Scorsese's 'Rolling Thunder Revue' revives memories of a famous Dream Away shindig
BECKET — About 100 minutes into Martin Scorsese's "Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story," Bob Dylan and Joan Baez are leaning against the bar at the Dream Away Lodge, sneaking glances at one another. Dylan is sporting a black leather jacket. Baez is donning a white dress gifted by the establishment's late founder, "Mama" Maria Frasca. And both are wearing more than a hint of past romance. After some talk of ticker tape and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," the discussion between the former couple turns to marriage.
"It really displeases me that you went off and got married," Dylan begins.
"You went off and got married first and didn't tell me," Baez responds.
"I married the woman I loved," Dylan eventually states.
The scene stems from the filming of "Renaldo and Clara," Dylan's lengthy 1978 movie about his famous tour that made a pit stop in Becket on Nov. 7, 1975, between shows in Springfield and Burlington, Vt. Like Scorsese's new Netflix Original that has been available on the platform since June 12, Dylan's film mixes fiction and reality, the aforementioned vignette evoking each. These creative choices underscore the mystical nature of the Rolling Thunder Revue, a journey through the Northeast and beyond that drew Baez, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Joni Mitchell, Sam Shepard and Allen Ginsberg, among others, to join Dylan for shows at a host of unconventional venues. The tour has added intrigue in the Berkshires, as Dream Away is tucked deep in the woods, the type of place that is often reached very deliberately or very accidentally. In this case, it was intentional. Arlo Guthrie and the late Otis photographer Ken Regan were the driving forces behind the trip down County Road.
"I did suggest that it would be fun to stop there, and Ken Regan may also have had the same suggestion," Guthrie wrote in an email.
An excerpt from Shepard's "Rolling Thunder Logbook" in a comprehensive account by Seth Rogovoy for the Sept. 21, 1995, Eagle goes into more detail: "This was one of the most amazing days on the tour and seemed to come out of pure chance. Through Arlo Guthrie, Ken had contacted an 80-year-old gypsy lady, known in the vicinity as plain Mama. She ran a small bar/diner former brothel somewhere out in the extreme boondocks of Massachusetts, a place called Becket."
Guthrie, a longtime Berkshire resident, was a Dream Away regular by that time.
"We'd been going there since we'd discovered it probably in late 1969. I loved the place, loved Mama and always enjoyed taking the family there every week. It was one of our rituals," he wrote.
Though Dylan, Elliott, Shepard and Ginsberg were all in attendance, Frasca was drawn to Baez.
"She especially loved having Joan there," Guthrie recalled.
Frasca, who is shown briefly in Scorsese's film, was far from a wallflower during the seven-hour gathering, according to a Nov. 12, 1975, story in The Eagle.
"With a backup group of Ms. Baez on piano, Dylan, Guthrie and [Ramblin' Jack] Elliot [sic] on guitars and mandolins and country singer Ronee Blakley on backup vocals, Mama Frasca strummed her guitar and sang her two newest songs, 'Mama and God' and 'Mama's Lament,'" Benjamin L. Ginsberg wrote at the time.
The Revue group had been staying at The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, a visitation Scorsese's film conjures in a fleeting shot of Main Street in Stockbridge. During their time at the Berkshire institution, the group partied at The Lion's Den downstairs. But they still had enough energy to rally for a raucous evening in Becket that included Guthrie's backup band Shenandoah, according to Rogovoy's story.
"The moments I remember were Baez singing with Mama, who really loved Joan, and Arlo singing 'Hobo's Lullaby' to Baez and Mama," local musician David Grover, a Shenandoah member, said. "Other than that, it got pretty blurry for me. People were filming and people were eating. It was pretty insane."
Some of Regan's photos from that day hang inside the Dream Away, which isn't explicitly identified in Scorsese's film.
"I still have people that come and ask if they can sit at the table that Dylan sat at," said Daniel Osman, the lodge's current owner.
As of Tuesday, Osman hadn't seen Scorsese's film yet but had heard "Renaldo and Clara" wasn't mentioned.
"I find that remarkable," Osman said.
Rogovoy, who authored "Bob Dylan: Prophet Mystic Poet," felt that the film captured the Rolling Thunder Revue's spirit.
"I think Scorsese really tapped into some of Dylan's obsessions at the time with playing with identity, masks, reliable and unreliable narrators," Rogovoy said by phone.
Outside of the Berkshires, Dylan's Dream Away visit isn't well-known. Only "Renaldo and Clara" and Berkshire history buffs are likely to recognize the bar scene in Scorsese's film. But it continues to endure on screen. For Guthrie, it was a memorable part of his brief stint with the Revue.
"I enjoyed seeing some old friends in our little corner of the world," he wrote of the Dream Away trip, "and I felt right at home, even in the midst of chaos and craziness."
Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.
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