27 Mar Roots Of RIVA: Bob Dylan

When Ronnie and Ray Foulk and I were planning the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival, Ray and I convinced Bob Dylan to come our of retirement to play the event, the plan was for The Beatles to be guest players with Bob Dylan and The Band. And that unfortunately got nixed and I was in the meeting at Apple Records on Savile Row when one of The Beatles was advised by his wife, “I don’t think that’s a good idea you do that.” And that was a tragedy because that could have been Bob Dylan, The Band and The Beatles at the Isle of Wight. Their amplifiers and equipment were already down there and it was decided not to play and we were furious.
Anyway, one of the things I will remember for the rest of my life is that we had rented this beautiful house for Bob and family that had a beautiful old barn that had been renovated into a ballroom. This is where Bob Dylan and The Band were rehearsing and everybody was coming down. I mean, you’ve probably seen the pictures I have of George Harrison and John and Bob Dylan playing tennis – which I call Stumbledon, or their form of tennis. It’s very difficult when you’ve got hair down to here covering your face when you’re trying to hit a ball. But I will tell you, one of the most amazing times in my life, musically, was sitting in that barn at around two o’clock in the morning and there was Steve Winwood, Remi Kabaka, Ginger Baker, The Beatles, The Band, Bob Dylan, Richie Havens, Ric Grech… Jack Bruce. There was just the crème de la crème of that whole – Oh, Eric Clapton! – just so many amazing players and all this equipment set up in this beautiful old barn that had been rehabilitated. And I just sat there and listened and Winwood has his Hammond and Remi Kabaka on congas and three drummers and two bass players and six guitar players and everybody is singing and jamming. And you realize just how amazingly talented all those people were. Robbie Robertson would take the lead, John would take a lead, Paul would take a lead and Bob Dylan would take a lead and it would just never stop. The music didn’t end. It was just – it would sort of slow down and everybody would just laugh ‘cause it was so amazing for them all to find themselves in this barn on this island in the south of England. And I just sat in the corner and felt – felt that – well what I felt was truthfully that I never had the patience to learn an instrument and achieve any of that individual greatness and gracefulness and talent but I had acquired the ability to bring them all together. And I felt down on myself for I hadn’t had the discipline to train myself to be a great instrumentalist, or a singer, or a writer but I realized that without me none of those would have all come together. Me and others, you know part of our whole – the Foulk family, the whole team. But I then felt that I was very privileged that they trusted me to all come in and feel this relaxed when they were legends already and they could go sell one hundred thousand tickets in an hour anywhere. And they come into this barn and just play freeform. And I think that I saw in everybody’s face, the young man or woman who started – it was mainly guys – that you could see the look in their face when they first began and their dreams, to what they’d achieved and what they were all making – and it was flawless. It was like each one had telepathy with the other one. And one drummer would take more and the other one would just hold a rhythm and one bass player would play a certain eight and the other would play a four or a four – two. And it was just – that was probably one of the great highlights of my life. The only other time was when I was sitting in the rehearsals at the Traveling Wilburys with Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, George Harrison, Jeff Lynn and Bob Dylan and watching them write songs together effortlessly and brilliantly….Damn, I’ve had a great life.
The funny thing with Bob Dylan, when he got into the London airport, George – we – picked him up. He wanted to go immediately to Carnaby St. Remember, Carnaby St. was the hot street in the 60’s. That’s where the miniskirts and the fashion and the swinging 60’s. There was a club there, Bag of Nails, which I was involved with – which is where Jimi Hendrix rehearsed. We said, “Ok.” So, I knew a store there, Take Six. This is where The Troggs got their striped outfits and Mick Jagger got the velvet jackets with the high collars. You know, Keith Richards got the waistcoat. You could get Afghani clothes, you could get Moroccan clothes, you could get skinny tight clothes. It was – London was just getting colorful. Incredibly colorful. Bob was there and he bought this white suit – didn’t even fit him. It was this white suit and I thought, “What the Hell?” And he got these like, yellow boots – I think they were yellow, or light light brown. And this bright high collared, satin – ‘cause everybody had those big huge collars at the time – satin mustard yellow shirt. I thought, “I saw Bob Dylan as this Woody Guthrie – you know – Jack Kerouac, On The Road – you know – jean jacket. That’s how I saw him, I didn’t – I just – I went to get him and I saw him and he was in this white suit and I thought, “Man, this is different!” And it had all been pinned up at the back, his wife Sara who he was married to at the time, had pinned it up so it fit him and looked great. He’s so smart ‘cause we had these giant Kliegl lights, these basically aircraft lights, huge super brutes. The minute he came onstage we hit him with four of those. We shot it over the head of 180,000 people. These massive beams of light – it’s just like searchlights – and they hit this guy in this white suit and it almost elevated him off the stage. It was – and I hope I don’t offend anyone deeply religious – but it was God-like. It was Jesus-like. From way in the back you saw this figure in white and this voice in the microphone, “Glad to be here. Really glad to be here.”
Now don’t forget he hadn’t played because he broke his back in a motorcycle accident and he’d retired. So this was his first show back and it went so fast he did an hour and then he left and the crowd went crazy. I had to quiet the crowd down. I said, “No, he’s done. You’ve had Bob Dylan.” Because the first five songs people were just like, “Oh my God. There’s my culture hero.” So, you know, and then all the sudden you got into the music but it was phenomenal. But I also remember Al Grossman, his manager, and all The Beatles sat down in the front and I went down there and Al Grossman somehow, somewhere, got a big box of donuts in the middle of the night and was giving everybody donuts. I don’t know man. I saw John Lennon eating a donut watching Bob Dylan, you know these things are stuck in my mind. And after I said, “What do you think John?” And he goes, “It’s Bob Dylan.” That’s all you got to say. “It’s Bob Dylan.” I said, “It’d have been great if you played with him.” He said, “Yeah. Would have been.” I just looked at him, he knew what I meant. Your amplifier is right back there. You could have been up there. But it was all great. And there’s more to come.
-Rikki Farr