Sixteen Banners united over the Field

Dylan's 1978 tour was dubbed as his comeback tour. He hadn't played in England since his Isle of Wight appearance in 1969 and hadn't toured here since the famous/infamous '66 tour. It was also dubbed the alimony tour for obvious reasons.

When the tour was announced he was set to play 6 nights at Earls Court from the 15th to the 20th June. Tickets were to be sold at outlets around the country to make it fair for everyone - everyone that is except for those in the North East. For some reason they had forgotten Newcastle. The nearest outlet to us was Leeds and at 16 my mum wasn't about to let me go down to Leeds and queue overnight for tickets.

Cartoon from British music press 78

Curiously tickets were on sale in Newcastle-under-Lyme, hardly the rock and roll capital of England. This could have been a mix up because they did advertise the fact in the newspaper in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Anyway no tickets for me. In the end my exams clashed with all but the last 3 of the shows at Earls Court so I couldn't have gone anyway. Then there was a ray of hope; Dylan announced another show, a open-air show at the end of the tour - billed as a thank you show for the fans. But the question was would my parents let me go? But disaster struck before I could even ask, it was on the 15th July the first day of my holidays.

Ticket When the Dylan shows started and the press reports were singing the praises of the shows I was getting really uptight - I told my mum that he hadn't toured for years, he wasn't getting any younger (he was 36) and it could be my last chance to ever see him. I threatened to hitch down to London after my last exam with all my holiday spending money in my pocket and stand outside of Earls Court until I got a ticket. At this point my Dad told my brother and me to go and buy two tickets for Blackbushe. This time at least the tickets were on sale in Newcastle, at the City Hall so we took a train over to Newcastle that Saturday and headed for the City Hall. The tickets were on sale at the window opposite the usual box office window. Two tickets at 6 each were soon secured and I felt much better.

The line up had already been announced Dylan was to headline supported by Eric Clapton, Joan Armatrading, Graham Parker and the Rumour and an unknown German band called Lake. Just before the event another band, a reggae band called Merger were added to the bill, apparently at Dylan's request - he'd seen them in London during his stay.

It's nothing, It's something I learned over in England

The festival site and stage

We set off early that morning and headed for the site, every time we hit a traffic jam my Dad would say "Well that's it, it'll be like this all the way to the site now!" Every time the traffic would start moving again and eventually, after following the RAC "Dylan Concert" signs we were dropped off at the end of the car park. My parents were going to spend the day at the Bramshill Police College, and we had arranged to meet them in a local village called Hartney Witney after the event.

We trudged across the car park to the reggae sounds of Merger who had already kicked the event off. We finally reached the corrugated iron fence, handed over our tickets and were allowed onto the site. The first thing we noticed was that the crowd was enormous. It stretched as far as the eye could see and we were at the back of it!!

Around the back of the arena were stalls selling the usual stuff, t-shirts, posters, programmes etc. there was also a bookstall as I remember where I bought a copy of writings and drawings (I still have it to this day, it's well thumbed and still loved - I bet it's not as worn out as Bob's copy though). I also bought a t-shirt, sweatshirt, badge, the tour program and festival program and 2 posters, which with the exception of the Sweatshirt and posters I still have to this day. The t-shirt has long since stopped fitting; come to think of it I don't think it ever did!!

You gave your heart to every bedsit room, at least a picture on the wall - 1978 Tour poster

We went off to find somewhere to sit which was always going to be difficult. It would of course have been nice to be down the front but that wasn't going to happen. So we wandered around for a while trying to find a spot big enough for the two of us. Eventually we found somewhere, on the left hand side of the arena (as you looked at the stage), back near the relay tower on the runway (something we would regret later).

I like your shades too!! I don't remember Lake at all; they obviously made a huge impression. Next came Graham Parker and the Rumour, the local lads from Camberley. He ran through a selection of his songs including Hey Lord don't ask me questions - a song, which Dylan allegedly told him he loved when they met backstage.

A constant stream of helicopters flew over the site to land in the backstage area. Everytime one flew over we all wondered if Bob was in thatone. Sadly we found out afterwards that he had travelled by train and coach to get to the site!!

Eric Clapton Setlist

Clapton on stage....I'm over there on the right - just behind his bottom!!

The Core, Worried Life Blues, Wonderful Tonight, Lay Down Sally, Rodeo Man,
Fools Paradise, Cocaine, Double Trouble, Nobody knows you when you're down and out,
Badge, Knockin' on Heaven's Door, Key to the Highway, Layla (E)Bottle of Red Wine.

Next up was a change to the expected running order as Eric Clapton took the stage. This was my first time seeing the man they called God. He was wearing his usual lumberjack shirt and jeans a far cry from the Armani suits that would later become his trademark. Sharing the vocals with Marcy Levy (in one of her last appearances with EC) he played the blues, a few standards, a few covers including Dylan's Knockin' on Heavens Door (dedicate to the "Star of the show"), a Cream song and some of his own stuff.

Out on the periphery where we were people were taking it easy and enjoying the sunshine. The music coming from the stage was almost just a distraction. My brother was sprawled out listening to Clapton and between songs he suddenly went "diddle liddle liddle um" and sure enough Clapton responded by playing Layla next!! My brother never let me forget it!!!

The leaning tower of Blackbushe!!! All around us were the sort of characters I'd expected to find at such an event. At one point a man came stepping through the crowd holding a piece of card with the words "I want to score some dope" written on it. The people just in front of us amused themselves by building a tower out of empty beer cans and when they ran out of their own people started bringing theirs to add to the tower. Behind us a group of fans rolled joints all afternoon (this was the first time I'd ever seen anyone do this!) but I never had the courage to ask them to pass it in my direction.

Getting close now but still one more act to go. There was speculation that Clapton had swapped places with Joan Armatrading to catch the audience before their legs started getting stiff. There may be a certain amount of truth in this because back on the runway we were getting very uncomfortable. Anyway Joan put in a fantastic set which couldn't have been easy under the circumstances.

This was it, the excitement really started to build

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