Photographer Ken Regan took almost 14,000 photographs during his time with Bob Dylan’s tour Rolling Thunder Revue. He had complete, unrestricted and exclusive access during that year of 1975.
Regan was the sole photographer on the tour, which included music greats Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and T-Bone Burnett. Poet Allen Ginsberg and actor Sam Shepard were part of the entourage.
Regan once explained, “Bob had given me free rein to shoot it all–onstage, offstage, dressing rooms, parties, trailers, whatever was going on,” with just one caveat that any photos of Dylan’s family couldn’t be released publicly.
Here’s a look at some incredible photos from Regan’s collection.
The day after playing the Springfield Civic Center, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Thunder gang visited Mama Frasca’s Dream Away Lodge in Becket, Massachusetts.
During downtime from the tour, Dylan jams with Roger McGuinn and Gordon Lightfoot.
Muhammad Ali visited Dylan backstage when the tour reached Madison Square Garden.
Shortly before launching the Rolling Thunder Revue, Dylan became aware of the plight of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who was in prison for a murder he claimed he didn’t commit.
Dylan and many of the Rolling Thunder gang shoot a scene for Renaldo and Clara in Rhode Island.
Dylan often wore masks and face paint during the Rolling Thunder Revue period. The disguises tied into the complex plot of Renaldo and Clara, though at the time they merely confused many in Dylan’s orbit.
The New York folk haunt the Other End became a key hangout for Dylan in the weeks leading up to Rolling Thunder. Here he is at the club with Ronee Blakley.
For many on the Rolling Thunder Revue, the tour doubled as a nonstop party. Here, Dylan and friends enjoy some downtime in Newport, Rhode Island.
Dylan’s vocals have rarely been as passionate and intense as they were on the Rolling Thunder Revue.
The Rolling Thunder Revue set list mixed in Sixties folk-era classics like “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” with newer songs like “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Romance in Durango.”
At the end of the night, all the performers would come onstage for “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”
The backstage accommodations at the theaters on the Rolling Thunder Revue were a far cry from what Dylan experienced on his 1974 arena and stadium tour with the Band.
Midler’s “Buckets of Rain” cover appeared on her 1976 LP, Songs for the New Depression.
In one of the most memorable scenes from Renaldo and Clara, Dylan and Allen Ginsberg visit Jack Kerouac’s grave.
Dylan suits up for a visit to the iconic landmark.
Every night on the Rolling Thunder Revue, Bob Dylan sang a passionate rendition of “Hurricane” and implored the crowd to lobby for the release of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, whom Dylan said was racially profiled and unlawfully tried and convicted.
The gang prepares to take on Niagara Falls.
Dylan reads the incredibly obscure 1968 New Age book Crystal Magick by Carlyle A. Pushong.
Once he actually reached the falls, Dylan ditched the hood.
The hat Dylan is wearing in this photo appears on the cover of Desire. The story behind the beagle remains a mystery.
Dylan played entire sets in white face paint during the tour.
Original posters and flyers from the Rolling Thunder Revue are now highly collectible. Here’s Dylan approving one of them.
The purpose behind Dylan’s makeup has never been fully explained, though there are heavy rumors that the Dylan camp was prepping an extensive documentary of the tour.
Bob Dylan and Bette Midler recorded a duet on the Blood on the Tracks tune “Buckets of Rain” in October of 1975. He wanted her to take part in the Rolling Thunder Revue, but she didn’t wind up signing up for the crazy trip.
Shortly before launching the Rolling Thunder Revue, Bob Dylan began hanging out in Greenwich Village clubs. He met Patti Smith and they formed a tight bond that lasted for decades.
(Photos © Estate of Ken Regan/Ormond Yard Press, via Rolling Stone)