The Times They Are a-Changin’: 1964 Broadcast Gives a Rare Glimpse of the Early Bob Dylan

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:

  1. The Times They Are A Changin’
  2. Talkin’ World War III Blues
  3. Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
  4. Girl From the North Country
  5. A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
  6. 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.”

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Comments (16)
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  • coni says:

    Dylan’s Music make me happy and reflective too. A great half-hour music!

  • colin says:

    I’ve seen so much footage of Bob over the years and, for some reason, this is the first time I’ve been struck by how similarily he performed all this early work. For a solo artist, who could basically do whatever the hell he wanted, Dylan pretty much stuck to the script: the songs are virtually identical to what was on the record. Fast-forward even 2 years ahead and Dylan’s versions of his own songs varied significantly. (Check out the version of Maggie’s Farm at Newport: Musically, it sounds like “One Way Out” by Sonny Boy Williamson, and very different from the record. It’s way better, but I digress.) His wild interpretations of his own material became something he is known for now. Ask any musician he played with. It was not the case in the beginning.

  • pam hayes says:

    He is theI love bob dylan and have everyday since1963.he is greatest american poet ever!!!

  • ghraydon wallick says:

    This should be required viewing for anyone interested in revolutionary art. I first saw Bob Dylan in 1964. He was playing the Wilson High School Gym in Long Beach, Ca. He looked exactly as he did in this excellent video. I should mention that the concert was NOT sold out.

    Coincidently my mother’s house was directly across the girls athletic field (100 yards) from the gym’s entrance. An older friend of mine who had been to New York and saw Dylan in the coffee houses had an extra ticket; his date stood him up. I agreed to go but was a little freaked out by the crowd of weirdos I saw waiting for the doors to open. I was a 17 year old high school junior and to say I was moved by the experience doesn’t quite say it.

    I was TRANSFORMED by it; as the world would soon be too. One year later his songs were all over the LA radio waves and heading for the top of the charts. Dylan transformed my perspective and imagination in much the same way as Elvis Presley’s first public appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in 1956? did. I couldn’t sleep at all that night and in a way Dylan woke me up for the rest of my life.

    The second time I saw him was in 1965 at the Santa Monica Civic auditorium at the concert that became THE pivotal event in his career. That concert thrust him into the mainstream popular culture as a star and icon. People just hung around waiting to be close to him and crowding his car in the parking lot when he tried to leave between shows.

    In 1966 I saw him once more, this time at the new Long Beach Civic Auditorium. It was December 12, 1966. Earlier in the day I had ran away from an angry marine sergeant who was lying and trying to shanghai me into the Vietnam war. So it was a day of contrasts for sure.

    I arrived at the Auditorium a couple of hours early because I had painted a portrait of Dylan (from a photo on one of his early album covers) and I wanted to give it to him. In those innocent times crowd security had a softer face and this one was attached to a kindly old man.

    Without so much as a metal detector wand or weapons pat down, he said “follow me”, then dutifully lead me from the ticket window, through the front doors, down the center isle of the auditorium, up the steps to the stage, across the stage, down the steps to the back stage, to a back stage door. He pointed with his thumb and said “I think he’s in there”. Then he walked away leaving me, a 19 year old kid on the opposite side of the door from my Hero.

    I was kind of confused but thought “What the Hell, I knocked on the door. A very nervous (paranoid actually) voice said “Who’s there? What do you want? I replied my name is Grady and I have some thing for Bob Dylan. He shot back, “slide it under the door man”. “It’s a painting in a frame, It won’t go under the door” I informed him. “OK, OK, Hold on a minute man”, sounds of many anxious feet shuffling away at speed. In those times even a stray marijuana seed in your pocket could land in you in prison.

    A few moments later the door opens a crack and a paranoid young man grabs the painting from my outstretched and hand and quickly slams the door shut. His “thank you” was nearly clipped in two between the door’s edge and frame. My, “You’re welcome” hit the door and bounced back at me sticking to the fresh barbs of my burr cut hair do.

    I was alone back stage so… I walked back across the stage and took a seat in the front row and center and waited for the show to start. A few minutes later Dylan and the Band walked on stage and did sound checks and rehearsals. I was the only person in the huge auditorium and they were playing just for me. They did this for about 10 minutes then walked back off stage leaving me along with my grin aching from strain.

    As the theatre eventually filled up I took my assigned seat further back from the stage. A young girl eventually came and sat down in her seat next to me. I couldn’t help myself, I had to tell somebody. I told her what had just happened. She said that’s “Amazing!” Then she informed me that it was her job to get the band sodas at the break and deliver them backstage for the band. Then she asked me if I wanted to help her. Out of the thousands of people who filled that auditorium that night I was sitting next to THE ONE.

    Of course I helped her and backstage I saw the same paranoid dude that took my painting. He looked at me and said “WHO ARE YOU?” I said “My name is Grady, I brought the painting for Dylan”. He said “Oh, the PAINTING He LOVES it man! , he’s in his dressing room looking at it right now!” I didn’t ever get to meet him but I saw my painting on top of the grand piano waiting for the roadies to pack it up. I left on a HIGH: it’s last for many decades.

  • Richard Everett says:

    thanks for settin it all down Graydon. Tho I heard it twice from your own lips It’s great to see it in words I can print. your memory and actions are precious to me. Bob Dylan was the single greatest influence in my life. His music and poetry imbue my life still. from the bottom of my heart -thanks for sharin’ man.

  • Wow, that was a great story, Grhaydon. I was thinking as I read it about how we elevate people to such a high place in our thoughts, and how what they do or say can come to mean so much to us. I was also thinking about how that relationship can be so overwhelming for the objects of our attention: look at Dylan’s reaction when you brought the painting. Not what we would hope for in a way, but all things considered, not unexpected.

  • Valentin says:

    I want to see all videos. EVERYTHING you have about Bob Dylan. Thank you. Valentin.

  • Valentin says:

    Very inspiring artist.

  • tomcj says:

    i have watched this and even posted it from another site, but i am grateful for your essay!!!!

  • gringo557 says:

    Great story, ghraydon, with one date wrong. You could not have seen Dylan in December 1966. He had his motorcycle accident in July of that year and “retired.” It was probably December 1965? I sure wish I could have seen those early shows. My first was the 1974 “comeback” tour, at Oakland. And needless to say, it changed MY life forever.

  • Walt Quinn says:

    I was at the Wilson High Dylan show in 1964. The Golden Bear were the promoters. I can remember his leather jacket and Beatle boots. He sang Gates of Eden, Mr Tambourine Man ,etc before Bringin’ It All Back Home was released. I was in a recoding studio and ran into Jeff from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. We realized we were at the same show and compared notes. He said Jackson Brown, his friend, wAs there too. Pretty heady. I was 14. I lived in Riverside and he had played earlier that year in a small coffee shop at UCR. My dad wouldn’t let me go because it was a Tuesday evening.

  • Walt Quinn says:

    Jeff Hanna

  • Walt Quinn says:

    John Hiatt and I met him about 25 years ago. We sat and talked for 30 years. He was really funny. Go figure.

  • Larry fyffe says:

    That’s Michael Zenon sitting at the table writing, but who else is in that lonely cabin atop the cbc TV studios in Toronto!

  • ghraydon wallick says:

    You’re right gringo557, it was december 17, 1965. Too much time, space and mind dissolving substances in the years in between… sorry about that.

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