Bob Dylan Earls Court London Sat 17 June 1978

Bob Dylan Earls Court London Sat 17 June 1978
This was a big event for me. It had been a long time since Dylan had played in the UK, and I was determined to see him, as I hadn’t done so before. It was clear that there was going to be massive demand for tickets for these gigs, which were a string of concerts at the vast Earls Court Arena in London. Buying tickets in those days was very different than it is today with the use of the internet. It was announced that tickets would be on sale by personal application only, with a limit of four tickets per person. The tickets were to be sold at various box offices around the country and went on sale of a Sunday morning. Sadly, there was no box office in the North East of England, the nearest being Leeds, Glasgow or Sheffield. So I decided to go to Leeds to queue for tickets. I figured that I would need to arrive early so I drove to Leeds on Saturday morning, one day before tickets were due to go on sale, to buy tickets for Marie and I to see the great man. Tickets were on sale from a music shop (think it was called Barkers?) in the Headrow, which is the main street in Leeds. When I arrived at the shop, there was already a queue, as some fans having arrived on Friday night. At some point during the day, the shop decided to give us all numbered tickets to mark our place in the queue, and asked us to move on, to prevent crowding and return later to form the queue when the shop closed. This meant I was more or less guaranteed a ticket! So I had a look around Leeds and returned to join the queue around 6pm. We then got ourselves in order according to our number on the ticket (looking back it seems amazing that this worked!). It was a cold, long night queuing outside the shop, but everyone was friendly and the time passed quite quickly, although I didn’t get much sleep. There was evidence of touts, who were staying the night in hotels, and had some young kids queueing for them. By the morning the queue was massive, and curled round and round the streets. I bumped into a couple of mates from town, and agreed to buy their tickets as I was only buying two. We were soon in the shop and bought the tickets. There was some disappointment because the tickets which were sent to Leeds were for seats way up the back of the arena, but hey hey at least we were in. Also they had only sent a small number of tickets (around 1,000 or so I think) so only the first couple of hundred of people in the queue got tickets, leaving hundreds disappointed. I later talked to some friends who went to Sheffield to buy tickets, and the queue was much smaller, and they got better seats! Some others went to Glasgow and there was hardly any queue, with tickets left some days after they went on sale! Come the night of the show Marie and I took our seats up the back of Earls Court. The friend how I had bought tickets for kindly bought me a cassette copy of Street Legal, which was good (I still think it is a great album). Dylan was wonderful, and much better than I had hoped. The sound and the view weren’t great from our seats; sounds systems weren’t so good in those days, and video screens weren’t widely used (I don’t think there were any for this gig, but can’t be certain). Dylan was this tiny figure in a waistcoat singing those great songs. He was playing long sets at this point in his career and covered all of his classic songs, along with a selection from the Street Legal album. His voice was strong, and every time he played his mouth organ there was a great cheer from the crowd. This gig started me as a lifelong Dylan fan, and this was the first time of many I was to see the guy in concert. I will review those other gigs over the next few days.
Setlist: A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall; Love Her With a Feeling; Baby, Stop Crying; Mr. Tambourine Man; Shelter From the Storm; Love Minus Zero/No Limit; Tangled Up in Blue; Ballad of a Thin Man; Maggie’s Farm; I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met); Like a Rolling Stone; I Shall Be Released; Going, Going, Gone; Rainy Day Women #12 & 35; One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later); You’re a Big Girl Now; One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below); Blowin’ in the Wind; I Want You; Señor (Tales of Yankee Power); Masters of War; Just Like a Woman; Simple Twist of Fate; All Along the Watchtower; All I Really Want to Do; It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding); Forever Young; The Times They Are A-Changin’

41 responses to this post.

  1. Did this gig ever make it to CD? My dad was there and I’d love to get him it for his birthday!


    • Posted by vintagerock on March 11, 2013 at 8:06 am

      Hi I don’t there is any official recording of the Earls Court gigs, however bootlegs do exist.
      There is however a CD Live at Budokan which was recorded during the same tour Best wishes Peter


  2. Posted by Simon on August 27, 2013 at 4:57 am

    Hi Tom, I was at this gig and I am trying to remember all the gigs and bands I have ever seen, do you know if there was a support band as I can not remember?
    I was towards the back of earls court and Bob was a distant figure, in a white suit if I remember correctly.


  3. Posted by Al Dingwall on September 5, 2013 at 7:09 am

    I was there too and your set list brought it all back to me. We queued all day in London and ended up with tickets at the back, possibly near you. However, my girlfriend and I managed to blag our way somewhere near the front. Did you write the set list down at the time?


