Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 6, 2004)
Almost 40 years after the fact, only a limited number of folks remember the impact Bob Dylan had on the music scene when he “went electric”. Dylan first gained fame and prominence as arguably the most eloquent and skilled folk music performer and writer, and his talent with words led rock songs by other artists to become less about love and romance and more about social commentary and world issues.
In 1965, Dylan began to incorporate electric instruments into his music, and the folkie die-hards responded poorly. The furor didn’t dispel quickly, and – as depicted in the famous documentary Don’t Look Back - Dylan got nasty reactions from partisans most places he went for quite some time after that.
Don’t Look Back will always remain the most significant document of this era, but we now have another look at this period in Dylan’s career. In World Tour 1966 – The Home Movies, we get a glimpse of the era from the inside. Filmed by Mickey Jones, Dylan’s drummer at the time, the program offers a different take on the experience.
At the start of Movies, Jones sits for an interview and tells us about his early interest in music and his career. We learn how Jones got into the field and hear of his various jobs up until he hooked up with Dylan in 1966. Jones then discusses rehearsals and his early experiences with the band.
After about 28 minutes of this, we finally see some of the 8mm “home movies” shot with Jones’ camera. These start with the opening of the tour in Hawaii and then proceed through Australia, continental Europe, the UK, and back to the continent. The band then returns to the US, where Dylan has his catastrophic motorcycle accident and Jones’ time with Bob ends. As we watch the footage, Jones narrates and gives us information about the tour, his experiences, and other insights. When the footage finishes, Jones provides his thoughts on Dylan and his experiences since 1966.
Frankly, Movies feels a bit like a tease. The program promises insightful glimpses behind the scenes and an insider’s feel of this legendary tour. We don’t get that. Instead, Movies comes across as a fairly bland travelogue.
Much of the problem stems from the absence of sound for any of the footage. We hear Dylan music throughout the program, but this comes from new versions performed by a cover band. Apparently the only audio from any of the shows comes with the infamous “Judas!” remark at the Manchester concert. This accompanies no footage, though, and is just an audio excerpt without any actual Dylan music. We get some mumblings from Bob but no songs.
The DVD attempts to fake us out at times. Sometimes we’ll see performance footage accompanied by Dylan songs, and the degraded quality of the music might lead us to believe that we’re hearing actual audio from the shows. This isn’t true. The songs don’t match the playing at all and clearly aren’t really Dylan.
Really, the footage itself is the least interesting part of this program. We see lots of shots from the road – literally. Jones films the gang as they hit tourist spots and hotels. Occasional shots from the stage also appear, but without audio, this feels pretty useless. Very little genuinely compelling footage shows up here, as most of it seems bland and pedestrian.
A very chatty man, Jones offers some good comments, though the show could use some judicious editing. Jones provides a number of useful notes about the music and the shows. He goes into alterations made to song arrangements and the ins and outs of some performances. However, we hear way too much about their tourist activities. We don’t see a lot of Dylan on those occasions, and this starts to feel like The Mickey Jones Show. Actually, the drummer remains the solid focus of the program, as it becomes much more about his life and career than that of Dylan.
When Jones focuses on the music and the performances, Home Movies presents intriguing material. Unfortunately, the program strays from that realm much too frequently and concentrates too much on travel and not enough on music. Movies often feels like we get little more than a session with a long-winded uncle and his vacation movies.