Donnerstag, 19. Mai 2011

Bob Dylan's 1978 German tour -- Impressario Fritz Rau remembers

Excerpts from the long out-of-print book Fritz Rau: Buchhalter  der Traeume (Fritz Rau: Accountant of Dreams) by Kathrin Brigl and Siegfried Schmidt-Joos, Berlin: Quadriga, 1985),
translation and linking paragraphs by Manfred Helfert, 
audio files (interviews) © Manfred Helfert 2006:

Fritz Rau is negotiating the tour with Dylan's new manager, Jerry Weintraub, in Los Angeles. Weintraub invites him for dinner at his house where he meets Dylan for the first time:
"Now we're invited to Weintraubs', and suddenly Bob Dylan enters the room. 
Knowing his reputation of being rather taciturn, I wonder: What is he going to say? Probably he'll inquire about the tour deal again. 
Nothing in that vein: 'Fritz, I wanna talk to you about the American Folk Blues Festival of 1963.' 
During that year, by no means a super-star yet, he had hitchhiked through Europe and attended the
Blues Festival concert in Copenhagen. There, for the first time, he had been able to listen to blues artists live onstage whom he had hitherto only known as far away silhouettes.

He immediately starts a discussion whether it had been wise back then to start the concert with Sonny Boy Williamson's tiny blues harp. I was more concerned about the Dylan million-Dollar-tour and moved on to that as soon as possible. 

I told him that we had planned concerts for Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, Deutschlandhalle in Berlin and for Zeppelinfeld, Nuremberg , formerly known as 'Reichsparteitagsgelaende'.
Dylan shakes his head: 'I think, Nuremberg is the wrong place.' And then he talks of Leni Riefenstahl and her film 'Triumph of the Will', of Albert Speer and his gigantomaniac architecture. He knew all of  this and what 'Reichsparteitagsgelaende' stands for.
He ponders, and I realize that it is a tough decision for him. Suddenly, he smiles and nods. He instinctively understood why we wanted him to appear at that very location." (p. 209)

Following rather hostile pre-concert press coverage and booing of Dylan and his (black) background singers in Berlin, Dylan (according to Rau) is rather hurt:
"He raved about Berlin. He stated that Berlin had fascinated him and that he would like to live there for half a year. After the concert, he had  abandoned this intention. The city had hurt him too deeply. 
Traveling to Nuremberg, he was very silent and very reflective. This open air concert 1978 was the absolute highlight for all of our efforts. The year before, we had staged an open air concert with Santana, Chicago, Udo Lindenberg and others. We had built the stage onto the old Hitler rostrum, which still has not been blown up. But there were no good 'vibrations' in Professor Speer's aggressive architecture. That's why we had set up the stage exactly opposite this time..." (pp. 210-211)

Following Lake's, Chicken Shack's and Clapton's excellent sets, blues pianist Champion Jack Dupree is the last act before Dylan's is scheduled to appear:
"Bob Dylan is excited... sitting backstage while Champion Jack Dupree's piano is rolled offstage. 
'Fritz, I have to go on stage.' It is not a rebuke, rather a cry for help. He has to go out now. 
But  everything is ready for him. He dons his leather jacket, turns up the collar, and the very moment he enters the ramp, the overcast sky splits, with the setting sun illuminating this man..." (pp. 214-215) 

"Dylan is onstage, his tiny harmonica in front of his face, he sings three, four songs alone, and suddenly he gets the young black chorus singer upfront for a type of gospel song 
"Thank you, thank you very much! We got a young girl here tonight, in the group. I want you to listen to her sing. OK? She's gonna sing a song for you now, an old Sam Cooke song. You know who Sam Cooke is? This is Carolyn Dennis. Make her feel welcome, all right?"]...
Dylan still had not overcome Berlin. He wanted to show us: Look who I bring bring along, even the
background chorus.

Then Eric Clapton joined him... The sun went down and the dramatic atmosphere of the evening was enhanced by the night-fall and its lengthening of shadows. The stage was radiant with the brightness of the floodlights while the monstrous Hitler rostrum was swallowed by darkness.
We had prepared fireworks to go off during the second verse of  'Forever Young'... I was crying when Dylan went offstage. Like a world champion, he had fought for his audience, had given all of himself. But instead of walking away exhausted, he walks up to to me, grabs my arm and says: 'What's the matter, Fritz? Everything has been alright!'

Fritz Rau on the train ride in Goering's salon car (German language)

The following morning, we took a train to Paris. On the second evening, he phones me at my hotel room and asks 'Fritz, what happened in Nuremberg? I did not understand.' I told him: 'You should ask what happened in Nuremberg and in Berlin. Those belong together.' 
And I once more explained to him why we had set up his stage opposite the Hitler rostrum and that 80,000 Germans had turned their backs on Hitler and had turned to Bob Dylan and his music. 

He hesitated for a moment as if  reflecting on that. 
'Yes', he said before terminating the call, 'it could have been like that... possibly.' (pp. 216-217)

(mp3 - from 2006 Interview by Manfred Helfert - German language):

On Hostile Audience Reactions before Nuremberg
On Pre-Concert Neo Nazi Threats and Necessary Security at Nuremberg
-- maybe that's why Clinton Heylin feels the need to place Neo Nazis at the concert itself and to "spice up" his own writing with blatantly false info and sensationalist anti-German propaganda....
On the Nuremberg concert

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