13th & 14th February 1974.
Except "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" recorded at Madison Square Garden, New York 30th January 1974
times front cover

"From the first moment I walked on stage at the opening concert, I knew that going through with the tour would be the hardest thing I had ever done...The problem was that everyone had his own idea of what the tour was about...I had no control over what was going on" Bob Dylan 1978.

For somebody who in the latter part of his career has toured almost incessantly, it is hard to believe that between May 1966 and January 1974 Bob Dylan hardly set foot on stage. Indeed, if you were to add up his public appearances for that period, the total, in hours, would barely get into double figures. The Woody Guthrie Memorial Concert in January 1968 where he performed eight songs over two shows, an unannounced appearance with The Band at the Mississippi River Festival in July 1969, where using the pseudonym Elmer Johnson, he performed four songs, his Isle of Wight appearance in August 1969 where unfortunately he failed to live up to the hype and expectation (but in all fairness who could have), George Harrison's Concert for Bangla Desh in August 1971 (probably his most convincing performance in this otherwise sparse period), and another unannounced spot with The Band on New Year's Eve 1971 at the New York Academy of Music where he guested on four songs. If you add to this the fact that Dylan's studio output during this time was, with the exception of 1968's "John Wesley Harding," uninspired, it is quite astonishing how much interest was generated by the news of the 1974 tour. This tour was partially a result of Dylan leaving Columbia and joining David Geffen's newly formed Asylum label. Geffen would have Dylan's new studio album ("Planet Waves") on Asylum as well as the live album of the tour, amazingly, Dylan's first official live release.

The figures for Dylan and The Band's 1974 North American tour have long since passed into rock music folklore. Twenty one cities, forty concerts in forty two days and 658,000 tickets that Geffen bragged he could have sold ten times over - "This event is the biggest thing of it's kind in the history of show business" was his proud boast. It's true that demand was unprecedented, but in fact tickets were available at some venues right up until the last minute. It was still a staggering response for somebody who had been out of the notoriously fickle gaze of the public for nearly eight years. Equally staggering was the punishing schedule for someone as ring-rusty as Dylan was in January 1974. There were two concerts on most days, and one Dayton, Ohio date had to be cancelled in order to squeeze in a third gig at Madison Square Garden, making Starship 1 (the refitted 707 that was the mode of transport) a necessity rather than a luxury.

with robbie robertson 1974

The tour opened on January 3rd at the Chicago Stadium in front of 18,500 people, and Levon Helm for one admitted to being "...very unready." The decision to open in Chicago, away from both coasts was probably an attempt to minimise media coverage of the early shows - some chance! Just about every national and international music publication was represented, and the resulting reviews were positive - "...nigh transcendental" said Melody Maker of "It's Alright Ma," Time called "Like a Rolling Stone" "...a generation's anthem" and NME said that "Dylan gained a whole new audience and another 10 years." In truth, the performances were a bit ragged, and Dylan's decision to open proceedings with the obscure 1962 outtake "Hero Blues" (albeit rewritten) must have baffled a large section of the audience. He also briefly became just another band member (no pun intended) when he joined Robertson and co. for their set, playing guitar and harmonica. This was the only time on the entire tour that he did this, in subsequent concerts he absented himself from the stage during The Band's solo spot.

Dylan and The Band quickly got into their stride, and pretty soon a fairly rigid pattern was set. Dylan would open with a six-song set backed by The Band, he would then leave the stage while they performed a five song solo set, before rejoining them for a three song collaboration. After that Dylan would play a solo acoustic set before The Band took the stage again to play a shorter set, usually three songs, with Dylan rejoining them for the final set and the encore. Dylan's acoustic set was usually five songs, the most often played mix was "The Times They Are A'Changin," "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," "Gates of Eden," "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" and "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," the last of these drawing the inevitable applause from the audience with the line "Even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked." He did vary this section slightly, on one occasion he performed "Visions Of Johanna" and on another, "Desolation Row," but the only two "Planet Waves" songs to make it into this part of the concert were "Nobody 'Cept You" (an outtake) and "Wedding Song." As for Dylan and The Band playing together, the sound that was achieved here is very similar to that of the 1966 tour, a fact that Robbie Robertson was quick to pick up on "Everybody cheered and acted like "Oh, I loved it all along,"" he told Howard Sounes disdainfully "There was something kind of hypocritical about it."

