Bob's just an ordinary fucking guy, a great songwriter who got swept up in this whole fame thing and was smart enough to know how to control it, who rode with it and was shrewd, damn shrewd. And now he's just paying everyone back with this tour. It's like a family scene.
- Songwriter David Blue to Rolling Stone
On October 30, 1975 Bob Dylan and a caravan of fellow musicians unknown ( T-Bone Burnett) and known ( Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, Ramblin' Jack Elliot) took the stage in front of 1800 fans Plymouth, Massachusetts to perform their first concert of a tour dubbed The Rolling Thunder Revue. The concept: put on a series of shows for the people who missed out on the good house seats taken up by celebrities and music insiders on the last tour. It wouldn't be much of a secret. The cast would mushroom as the tour continued. Joni Mitchell would join for a few nights. Muhammed Ali even appeared onstage with Dylan at Madison Square Garden.
That October night, with a backing band made up of Burnett, Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson, guitarist Steven Soles, and bass player Rob Soles, Dylan and guitarist Bob Neuwirth opened with "When I Paint My Masterpiece", "It Ain't Me Babe" and "Hard Rain". Violinist Scarlet Rivera replaced Neuwirth for the Desire cut "Durango". Then Dylan sang "Isis" a capella.
After a break, the curtain rose to reveal Dylan and Joan Baez together. Her song about Dylan, "Diamonds and Rust", would be entering the Top 40 within a week. Roger McGuinn would soon get his turn. Then Dylan would return to perform his future Top 40 single "Hurricane", about the murder conviction of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter which would be released the next day.
As the tour continued, the Desire album were released. Eventually the tour lost steam, but not before a film, Renaldo and Clara, a live album, Hard Rain, and enough good material to fill the two disc The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue were made.
At one point early in the tour Dylan was asked if he knew what "Rolling Thunder" meant to indians.
Dylan thought about that for a moment and said "I'm glad to hear that. I'm real glad to hear that, man."