August 1, 2021

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Dylan on the Les Crane Show

Dylan appeared on the ABC’s answer to —broadcast from New York City on February 17, 1965. At the time of the show, no one, including Les Crane, knew of the existence of the song “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” A 45 rpm single of the song with “She Belongs To Me” (b side) would be released a couple of weeks later at the beginning of March, followed by the release of the album a few weeks after that.

I was lucky enough to watch the the night Dylan was on. Dylan was rarely on TV back then, a practice he’s continued throughout his career. While there were other guests that night on the show, Dylan was the main guest. He sang two songs, debuting “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” at the beginning of the show, followed by “It’s Alright Ma, (I’m Only Bleeding)” at the end, which Dylan had been performing during his concerts the previous autumn. On both songs, Dylan was accompanied by guitarist Bruce Langhorne, who was part of the New York City folk music scene, and previously had backed Dylan on “Corrina Corrina” on . Langhorne played an acoustic Martin guitar, but he had a pickup in the guitar that provided an electric sound. Excepting duets, and a couple of very early appearances, Dylan always played solo. The show also revealed a new look for Dylan. Up to that point, Dylan’s concert attire was a suede jacket and blue jeans. On , he appeared wearing a suit–probably the same one he would wear on the cover of and a white shirt with a snapped tab collar.

What Really Happened When Dylan Played The Les Crane Show

The rendition of “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” joined two other songs in sounding suspiciously like rock and roll numbers: “I Don’t Believe You” and “It Ain’t Me Babe” from which was only six months old at the time of the appearance.

After the first song, Dylan did something that never happened before or since: he sat down and talked, staying onstage the entire show. He was hysterically funny, and Les Crane played right along with him. So when Les Crane was trying to let his audience know who Bob Dylan was and what songs he had written, and Dylan said, “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” which was right in line with other comments Dylan had made during the night, Crane just figured it was another joke. But no one knew Dylan wasn’t kidding until a few weeks later when his new look and sound would be promoted in record stores across the US in the biggest campaign Columbia Records had launched so far. The campaign featured Dylan holding a Fender Stratocaster and wearing his iconic suit and shades. The image slogan read either, “No one sings Dylan like Dylan”, or “Bob Dylan brings it all back home on Columbia Records.”