with rick danko and robbie robertson 1974

Tour '74 closed with three shows over two days (February 13th & 14th) at the Los Angeles Forum, where all but one of Dylan's tracks on "Before The Flood" come from - "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" is from the January 30th concert at Madison Square Garden. The album was condensed from thirty-five hours of tapes by recording engineer Phil Ramone (who called this job "...the peak of my career"), and although conventional wisdom suggests that in situations like this, the final shows are the best, in this case it might have been a better idea to have included some performances from some of the earlier concerts, as Dylan was obviously anxious to get the whole thing over with by the time they reached L.A. Minor quibbles aside, "Before The Flood" is a good album that demonstrates an artist reinventing himself for a new decade. There is little subtlety or sophistication here as Dylan tears into his mid-sixties classics and breathes new life into them. From the first track, "Most Likely You'll Go Your way (And I'll Go Mine)" which opened, and oddly closed, most shows, no quarter is given, as Dylan throws back his head and howls at the moon.

There is much to savour here - Robbie's guitar work throughout, but especially on "Lay Lady Lay," Dylan's vocal on "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," and his triumphant "...I can make it" on "It's Alright Ma," Levon Helm's good ol' boy vocal on "Up On Cripple Creek" (Helm's voice was not The Band's best, but it was the most recognisable) and Dylan's sensitive rendition of "Just Like A Woman," along with the audience reaction to it. Richard Manuel's pained falsetto was not to everyone's taste, but here he makes "I Shall Be Released" his own, and Rick Danko (who probably did have the best voice in The Band) performs a stunning vocal on "Stage Fright," a song that Robbie Robertson may have written about Dylan's reluctance or inability to go back on the road. (Robbie denied this, telling Ben Fong-Torres that it was "...about ourselves. We're those kind of people, not outgoing, basically shy.") "Rainy Day women" is the same raucous bar-room stomp that it was on "Blonde On Blonde," but "It Ain't Me Babe" and "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" are given very different treatments from the originals, both have a swaggering quality and the latter is much faster than the original. "Ballad Of A Thin Man" seems oddly detached, but has great organ work from Garth Hudson, while "Like A Rolling Stone" seems a little forced, almost as if everyone was trying too hard. By way of contrast, the final track, "Blowin' In The Wind" (a splice from the evening of the 13th and the afternoon of the 14th) is probably the best live version of this song available. Before performing this as the closing song on the last night of the tour, Dylan brought out promoter Bill Graham - "We're gonna do one more, but before we do, we need to bring out the man who brought us to you, Mr. Bill Graham" and the highly embarrassed Graham was thoroughly soaked with soda, much to the delight of the crowd. "We had ourselves a ball" said Dylan afterwards "Thank you for coming out. Good night."

with rick danko and robbie robertson 1974

So, Tour '74 was a success, as was the double album that resulted from it. "Planet Waves" went to number 1 (Dylan's first) and "Before The Flood" was equally rewarding for Dylan and The Band, they reaped an estimated two million dollars from the tour. The album cover, Barry Feinstein's iconic photograph of thousands of lit matches being held aloft, set something of a trend that continues to this day. "We were expected to produce a show that lived up to everybody's expectations," said an obviously relieved Dylan, "And we did" "Before The Flood" was released on June 20th 1974 and spent ten weeks in the album charts, peaking at #3. Rolling Stone gave it three and a half stars, and reviewer Tom Nolan said that "All Along The Watchtower" (a version that pays homage to Hendrix) was " unqualified treat which gains from becoming a real rock vehicle" but the "...indisputable highlight" was "Like A Rolling Stone." Dylan's two album deal with David Geffen was over and he negotiated a far more beneficial contract with Columbia, with whom he remains until today. Geffen had obviously had a longer partnership in mind, but it was not to be - "Dylan has made a decision to bet on his past" he said philosophically, "I was more interested in his future." Both "Planet Waves" and "Before The Flood" were subsequently re-issued on the CBS label.

In "Bound For Glory," Dylan's idol, Woody Guthrie wrote about how he was glad to be "...edging on my way along here singing with the people, singing something with fights and guts and belly laughs and power and dynamite to it." He could have been talking about Bob Dylan at this time. Tour '74 and "Before The Flood" gave his career a kick-start from which over the next six years or so he would produce some of his most memorable work both on stage and in the studio.


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