Rolling Thunder Revue: Why Martin Scorsese's documentary deserves an audience beyond hardcore Bob Dylan fans

W hen Bob Dylan took his Rolling Thunder Revue on the road in 1975, one of the fans who came to see it was a 19-year-old model and would-be actress, Sharon Stone . She came with her mother and was introduced to her hero.At a subsequent gig on the tour, Dylan invited her to his dressing room and played at his piano a song he said he had just written for her. It was “Just Like a Woman”. Not surprisingly, Stone was knocked sideways by the compliment. We are not privy to how the day developed after that. And only later did a member of Dylan’s band tell the ingenue that the song was actually 10 years old.This delicious little revelation, told by Stone herself, comes in a remarkable documentary film made by Martin Scorsese , which will be shown on Netflix on 12 June. The film, nine years in the making, is about the Rolling Thunder Revue, which toured small venues in the US in 1975 and 1976, often at very short notice, and in which Dylan aimed to change the nature of a rock tour.From extras.The musicians he gathered included some of his fellow folkies from the clubs of his Greenwich Village days, as well as Joan Baez , former Byrd Roger McGuinn, and, incongruously, the blond-haired, quintessentially English lead guitarist Mick Ronson, David Bowie’s glam-rock sidekick in The Spiders from Mars.The musicians would sometimes share the stage with the tour bard, poet Allen Ginsberg, and Dylan would perform wearing white clown make-up. They played sets of up to five hours, not a bad deal for ticket prices of $7.50, even if some in the audiences were less than pleased that Dylan might only play an hour, and his fellow musicians the other four. But at their best, and with Dylan on stage, the concerts produced some of the greatest and most dynamic live music in rock history, much of which is released in a special box set this weekend.Dylan decided on the format partly as a reaction to the pomp of his 1974 comeback tour. He wanted intimate; he wanted surprise; he wanted a travelling circus format that would turn the conventional rock tour on its head. It did all that, even if it was a format that veered on the edge of being pretentious.