Watch Bob Dylan’s Judas moment in Manchester 50 years ago this month

Bob Dylan's Judas moment in Manchester
Bob Dylan's Judas moment in Manchester

By Simon Donohue

It’s a landmark moment in the career of one of the world’s most important musicians and it happened right here in Manchester exactly fifty years ago.

In May a charity fundraiser in aid of the Manchester District Music Archive will celebrate what became legendary as Bob Dylan’s Judas moment.

Possibly the most famous heckle ever emerged from the crowd while Dylan was entertaining fans at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall on May 17, 1966.

Dylan put down the acoustic guitar which had for so long soundtracked his American folk music revival, and introduced electric backing band The Hawks (later reborn as The Band).

Amid slow hand clapping and jeering, a cry of ‘Judas’ was heard across the auditorium. Equally legendary was Dylan’s reply: “You’re a liar… I don’t believe you.” Turning to the band, Dylan added: “Play it xxxxxxx loud!”

It wasn’t until 1999 that the man who made the ‘Judas’ cry was revealed as Keith Butler.

He later told the of his embarrassment about the exchange.

Like many others, he felt Dylan was turning his back on the acoustic sound which had united millions of fans across the world. Instead, he was helping to introduce an entirely new genre.

Today the Free Trade Hall is no longer a venue, serving instead as the home to the Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester hotel in Peter Street.

Step inside and it’s difficult to imagine that this is the place where a new era of rock and roll music was controversially kick started.

Watch Bob Dylan’s Judas moment in Manchester

Electric 50 – Bob Dylan at the Free Trade Hall Judas Redux will be a celebration of that famous night in 1966, this time taking place at the Academy 3, Manchester. It is being organised by another Manchester music legend, CP Lee, who was there on the night in 1966.

Tickets for the event on May 17, 2016 are available here.

A BBC Radio 6 Music interview with CP Lee is available here.

Hosted by veteran DJ Andy Kershaw and with tickets priced at £10, proceeds will support the Manchester District Music Archive.

If you want to visit the scene of the original concert, you need to go the Radisson Blu Manchester hotel, 16 Peter Street, Manchester, M60 2DS.

1 Comment on Watch Bob Dylan’s Judas moment in Manchester 50 years ago this month

  1. This is perhaps the greatest Dylan myth of all, completely debunked by someone onstage at the time, drummer Mickey Jones. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

    In Scorsese’s documentary ‘No Direction Home,’ he tries to sync up the words “Play…fucking…loud” to Bob, and that didn’t happen. That’s a mistake, and I will say it to my grave that he manipulated that, and if you look at that footage 10 times, you’re gonna see two things: the lip does not match up to Bob. Whoever said “Play fucking loud!” said it…was almost yelling…and when he manipulated those words into Bob’s mouth, his mouth is right in Robbie’s ear. He wouldn’t be yelling in Robbie’s ear. The other thing is, there’s a bit of a British accent there, ’cause you can hear the guy say “Play fucking loud!”(faux British accent). It’s not Bob Dylan. For 35 years, everybody thought it was me, because I was the guy who played loud and kicked it off loud. It wasn’t me. We don’t know who it is. Nobody knows who it is. But here’s my theory: I believe it was one of our stage crew. We had a stage crew of 4/5 guys that went with us on the whole tour, and they would be right on the stage if anything went wrong. I believe it was one of our stage crew, who were English, standing up for us in the moment, because they had seen this booing the whole tour, and when that guy yelled “Judas,” this guy got sick of hearing it and he said “Play fucking loud!”(faux British accent), and that’s when I hit my largest, loudest flam on my snare drum I ever hit…not only on that tour, but maybe in my career…I don’t know…and, uh, Scorsese got it wrong.

    Mickey Jones interview for ‘Down In The Flood’

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