In early 1964, Bob Dylan was at the apex of his journey as a socially conscious folk singer. The fleeting moment is preserved in this rare half-hour TV program, recorded on February 1 of that year. Within a week the Beatles would land in America. In a little over a month, Dylan would rent an electric guitar.
The television performance is from Quest, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation series that ran between 1961 and 1964 and showcased a wide range of literary and performing arts. It was produced in Toronto by Daryl Duke, who went on to direct American television programs and feature films.
Dylan appears in his classic Woody Guthrie mode on a set made to look like a western bunkhouse. He plays six songs–half from The Times They Are a-Changin’, his third album released just a few weeks before, and half from his previous album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. In order of appearance:
- The Times They Are A Changin’
- Talkin’ World War III Blues
- Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
- Girl From the North Country
- A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
- Restless Farewell
“The Times They Are a-Changin’,” as the program is titled, offers a unique glimpse of the early Bob Dylan, just before his music turned from social issues to personal ones, just before he put away the blue jeans and work shirts and began wearing Beatle boots and sunglasses. “Dylan’s appearance on Quest,” says writer and filmmaker Erek Barsczewski, “provides the closest approximation available of what his early performances in Greenwich Village would have looked and sounded like.”