Bob Dylan Earls Court London Sat 17 June 1978

Bob Dylan Earls Court London Sat 17 June 1978
This was a big event for me. It had been a long time since Dylan had played in the UK, and I was determined to see him, as I hadn’t done so before. It was clear that there was going to be massive demand for tickets for these gigs, which were a string of concerts at the vast Earls Court Arena in London. Buying tickets in those days was very different than it is today with the use of the internet. It was announced that tickets would be on sale by personal application only, with a limit of four tickets per person. The tickets were to be sold at various box offices around the country and went on sale of a Sunday morning. Sadly, there was no box office in the North East of England, the nearest being Leeds, Glasgow or Sheffield. So I decided to go to Leeds to queue for tickets. I figured that I would need to arrive early so I drove to Leeds on Saturday morning, one day before tickets were due to go on sale, to buy tickets for Marie and I to see the great man. Tickets were on sale from a music shop (think it was called Barkers?) in the Headrow, which is the main street in Leeds. When I arrived at the shop, there was already a queue, as some fans having arrived on Friday night. At some point during the day, the shop decided to give us all numbered tickets to mark our place in the queue, and asked us to move on, to prevent crowding and return later to form the queue when the shop closed. This meant I was more or less guaranteed a ticket! So I had a look around Leeds and returned to join the queue around 6pm. We then got ourselves in order according to our number on the ticket (looking back it seems amazing that this worked!). It was a cold, long night queuing outside the shop, but everyone was friendly and the time passed quite quickly, although I didn’t get much sleep. There was evidence of touts, who were staying the night in hotels, and had some young kids queueing for them. By the morning the queue was massive, and curled round and round the streets. I bumped into a couple of mates from town, and agreed to buy their tickets as I was only buying two. We were soon in the shop and bought the tickets. There was some disappointment because the tickets which were sent to Leeds were for seats way up the back of the arena, but hey hey at least we were in. Also they had only sent a small number of tickets (around 1,000 or so I think) so only the first couple of hundred of people in the queue got tickets, leaving hundreds disappointed. I later talked to some friends who went to Sheffield to buy tickets, and the queue was much smaller, and they got better seats! Some others went to Glasgow and there was hardly any queue, with tickets left some days after they went on sale! Come the night of the show Marie and I took our seats up the back of Earls Court. The friend how I had bought tickets for kindly bought me a cassette copy of Street Legal, which was good (I still think it is a great album). Dylan was wonderful, and much better than I had hoped. The sound and the view weren’t great from our seats; sounds systems weren’t so good in those days, and video screens weren’t widely used (I don’t think there were any for this gig, but can’t be certain). Dylan was this tiny figure in a waistcoat singing those great songs. He was playing long sets at this point in his career and covered all of his classic songs, along with a selection from the Street Legal album. His voice was strong, and every time he played his mouth organ there was a great cheer from the crowd. This gig started me as a lifelong Dylan fan, and this was the first time of many I was to see the guy in concert. I will review those other gigs over the next few days.
Setlist: A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall; Love Her With a Feeling; Baby, Stop Crying; Mr. Tambourine Man; Shelter From the Storm; Love Minus Zero/No Limit; Tangled Up in Blue; Ballad of a Thin Man; Maggie’s Farm; I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met); Like a Rolling Stone; I Shall Be Released; Going, Going, Gone; Rainy Day Women #12 & 35; One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later); You’re a Big Girl Now; One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below); Blowin’ in the Wind; I Want You; Señor (Tales of Yankee Power); Masters of War; Just Like a Woman; Simple Twist of Fate; All Along the Watchtower; All I Really Want to Do; It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding); Forever Young; The Times They Are A-Changin’

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23 responses to this post.

