Saturday, 4 April 2009

No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan

by Robert Shelton

The following night, a little surprise for Mike Porco, who was turning sixty-one. To Mike's astonishment, four film technicians showed up at Folk City, mumbling "educational television." (Under the direction of Dylan, Howard Alk, and Mel Howard, this began hundreds of hours of shooting footage.) On hand were Phil Ochs, Patti Smith, Baez, Commander Cody members, Bette Midler, and Buzzy Linhart. A bit after one A.M., Dylan's red Cadillac Eldorado cruised up to Folk City, and in loped Bob, Kemp, and Neuwirth. Dylan, as "the greatest star of all," went to the stage; he brought up Baez. They sang "Happy Birthday" and "One Too Many Mornings." Mike Porco grinned from wall to wall. He'd been waiting for this a long time!

This was a dress rehearsal for the Rolling Thunder Revue, as performers took to the little stage of Folk City. Hours later, a hoarse Phil Ochs did a set of his own, some traditional songs and "Lay Down Your Weary Tune." Everyone at Dylan's table stood gaping at Phil. Dylan praised Phil when he finished. (When thirty-five-year-old Ochs hanged himself on April 9, 1976, some said his exclusion from the RTR was the last in a long line of crushing events that gave him no way out. Ochs could not be signed on the tour because of his heavy drinking and unpredictability. His friend and eulogizer, Ed Sanders, has described Ochs's "final flameout" as a reaction to "the tyranny of booze, despair, and maddening mood swings.")

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