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. It was shot under Dylan’s direction by D. A. Pennebaker, whose groundbreaking documentary Dont Look Back chronicled Dylan’s 1965 British tour. The film was originally commissioned for the ABC television series Stage ’66.
Bob Dylan’s 1966 tour of Europe created more controversy and artistic debate than any other tour to date. Dylan left behind his image as a scruffy, socially relevant folk singer and now embraced rock ‘n’ roll: his clothes were mod, his lyrics oblique, and the music loud. His once loyal fans bombarded him with shouts of “Judas” and “traitor.”
Though shooting had completed for Eat the Document wasn’t edited til after Dylan recovered from his July 1966 “motorcycle accident” (i.e. Dylan finally coming down after years of speed use). Once well enough to work again, Bob Dylan edited the film with the help of Howard Alk—resulting in an extraordinary look into the artist’s psyche. ABC rejected the film as incomprehensible for a mainstream audience.
It has never been released on home video and prints are rarely screened in theaters. Some footage from Eat the Document was used in Martin Scorsese’s 2005 documentary on Bob Dylan, No Direction Home. Which is bomb, if you don’t own that… you’re in a sinner in the rock n roll world.