Music News

Paul Epstein’s “Let Me Take You Down (to the basement)” #5

Featured image for post: Paul Epstein’s “Let Me Take You Down (to the basement)” #5
Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review, May 23rd 1976

Dylan’s 1975-‘76 tour, dubbed Rolling Thunder Review was an incredible thing to behold. Somewhere between 15-20 musicians participated in varying combinations in an ever-evolving show that veered from straight folk-Dylan and Joan Baez sharing a microphone alone on Blowin’ In The Wind, to the ‘proto punk skronk’ of the full band slogging through a radically rearranged Shelter From The Storm, to the classic rock finale of Dylan and Roger McGuinn taking turns on unreleased verses of Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. At Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins (the second to last show of the tour), the show sprawled across more than five hours of rain-soaked Colorado spring weather in front of a stadium full of dazed hippies. 

Built in 1968 and torn down in 2018, Hughes Stadium was the home of the Colorado State University Rams football team and only a couple concerts over the years. The only stadium shows I remember ever happening there were Dylan and then the Rolling Stones in 1976. About 60 miles north of Denver, Fort Collins has had a music community for decades thanks to a large state university fostering radio (notably KTCL and KCSU) and an active club scene. Yet both the Hughes Stadium shows represented something of an anomaly for seasoned Colorado concert-goers. Most stadium shows happened in the Denver/Boulder corridor in those days, so it was a welcome adventure to travel to Fort Collins for the chance to see this historical show. 

I was a junior at Denver’s Thomas Jefferson High School then, and I really had to do some fancy convincing to get my parents to agree to let me go during finals week. But I prevailed and set off in the early morning, because the show was scheduled to start at noon. As soon as I arrived at Hughes Stadium, it started raining and didn’t let up until late afternoon when the show was winding down. Being there felt like some sort of biblical trial. Muddy, cold and wet, all was redeemed when Dylan and company hit the stage to give us an incredible show for the ages. 

Both an Album (Hard Rain) and television special were recorded that day, but neither really captured the magic of being there. I’ve talked to many other people who were there, and everyone agrees it was the show of a lifetime. It was one of those rare times when you felt like you were actually inside of history, not just reading about it after the fact. 

Above see a framed ad from Columbia Records promoting the album. If you squint really hard and look above the little red sign across from Dylan, you can see a very wet high schooler who was being transformed as the music played. 

There’s also a shirt and belt buckle from that show that were only given to crew members. 

The confluence of world-class music, weather and that special magic that only Colorado has made this one of my best days.

– Paul Epstein, Co-Chair, Colorado Music Hall of Fame; founder/former owner of Twist & Shout; music historian and archivist

“I moved to Colorado in 1968 and started going to concerts almost immediately. I eagerly grabbed posters, flyers, ticket stubs, advertisements, concert recordings, pretty much any proof I could find that the event happened. In 1988, I started a record store called Twist & Shout, and my collecting of memorabilia went into even higher gear. Over the next 34 years, I had rare access to memorabilia of all types and sizes. Now that I’ve retired, the time seems right to start sharing these things, and the stories that go with them. So, every other Tuesday, I will ask you to Let Me Take You Down (to the basement) to check out some of the good stuff!” – Paul Epstein