Ray Foulk: Stealing Dylan From Woodstock

Inside story on the birth of the British Rock Festival; and Bob’s emergence from the basement.

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It was the entertainment coup of the decade: the most celebrated American performer of the 60s brought back to the stage in a small island off the English coast after he’d spent three years living as a recluse.

Printer turned promoter Ray Foulk had set up the first IOW festival to raise money for a local swimming pool. Attempting to get Dylan to headline the sequel seemed outlandish. But, unbeknown to Foulk, a scheduled three-day festival in his Woodstock backyard made it imperative that the increasingly besieged yet stir-crazy Bob find an escape route.

The delightful tale told here, including the presence at the festival of three Beatles (bringing smokeables for the bard) and the very English community togetherness that makes it happen has all the elements of a rock’n’roll Ealing comedy.

Incident- and anecdote-filled (Tom Paxton’s memory of John Lennon’s interface with an angry fan is particularly revealing), the book elegantly captures a watershed moment in Dylan’s career and also in rock history./o:p

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Gavin Martin

Late NME, Daily Mirror and Classic Rock writer Gavin Martin started writing about music in 1977 when he published his hand-written fanzine Alternative Ulster in Belfast. He moved to London in 1980 to become the NME’s Media Editor and features writer, where he interviewed the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer, Pete Townshend, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Ian Dury, Killing Joke, Neil Young, REM, Sting, Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, James Brown, Willie Nelson, Willie Dixon, Madonna and a host of others. He was also published in The Times, Guardian, Independent, Loaded, GQ and Uncut, he had pieces on Michael Jackson, Van Morrison and Frank Sinatra featured in The Faber Book Of Pop and Rock ’N’ Roll Is Here To Stay, and was the Daily Mirror’s regular music critic from 2001. He died in 2022.