Maggie's Farm - Bob Dylan
BOB DYLAN – “MAGGIE'S FARM”
July 25, 1965 Newport, Rhode Island
Bob Dylan’s electric performance of Maggie’s Farm at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival—considered one of the most important moments in music history—is now available as a video for purchase and download through the iTunes Store. Mastered from the original film elements, this video captures a moment that continues to inspire music fans worldwide.
There are very few moments in pop culture where you can pinpoint a singular shift in popular music history. One of the most famous is the performance of Bob Dylan at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival when he "plugged in" and went electric. At 9:15pm on Sunday, July 25, 1965, Dylan --clothed in a black leather jacket and pointed motorcycle boots, playing a Fender Stratocaster guitar and, accompanied by a pick-up band of musicians-- performed an electric version of “Maggie’s Farm.”
Dylan had already played his traditional and familiar acoustic songs in a workshop on Saturday, but he wanted to introduce the Newport audience to his new sound, introduced in his latest album release, "Bringing It All Back Home", which featured a driving Rock & Roll beat and an electric-guitar backing. As exhibited in his recently released single “Like a Rolling Stone,” Dylan wanted to capture this new sound live. He wanted to introduce this new aesthetic to the Newport folk audience.
On Saturday, he put together a pick-up band, mainly consisting of musicians from The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, who were also performing at Newport. This group gathered together that night in the living room of a Newport mansion, practicing three songs they planned to play during a special added nighttime performance. They finished rehearsing as the sun came up. When they took the stage on Sunday evening, they barely had time to do a proper sound check.
Against a dramatically-lit, giant stage, Dylan sang the opening lines of “Maggie’s Farm,” a declaration of independence against conformity. The audience of 15,000 was shocked. As the amplified speakers blasted out the new sound, music producer Paul Rothchild, commanding the mixing board, turned the sound up to maximum level. At the end of the first song, “Maggie’s Farm,” there was a mix of cheers and boos. Filmmaker Murray Lerner (Festival and The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan Live At Newport Folk Festival, 1963-1965) was there to record it all on film – capturing one of the most significant historic moments in music history.
“Maggie’s Farm” ushered in a new musical style-- a hybrid of acoustic folk and electric rock. It also set in motion a long standing controversy that is still unresolved today. The fact that Dylan was booed is there for all to hear. What is unclear is the reason for this reaction. Some attributed the response to a reaction from the traditional folk audience who felt Dylan had abandoned his political voice for an electronic sound, corrupting the acoustic folk sound with the crass commercialism of electric rock. Others attribute the boos to the faulty sound system. Production manager Joe Boyd claimed “that first note of ‘Maggie’s Farm’ was the loudest thing anybody had ever heard.”
Pete Seeger was so enraged by the sound that he threatened to cut the power cables to the instruments. Dylan said that “they didn’t like what I was going to play and they twisted the sound on me before I began.” Some said that the boos were from audience members who were upset that Dylan played only three songs before he left the stage, outraged that they had been short-changed by the brevity of the set. In fact, Dylan was coaxed to return, without his band and, with a borrowed acoustic guitar, play a version of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” that ironically added a new meaning to the already growing controversy surrounding Dylan’s new sound.
While the reasons for the audience reaction is still a hotly debated topic, there is no debate about the significance of the event and the importance of the performance– one of the few defining moments in music history captured on film and prized as a treasured pop history landmark.
Did you know? President Barack Obama revealed to Rolling Stone magazine in September 2010 that he has “at least 30 tracks of Bob Dylan on his iPod," adding that, "during difficult times, Steve Wonder and Bob Dylan help get me through the day."