SAN DIEGO — David Peck's birthday gift came early this year. The founder of San Diego's 30-year-old Reelin' in the Years Productions — a leading archive for rare music film and video footage — on Monday announced the discovery of previously unseen 1969 concert footage of Bob Dylan and The Band.
The two-minute clip is the first known professionally shot film of Dylan's Isle of Wight performance. It marked his official full-concert return to the stage following a three-year hiatus after Dylan's 1966 motorcycle crash in Woodstock, New York. Dylan's Isle of Wight gig drew three members of The Beatles, two members of the Rolling Stones, one member of Pink Floyd, and Eric Clapton, along with Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Jane Fonda and hundreds of thousands of other fans.
The footage Peck unearthed features performance excerpts of three classic Dylan songs — "Highway 61 Revisited," "Like A Rolling Stone" and "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35." The quality and rarity of the footage prompted Emmy-winning director Jennifer Lebeau to incorporate some of it into the immersive film experience she created for the Bob Dylan Center, which opened Tuesday in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
"The Isle of Wight performance is a critical landmark in Dylan's story," Lebeau said in a statement. "Having the opportunity to debut this beautiful footage Reelin' in the Years Productions has uncovered enables storytelling I haven't yet had the opportunity to portray, thanks to its quality and breadth of songs. I'm thrilled the material will make its debut for the film at the Bob Dylan Center.
"Dylan, in front of a British crowd three years after his last shows in Europe, with members of The Band by his side — ironically, on an island in the Atlantic, versus at home in Woodstock, NY — captures the visceral energy one would hope to find."
Reelin' in the Years founder Peck discovered the Dylan and The Band footage earlier this year, buried in a trove of 1960s news clips his company acquired from the German TV network WDR.
In February, Peck and WDR mediagroup GmbH signed a deal granting Peck exclusive worldwide rights to license WDR's vast library of music-related footage.
"I screamed when I saw it!" said Peck, 56, who shares the same May 24 birthday as Dylan, 80.
"My first call was to Jeff Rosen, Dylan's manager for the past 33 years, and he'd never seen the Isle of Wight footage. Neither had Jennifer Lebeau, who's done a lot of Dylan-related film work.
"The BBC had shot a little bit of Dylan and The Band doing 'The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)' at the Isle of Wight. And another news crew shot a bit of another song. But both those were shot from a different angle, from the right, and all he microphones are in the way. The footage we found was shot from the left and is better.
"So, this new Isle of Wight footage is historically significant — and a great birthday gift for me."
Peck has posted the two-minute clip of Dylan performing at the Isle of Wight for fans to watch online.
His Reelin’ in the Years Productions began in Peck’s bedroom when he was a teenager. His quest to collect rare rock music film footage saw his hobby turn into his lifelong profession.
His company has long been a regular source of footage for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and other companies and projects, including "Sonic Highways," the Foo Fighters-fueled HBO TV music series.
Reelin' in the Years' "Jazz Icons" DVD series of European concert specials earned international acclaim, while its "The American Folk Blues Festival 1962–1966 Volume One" garnered a 2004 Grammy nomination.
Peck is now co-producing a documentary on the fabled Memphis soul and blues record company Stax, whose roster included Otis Redding, The Staple Singers, Albert King, Isaac Hayes, Little Milton, and others. Moreover, the same WDR German news reels that yielded the Dylan at the Isle of Wight footage appears to be a gift that will keep on giving.
"Along with the Dylan footage I have also found WDR footage of Frank Zappa in his home studio in Los Angeles," Peck said. "And I've found footage of The Who, at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1969, doing their debut performance to a major audience of 'Tommy.' What else might I find? Anything is possible."
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