Eat the DocumentDirector: Bob Dylan and Howard Alk
Release Year: 1972
Running Time: 54
Filmed by: Don Alan Pennebaker and Bob Dylan.
Bob Dylan's Eat the Document is a documentary that captures the madness that ensued during Dylan and The Hawks' 1966 tour of Europe in which Dylan transformed himself from an acoustic folk singer to a rock ‘n’ roll musician. The tour was also finally documented officially by Columbia/Legacy Recordings' with the 1998 release of the CD Live 1966: The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert—The Bootleg Series Vol. 4, Dylan's 1966 performance at Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England.
Originally made for network television, Eat the Document had been commissioned for ABC Stage 67. Not yet ready for Dylan's impressionistic, experimental work, the network was confused by its stream-of-consciousness organization, and Eat the Document languished on a shelf until the early seventies, when it was screened at New York's Academy of Music and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Barely viewable bootleg copies of this documentary have been in circulation for years. Eat the Document was edited specifically for network television, with breaks planned for commercials to be inserted; because it was turned down by ABC, it has rarely been seen in its intended form.
Eat the Document presents a multitude of Dylans for the viewer to contemplate: weary and fatigued on tour; jamming with guitarist Robbie Robertson and country legend Johnny Cash; riding around with John Lennon; and confronting a dubious press and public. The rage of Dylan and his backup group The Hawks (later known as The Band) can be felt on such energized performances of "Tell Me, Momma"; "I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Met)"; and "Ballad of a Thin Man."
Among the highlights: an elegant "One Too Many Mornings"; Dylan and Robbie Robertson working out some new material, with Dylan singing in his Basement Tapes voice - proof that he had it in him all along; a song by Dylan and Robertson that sounds strangely like a future Band song,
Rumors say that Pennebaker's version, called Something Is Happening, may soon become available. His cut reportedly contains more music than what eventually wound up in Eat the Document.
A bootleg DVD of Eat the Document, with "bonus material," appeared in 2003.