Like the Night
Tuesday, May 17, 2016 by Ron Chester ★

Bob Dylan began his amazing career in 1961, so the last several years have seen the 50 year anniversaries of many important milestones in his career, for example, yesterday was celebrated by some as the 50 year anniversary of the release of Blonde on Blonde, the album that turned me into a lifelong fan, even though there is some question about what date it was actually released.

But for many of the most dedicated Dylan fans, an even more important event is the 50 year anniversary of one of the most legendary performances of Dylan's career at Manchester Free Trade Hall, the Judas concert, in Manchester, England. There is no long-term Dylan fan who doesn't appreciate what an important event that was, which some have compared to the Stravinsky premiere of the Rite of Spring, which incited a riot in Paris nearly 103 years ago.

Its importance is illustrated by the fact that both the BBC in the UK and Rolling Stone in the US published major articles about the event today. Dylan's record label also tweeted a link to the official recording of the concert. In 1998 it was my pleasure to greet one of my Dylan friends, the music historian C. P. Lee, at a book store in the SF Bay Area, who was there to promote his new book about the concert. He revised and updated it in 2004. C.P. had been at the concert and did extensive legwork years later to find others who had been there as well, to reconstruct every moment of the event in great detail. Reading the book while playing the recordings of the performance is a worthy and very pleasurable endeavor. 

Rolling Stone used the adjective "infamous" in its clickbait title [defn: well known for some bad quality or deed], when legendary or brilliant would have been more appropriate terms. The shouting out of "Judas!" was certainly a "bad deed" at the time, but it turned out to be a very good deed, as it spurred on Dylan and his band to one of the greatest performances of Like a Rolling Stone of all time.

Maybe the best line Greil Marcus ever wrote was the one they put on the cover of Lee's book: "C P Lee was there, but the point is that he can put you there too."