Bob Dylan entered 1965 as the de facto leader of the folk movement. So as soon as he took out an electric guitar at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, he should have known the boos would shower upon him. Above is an accurate representation of what happened when Dylan took the stage at New York’s Forest Hills Stadium on August 28, 1965.
…OK, the machine gun part didn’t happen. But that scene from the recent Dylan biopic I’m Not There is a visual metaphor of how fans initially reacted to Dylan playing electric guitar instead of acoustic. To think, Bob Dylan once got booed for basically being a rock star!
This was right after the British Invasion had occurred in America, so most folk fans still viewed rock music as too “mainstream” or “conformist” for any of their artists to emulate. So it came as quite a shock to them that Dylan would “conform” by busting out an electric guitar and playing loud versions of songs like “Maggie’s Farm”.
Musician Tony Glover wrote in the liner notes for Bob Dylan Live 1966 that Dylan had “apparently evolved too fast for some of his young followers, who are ready for radical changes in practically everything else.”
Good point by Glover that the fans were sort of contradicting themselves by calling for radical political changes, yet getting angry when their hero employs a radical change in his music. Shouldn’t his switch to electric guitar have represented the very culture they were trying to promote?
The controversy is practically ancient history now, as Dylan released Highway 61 Revisited two days later and essentially ushered in the “sixties” as they are remembered today.