July 25th, 1965 Bob Dylan performed at the Newport Folk Festival for the third year in a row. The difference was this time he decided to shake things up and play electric guitar for the first time with a fully amplified band backing him up. The fans booed the legendary performance throughout the show. It was always thought of as a given that the reason for their displeasure was that their folk hero had gone electric, but more recently people have argued that it may have also been caused by the poor sound quality.
From an interview with Murray Lerner who directed the documentary The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan Live at the Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965 by Mojo:
It’s a good question. When we showed the film at The New York Film Festival [in October] one kid gets up and says, ‘About this booing… I was sitting right in front of the stage, there was no booing in the audience whatsoever. There was booing from the performers’. So I said, Well, I don’t think you’re right. Then another kid gets up and says ‘I was a little further back and it was the press section that was booing, not the audience’, and I said, Well, I don’t think you’re right. A third guy gets up and says ‘I was there, and there was no question, it was the audience that was booing and there was no booing from the stage’. It was fascinating. People remember hearing what they thought they should hear. I think they were definitely booing Dylan and a little bit Pete Yarrow because he was so flustered. He was not expecting that audience reaction and he was concerned about Bob’s image, success creatively and commercially since they were part of the same family of artists through Al Grossman. But I absolutely think that they were booing Dylan going electric.
Interestingly enough that very famous electric guitar is soon going up for auction.
Watch Bob Dylan play Maggie’s Farm at the Newport Festival in 1965 below: