Bay Area Bob Dylan concerts in Allen Ginsberg Papers

August 28, 2015
Geoff Willard
Ginsberg's handwritten notes for M0733_s11_ssB_b119_07

The Allen Ginsberg papers in the Department of Special Collections is truly the collection that keeps on giving. We here at the media lab have digitized a huge portion of the media (current count: 2000+ items), yet our interest in it remains high because of the sheer amount of gems hidden within. Even if we didn't enjoy Ginsberg, the vast amount of acquaintances he recorded from the 1950s until the 1990s would provide endless entertainment. 

Take two recent 1/4" audio reels recorded at Bob Dylan concerts in San Jose and Berkeley in 1965 (M0733_s11_ssB_b119_07 and M0733_s11_ssB_b134_05 respectively). Apropos of the 50th anniversary of Dylan going electric at the Newport Folk Festival, these reels document a transformational time in Dylan's performances. The audio quality is not stellar, but both tapes are very listenable during both the acoustic and electric portions. Even more interesting though is Ginsberg's 'man on the street' style interviews with Dylan fans on M0733_s11_ssB_b119_07. Fan opinion on Dylan's change in direction is very much a hot topic of conversation, especially coming on the heels of the March release of Bringing It All Back Home in 1965. Sandwiched in between the concert and the interviews on the same reel is a conversation between Ginsberg and Dylan, presumably backstage. It unfortunately suffers from a poorly placed microphone, but even with the boomy sound it's a riveting exchange.      

With the cassette portion of the collection digitized and behind us, we're really looking forward to the open reel portion, especially if it means more tapes like this. If you are interested in hearing the audio in full, please come on down to the Special Collections department here on the Stanford University campus. Or, if you would just like to peruse the finding aid in search of more tapes like these, check it out on the Online Archive of California.