Bob Dylan goes electric (Free Trade Hall, Manchester)

 

I’m not really into Bob Dylan’s music but I know some people worship him. To some he was the leading songwriter of the American folk music revival, a sort of spokesman for that generation. It was a big shock when he moved away from political song-writing and started performing with an electric guitar. On 25th July 1965 he performed his first electric concert at the Newport Folk Festival and some sections of the audience booed him, considering him as a traitor to the folk movement.

 

For the world of rock music it was a defining moment when Bob was playing with an electric guitar and an audience member lambasted him with a single word "Judas!" It was Keith Butler and it was here outside the Free Trade Hall in Manchester where it happened in 1965.

 

Bob began the show with an acoustic set but when he brought out his Hawks band (later revised to  The Band) for the second set the crowd turned on him. Some of the 2,000 concert-goers clapped slowly and defiantly to show their displeasure and shake Dylan from his game.

 

During a period of silence after "Ballad of a Thin Man" Keith shouted his invective “Judas!” and Bob replied, "I don't believe you. You're a liar." When before the band finished the concert with "Like A Rolling Stone" Keith had left without knowing his one word would be caught on tape and played countless time afterward.

 

Later Keith regretted it bearing - it’s one word you don’t called someone with Jewish blood (Bob’s real name is Robert Zimmerman and his grandparents had emigrated from Odessa in Russia (now in Ukraine) after persecution of the Jews.) Bob would not return to the Newport festival for 37 years and when he performed there in 2002 he wore a wig and fake beard.

 

The Free Trade Hall is now a Radisson hotel but it was a public hall built from 1853 to 1856 to celebrate the annulling of Corn Laws in 1846 (for thirty-one years hefty tariffs were levied on imported food and corn to favour domestic producers.) It was bombed in the Manchester Blitz and its interior had to be rebuilt. It was Manchester's premier concert venue before the Bridgewater Hall was finished. Charles Dickens performed here in the summer of 1857. In 1905 suffragette Christabel Pankhurst began the campaign for the vote after she and Annie Kenney were ejected from a meeting addressed by the Liberal politician Sir Edward Grey (he refused to answer their question on Votes for Women.) It was the home of the Hallé Orchestra unit it was damaged by German bombs.

 

Since then many famous groups have played there - Frank Zappa, The Moody Blues, Tyrannosaurus Rex, (Marc Bolan), Pink Floyd and Genesis. On 4th June 1976 the Lesser Free Trade Hall was the venue for a concert by the Sex Pistols at the start of the punk rock movement.

 

Outside the Free Trade Hall I walked passed a homeless woman who was asleep. I was impressed that she’d put make-up on.

 

 

 

 

The homeless woman still wearing make-up…

 

Looking down Peter Street…

 

…and up…

 

The Sex Pistols played here and started the punk movement…