Beat poets, shamen, and face paint...an evangelical Dylan was determined to push the envelope
on 1975's Rolling Thunder Revue.
The Rolling Thunder Revue was a tour headed by Bob Dylan
in the fall of 1975 and the spring of 1976. The release of his album Desire fell between the two legs of the tour.
Among those featured in the revue were Joan Baez, Roger
McGuinn, Rambling Jack Elliott, Kinky Friedman, Joni Mitchell and Bob Neuwirth, who assembled the backing musicians (including
T-Bone Burnett, Mick Ronson and David Mansfield and, from the Desire sessions, violinist Scarlet Rivera, bassist Rob
Stoner and drummer Howie Wyeth). Poet Allen Ginsberg accompanied the tour for most of its 1975 run, but his planned recitations
(as well as some performances by other Revue members) were cut before the opening date to keep the concerts at a manageable
After his succesful comeback with the Band and the acclaim
of Blood on the Tracks, Dylan put on this wild tour, a "gypsy caravan sort of thing."
He gathered several musicians (Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Roger McGuinn, Mich Ronson; David
Bowie's famed guitarist), and then added poet Allen Ginsberg, Scarlet Rivera, the anorexic tight-rope walking violinist he
found on the streets of New York, and his ex star crossed lover Joan Baez.
This tour and his follow up album Desire would be a revitalising triumph for
Dylan, though his marriage to Sara was falling apart.
Renaldo and Clara is a surrealist movie, by and starring Bob Dylan. Filmed
in 1975, during Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue tour, it was released in 1978. In its original form, it is nearly four hours
The movie was written by Dylan and stars him as Renaldo; his then-wife Sara Dylan appears
as Clara, and his ex-lover Joan Baez plays "The Woman in White." Dylan hired Allen Ginsberg and Sam Shepard to create scenes
for the film; how many of their contributions survive can only be guessed, but the writing credit in any event belongs to
Many of the artists performing with the Rolling Thunder Revue are featured in the movie,
which also includes clips of concert performances and footage of Rubin Carter, the subject of Dylan's song "Hurricane."
The movie was generally poorly reviewed, often scathingly received, and its initial
theatrical run was short. After opening in New York City and Los Angeles, the only other city where the original form ran
was reportedly Minneapolis.
Later in 1978, Dylan allowed a two-hour edit of the film to be distributed. The shortened
version focused more on the concert footage and omitted many of the dramatic scenes. It had a longer, low-profile run in wider
distribution, but was not seen as commercially successful.
After a small number of showings (perhaps only a single airing) of the original version
on European television, Dylan withdrew the film from distribution. Copies, made from recordings of the television broadcast,
circulate among collectors, but the only parts of the movie to be released for consumers are the excerpts found on the "bonus"
DVD accompanying the initial release of Dylan's Live 1975 CDs, volume 5 in his Bootleg Series.
A breath-taking performance of "Isis" from the Rolling Thunder Revue Tour, 1975: