Peace Sunday



Bob Dylan did almost nothing for me to write about in 1982. He apparently recorded with Allen Ginsberg, but I don’t have that (I’ll look). He recorded some duets with one of his back-up singers (Clydie King) and this is listed by Bjorner as “not circulating”, which is too bad, because the idea of Dylan doing an album of duets is, well, fascinating.

Here’s what Dylan did in 1982 that I can write about: He appeared at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on June 6 at the “Peace Sunday” anti-nuke concert during Joan Baez’s set. You can watch his entire performance here (note: the video drops out a couple of times on “With God On Our Side”). You should go watch this whole thing. I’ll wait.

The bootleg of this performance includes the entirety of Baez’s set: “Do Right Woman”, “Warriors of the Sun”, John Lennon’s “Imagine” (which she introduces as a song from the 1960s, which bothers me much more than it has any right to), and “Diamonds and Rust”. She then introduces “Robert” and Dylan sort of belatedly shows up on stage for his only public appearance in 1982. It is good and bad.

On the one hand, here we have Bob Dylan and Joan Baez together on stage again after all these years. It is a beautiful moment for those of us busy tracking their bizarre, decades long friendship. Six years after the Rolling Thunder Revue, about seventeen years after she helped to make him a star, here comes the middle-aged Dylan out to perform with her. His acoustic guitar and harmonica holder (he doesn’t actually play the harmonica). It’s a wonderful moment.

On the other hand, it’s all a bit of a shambles. The tuning of the guitars at the start. Dylan standing too far from the mic (she cedes him some space so that he doesn’t have to crash into her when he leans over). His guitar straps breaks (2:30) and the whole of “With God on Our Side” is sort of derailed. It’s not entirely clear that they are yet on the same page on this song almost twenty years after they were playing it for the first times. I mean, how many times can this duo butcher this song?

On the one hand, I love how happy people seem to be. Skip ahead to 9:34 and watch Joan Baez smile. It’s a great moment. Whatever has gone on in their relationship over two decades, it’s wonderful to see that smile.

On the other hand, she is smiling at the end of a cover of Jimmy Buffet’s “A Pirate Looks at Forty”. Jimmy Buffet. Joan Baez and Bob Dylan are on stage singing a Jimmy Buffet song. Seriously. What’s worse (and you’re wondering, how can it be worse?) they are doing a really, REALLY, bad job of it. Look closely, it is clear that Dylan has the lyrics written on his left sleeve. Watch Baez as she leans over to read them. She is constantly coming in late (she has done this with Dylan forever, possibly because he’s so mercurial in the way he plays things). It is sloppy and actually sort of painful to listen to. Go to 8:50 and you can clearly see both of them reading as they play. Actually, Baez just gives up and starts humming. Oh well.

On the one hand, they do “Blowin’ In the Wind” together, and all is right with the world.

On the other hand, they absolutely murder it. It is terrible. Awful. Horrendous. Look: “Blowin’ in the Wind” has three verses. Three. It is not a complicated song at all. Four chords, three verses. In fact, it’s so uncomplicated that between the first and second verses Baez says to the crowd: “Sing along, you know the words”. Except Dylan doesn’t. As they start the next verse, she sings the first line to the second verse, and he sings the first line of the third. She rolls her eyes and gives way, switching over to match him. It is a THREE VERSE SONG and he can’t get it right. Oh, man.

So, to sum up, in his only 1982 performance, Bob Dylan comes out at a peace rally, sings three songs. On the first his guitar falls off and on the second and third he doesn’t know the words even though one of the songs is the most iconic thing he has ever written. Wow.

On the one hand, the video of this performance is terrible – a dub of a dub of a VHS recording (the audio recording is far superior). On the other hand, just seeing these two people out there trying to do something – and, in particular, seeing Baez’s flustered exasperation, makes me inordinately happy.

That’s it. That’s 1982 in a single post!