There’s a great moment in the new The Band documentary Once Were Brothers that captures Bob Dylan at his most bemused. The year is 1966 and Dylan and his backing group – then known as The Hawks, later simply as The Band – have once again endured a sold-out European show where they’d been angrily booed as punishment for Dylan’s crime of “going electric”.
In archive footage we see a frustrated Bob in the back of a car leaving a gig, posing a reasonable question to lead guitarist Robbie Robertson. “You know, I don’t understand…” says the baffled king, gesticulating with a cigarette. “How could they buy the tickets up so fast?”
54 years later, I’m sat with Robertson in his private studio at The Village in Los Angeles asking him the same question: did he ever figure out why so many people bought tickets to see them just to come and boo? “It became a ritual, I guess,” replies the 77 year-old.
Robertson’s dressed in electric blue plaid, his eyes shaded behind tinted glasses. He takes a pull from a bottle of green tea before pointing out that fans knew in advance what they’d be getting. “A lot of people felt he was their folk king and he was abusing the music, but if you don’t want it, don’t come! I’ve never heard of anybody of that calibre touring the world playing big halls and everywhere they play, they get booed. It took a while to understand that we were part of a musical revolution. We just didn’t know it yet.”