  1. Did this gig ever make it to CD? My dad was there and I’d love to get him it for his birthday!

    Reply

    • Posted by vintagerock on March 11, 2013 at 8:06 am

      Hi I don’t there is any official recording of the Earls Court gigs, however bootlegs do exist.
      There is however a CD Live at Budokan which was recorded during the same tour Best wishes Peter

      Reply

  2. Posted by Simon on August 27, 2013 at 4:57 am

    Hi Tom, I was at this gig and I am trying to remember all the gigs and bands I have ever seen, do you know if there was a support band as I can not remember?
    I was towards the back of earls court and Bob was a distant figure, in a white suit if I remember correctly.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Al Dingwall on September 5, 2013 at 7:09 am

    I was there too and your set list brought it all back to me. We queued all day in London and ended up with tickets at the back, possibly near you. However, my girlfriend and I managed to blag our way somewhere near the front. Did you write the set list down at the time?

    Reply

    • Posted by vintagerock on September 5, 2013 at 7:52 am

      Hi Al
      Pleased my ramblings have brought back some memories for you. I’m afraid I cheated with the setlist and found it on the internet. I was always too busy enjoying the gig to write down the setlist. Happy Days. Cheers Peter

      Reply

  4. Posted by kim willott on May 6, 2015 at 11:20 am

    i still have the programme if anybodys interested

    Reply

  5. Posted by Anita Palsgraf on July 25, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    I was a 16 year old American living in London, waited 16 hours overnight on the sidewalk for tickets to see the mighty Bob Dylan in his first UK appearance in 10? years. The wait for tickets with a bunch of other hippies was almost as huge as the great show.
    A year later, a friend talked me into seeing the Jam at the Rainbow Theatre, my mind was blown, cut off all my hair, started wearing DMs, and decided that Hippies suck!
    A great time to be alive.
    Thanks for this page.

    Reply

    • Posted by vintagerock on July 25, 2015 at 3:13 pm

      Happy days Anita Best wishes Peter

      Reply

      • Posted by Galvin Carnley on October 13, 2015 at 8:52 pm

        I was there too. 22 yrs young. Went down with mates to see the great man. Pretty certain went in a Morris 1100 and we slept 2 in the car and 1 under it in a central London car park. Wouldn’t want to try that now. Still listening to him just as much now as did then and my 4 year old cocker spaniel is called Bob in recognition.

      • Posted by vintagerock on October 13, 2015 at 9:21 pm

        Happy days Galvin Best wishes Peter

  6. Posted by Richard Hunter on January 2, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Hi I remember queuing in Shaftesbury Ave in London to get 4 tickets, slept out all night under a Transit van!
    I have a copy of the vinyl Earls Court album (1978) which is also on cd. Happy to copy for anyone interested in it, great sound and it’s the June 20th night’s recording. I have my ticket too and programme.
    Album has Ballad of a thin man; senor; don’t think twice; maggie’s farm;masters of war; blowing in the wind; just like a woman; I don’t believe you… And more.
    Also have Little white wonder albums, Dylan in Adelaide, Dylan/Cash session.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Laraine G on January 26, 2016 at 11:53 pm

    I was there too. I bunked off a university field trip to go. Can’t remember how I got the tickets. I do remember everyone lighting their lighters during one, or possibly more, of the songs, but to be honest I don’t remember much else, although I think that as Simon said he was wearing white.

    Reply

  8. There was no support act. And there were no screens… he was MINUSCULE!

    Reply

  9. Posted by jimr on July 15, 2017 at 8:04 am

    I also attended the gig with my wife, sister in law Sue and friend Phil (who happened to be going out Sue). To get tickets we drove from St Helens to Liverpool, at 5 am and queued 9 hours in the pouring rain outside some music shop. When we got to our seats in the balcony there was just one row behind us, could have done with a telescope. Imagine my surprise when a girl behind us on the last row said “aren’t you from St Helens”. the gig was great but could only see quarter inch figures.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Gary on October 7, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    Hi. Re the photo in your 1981 tour report. I have a rather large book with that picture on the cover, i have tried to find out details about the book with no luck. I still have the ‘t’ shirt I was at the Birmingham show so I must have got the book from there or did I ?. Any info would be great .

    Reply

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