“He was just mov­ing so far ahead”

Pho­tog­ra­pher, gui­tar tech, ar­chiv­ist… JOEL BERN­STEIN on tour­ing with Neil, re­hears­ing with Dy­lan and the story be­hind that in­fa­mous boot­leg. “I was 24 at the time….”


H Ow did you first meet Neil? Joni Mitchell asked me to be her pho­tog­ra­pher when I was 16. She in­vited me to her first con­cert at Carnegie Hall in Fe­bru­ary 1969, where I met David Crosby and Gra­ham Nash. The next week­end, I met Laura Nyro when she was writ­ing

New York Tend­aberry at David Gef­fen’s apartment. The week­end af­ter that, Elliot Roberts asked me to pho­to­graph Neil and Crazy Horse play­ing at the Bit­ter End. It was a very heady month!

what were your first im­pres­sions

of Neil? He was a very in­tense guy, very fo­cused… I was very im­pressed that he could play so well on elec­tric and acous­tic. That was the first 20-minute “Down By The River” I heard. I next saw Neil at the Elec­tric Fac­tory in Philadel­phia. That’s when I took the gate­fold pic­ture for the in­side of Af­ter The Gold Rush.

How did you come to be on the ’76

tour? I’d tuned his Martin D gui­tar at the Elec­tric Fac­tory. Three years later, I was pho­tog­ra­pher on the Time Fades

Away tour and he asked me tune his gui­tars one night – and I tuned them for him be­fore each show. Af­ter that, I be­came Bob Dy­lan’s gui­tar tech on the sec­ond Rolling Thunder Re­vue in spring ’76 and then gui­tar tech for Crosby and Nash through Europe in Au­gust and Septem­ber. I joined Neil in Novem­ber.

what im­pressed you most about his per­for­mances on this tour? Hav­ing seen sev­eral of the solo shows in 1971 and been on my first long tour with Time Fades Away, I was very at­tuned to Neil’s song­writ­ing. To me,

Zuma was a fan­tas­tic ad­vance; he was just mov­ing so far ahead. I thought his fo­cus in his solo sets, too, was in­cred­i­ble.

Can you tell us about the tapes

you made? On Time Fades Away, I re­mem­ber think­ing, ‘God, wouldn’t it just be great to have even just a PA mix as a sou­venir!’ I was friends with Bob Sterne, Neil’s sound mixer, and Tim Mul­li­gan, his PA mixer, so I asked if I could record the shows. Here’s some quick con­text. On the Euro­pean and Ja­panese tour ear­lier that year, Neil had made multi-track record­ings of Crazy Horse both in Lon­don at Ham­mer­smith Odeon and in Tokyo at the Bu­dokan. I be­lieve the

Odeon-Bu­dokan al­bum was fin­ished and a re­lease was planned. So a mono PA cas­sette is noth­ing to do with noth­ing. Neil’s al­ready of­fi­cially done what he set out to do on the tour. Tim Mul­li­gan was record­ing the tapes as well, which would have been far su­pe­rior to mine. There were multi-tracks from the shows in New York, Bos­ton and At­lanta. I made a C90 and a C60; the acous­tic set on one and the elec­tric set on the other. I recorded 16 shows on a Uher CR 134 portable recorder; so 32 cas­settes.

How did the Judy Gar­land rap

came about? On the last night of the tour, there were two ben­e­fit con­certs for the Fox The­atre in At­lanta. I think it was 9pm and 12pm. Neil and the band had im­bibed and were on a par­tic­u­lar plane, so the mid­night show started around 1am in the end. It was an ex­tremely ram­bling af­fair; I don’t think any of the Tonight’s The

Night shows I saw were as drunken as this one. This is where the Judy Gar­land rap comes in. It was so spe­cial to me, it was so out there, that I put it on that tape.

what hap­pened at the end of the

tour? I got word that Neil was go­ing to play at the last con­cert for The Band at Win­ter­land and could I do gui­tars for him and for Bob and Joni. I set up re­hearsal for Bob and The Band at their ho­tel through the af­ter­noon, which was stun­ning. I was the only per­son who got to hear it un­til Neil came in, hours and hours later. I can re­mem­ber them play­ing “For­ever Young” and Neil sit­ting in the cor­ner, punch­ing the air on the word “Young”. “For­ever YOUNG!”

So what hap­pened to the tapes? Af­ter Win­ter­land, I started edit­ing the cas­settes. Cameron [Crowe] and I spent close to a week fi­nal­is­ing the se­quence, just what felt right. I made four copies – Neil had one, Cameron had one and two went to the crew mem­bers who got me the PA feed in the first place. Five or six years later, one of them lost or had their tape stolen. Bad copies of copies of that tape started cir­cu­lat­ing first as a vinyl boot­leg called Days Of Gold And Roses and then on CD. I was in­ter­viewed in the ’80s by the Bro­ken Ar­row fanzine, who wanted to know about the cas­sette – I told them and it be­came known as The Joel Bern­stein Tape.

when did you first dis­cuss giv­ing an official re­lease to the tape? When I was still Neil’s ar­chiv­ist, he asked me in the early 2000s to make a list of pos­si­ble live al­bums that had not been re­leased. It was a speci­ficto-Vol­ume 2 dis­cus­sion, so it cov­ered au­tumn ’72 to the end of Live Rust. There’s his ’74 tour, the bar dates in ’75 and ’76, and then there’s this one. At the time, he said Bos­ton and New York were recorded multi-track. I said, “Here’s my cas­sette.” Later, he called me up and said he loved it and it’s go­ing to come out some­how.

The run­ning or­der is dif­fer­ent,

though… Neil has re­ordered it chrono­log­i­cally. It looks like he’s also di­vided the al­bum into two sets, one of which is my orig­i­nal mono PA cas­sette. For the songs that were in my tape from New York and Bos­ton, they’ve gone back to the multi-tracks.

You touched on Archives 2 ear­lier. Neil’s web­site teases sev­eral tan­ta­lis­ing re­leases for that pe­riod, like the May 1978 live record­ings from The Board­ing House in San Fran­cisco… What about Live At The Rain­bow from ’73 or the tape from the Bot­tom Line in ’74? Neil has a body of work that any artist would have been proud of. It’s head­spin­ning.

Visit www.joel­bern­stein.com for more in­for­ma­tion

On the road with Neil, March 16, 1974: Cameron Crowe (front, sec­ond left) and Elliot Roberts (just be­hind Crowe)

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