Richard Kahl was a 16-year-old kid with musical aspirations when Bob Dylan first performed Maggie’s Farm at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.
“I remember hanging around my musician friends, and people were using the word ‘traitor,’” says Kahl, who plays in a Toronto Bob Dylan tribute band. “But I thought the move was fabulous and gutsy — that song changed the face of folk music.”
Now, vintage footage of that very concert and others have been remastered and are being made available through iTunes for download. It is part of a series of iconic musical performances distributed through a new label, Digital Video Singles (DVS).
Focusing around the pre-MTV era (1955 to 1981), DVS is releasing performances by artists such as The Moody Blues, Al Green, Paul McCartney, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, the Velvet Underground and the Kinks. Never before has iTunes offered vintage video footage.
The DVS label is created by OVOW Communications, Inc., which works directly with the artists to digitally enhance archived material and make it available to the public.
“Any time these artists would go on tour they would always appear on these local television programs in France and Germany, and they would play live,” says Stuart Samuels, the co-owner of OVOW. “We went through these archives, thousands of hours of stuff, and have called out these performances that in most cases people haven’t seen in 40 years.”
Samuels is based in Toronto, but works internationally with a music clearance specialist and a film and video archivist to uncover video of these iconic music moments.
“I think this will be a very popular feature,” says Gale Averill, a music history professor at the University of Toronto. “This meets the increasing demand for classic rock, and the increasing size and number of niche groups devoted to the consumption of the more arcane corners of human expressive culture.”
The moment Dylan first performed Maggie’s Farm was one of the most critical in music history, and marked the musician’s transition to electric music. While Dylan was largely criticized for abandoning his folk roots, Kahl says he knew the moment meant music had changed forever — just as it had when The Beatles first broke onto the scene.
“I may not have known exactly what Maggie’s Farm was about, but I knew it was real, and I knew it was poetry,” says Kahl.
Whether the vintage video performances will appeal to younger generations is debatable. Eric Choi, a 30-year-old Markham graphic designer, owns an iPhone and sometimes downloads music using iTunes. He says, however, he prefers to download more current music.
“I listen to and download a lot of ‘’80s music, especially very slow soft rock music,” he says. “But ’60s music, I think that appeals more to my parents.”
Kahl, who is now in his 50s, says he knows plenty of people who will download the video footage.
“This is huge for people my own age,” says Kahl. “It allows us to go back to living in the day. People who haven’t seen the performance can see it for the first time, and those who have are going to be able to watch it at home — maybe with the same people they watched it with originally.”
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