    • Posted by vintagerock on September 5, 2013 at 7:52 am

      Hi Al
      Pleased my ramblings have brought back some memories for you. I’m afraid I cheated with the setlist and found it on the internet. I was always too busy enjoying the gig to write down the setlist. Happy Days. Cheers Peter


  4. Posted by kim willott on May 6, 2015 at 11:20 am

    i still have the programme if anybodys interested


  5. Posted by Anita Palsgraf on July 25, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    I was a 16 year old American living in London, waited 16 hours overnight on the sidewalk for tickets to see the mighty Bob Dylan in his first UK appearance in 10? years. The wait for tickets with a bunch of other hippies was almost as huge as the great show.
    A year later, a friend talked me into seeing the Jam at the Rainbow Theatre, my mind was blown, cut off all my hair, started wearing DMs, and decided that Hippies suck!
    A great time to be alive.
    Thanks for this page.


    • Posted by vintagerock on July 25, 2015 at 3:13 pm

      Happy days Anita Best wishes Peter


      • Posted by Galvin Carnley on October 13, 2015 at 8:52 pm

        I was there too. 22 yrs young. Went down with mates to see the great man. Pretty certain went in a Morris 1100 and we slept 2 in the car and 1 under it in a central London car park. Wouldn’t want to try that now. Still listening to him just as much now as did then and my 4 year old cocker spaniel is called Bob in recognition.

      • Posted by vintagerock on October 13, 2015 at 9:21 pm

        Happy days Galvin Best wishes Peter

  6. Posted by Richard Hunter on January 2, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Hi I remember queuing in Shaftesbury Ave in London to get 4 tickets, slept out all night under a Transit van!
    I have a copy of the vinyl Earls Court album (1978) which is also on cd. Happy to copy for anyone interested in it, great sound and it’s the June 20th night’s recording. I have my ticket too and programme.
    Album has Ballad of a thin man; senor; don’t think twice; maggie’s farm;masters of war; blowing in the wind; just like a woman; I don’t believe you… And more.
    Also have Little white wonder albums, Dylan in Adelaide, Dylan/Cash session.


  7. Posted by Laraine G on January 26, 2016 at 11:53 pm

    I was there too. I bunked off a university field trip to go. Can’t remember how I got the tickets. I do remember everyone lighting their lighters during one, or possibly more, of the songs, but to be honest I don’t remember much else, although I think that as Simon said he was wearing white.


  8. There was no support act. And there were no screens… he was MINUSCULE!


  9. Posted by jimr on July 15, 2017 at 8:04 am

    I also attended the gig with my wife, sister in law Sue and friend Phil (who happened to be going out Sue). To get tickets we drove from St Helens to Liverpool, at 5 am and queued 9 hours in the pouring rain outside some music shop. When we got to our seats in the balcony there was just one row behind us, could have done with a telescope. Imagine my surprise when a girl behind us on the last row said “aren’t you from St Helens”. the gig was great but could only see quarter inch figures.


  10. Posted by Gary on October 7, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    Hi. Re the photo in your 1981 tour report. I have a rather large book with that picture on the cover, i have tried to find out details about the book with no luck. I still have the ‘t’ shirt I was at the Birmingham show so I must have got the book from there or did I ?. Any info would be great .


  11. Posted by Caroline on January 30, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    I went to one of the Earl’s Court concerts too, the week of my 22nd birthday. I bought the tickets from Wilson Peck in Sheffield – started queueing early Saturday evening and it was quite fun, although helped by the fact that my then-boyfriend and I could both ride my motorbike so did shifts of 2 hours in turn and went home for a cup of tea in between. That was the first time I heard ‘Because the night’, played repeatedly in a portable cassette player by someone in the queue in front of me.

    Sorry your seats were not so good – ours were great, upstairs and right over the stage in the left. And we recognised lots of people from Sheffield!

    I was so excited, all the months leading up to the concert and then on the night itself. I remember thinking I now understood why some people (OK, some girls) scream at concerts! I’d never imagined I’d ever see Dylan – as you said, he hadn’t visited the UK for years. And it exceeded all my expectations – those arrangements are my favourites and I still love playing the Budokan album.

    I’ve never seen Dylan since, but I’m now remembering it all as I’m going to see him in April, in Lido do Jesolo of all places!

    Thanks for sharing your memories of that great summer.


    • Posted by Galvin Carnley on January 31, 2018 at 3:23 pm

      I absolutely love Bob Dylan but being honest don’t envy you going to see him now. I can quote you a mate of mine who is the biggest Dylan fan I have ever personally met “I have seen Dylan dozens of times and see him at every opportunity to this day even though without fail he is invariably rubbish live these days”
      I can’t bring myself to go see him live anymore as I want to remember him in my minds eye as he was.
      However good luck and I truly hope you enjoy the “one more time with the greatest of the great”


      • Posted by Caroline on January 31, 2018 at 5:12 pm

        Oh dear! Oh well, thanks for your good wishes!

      • Posted by Caroline on July 14, 2019 at 3:23 pm

        Belatedly replying – I loved the concert in Jesolo last year! He never stops experimenting, does he? Sadly the venue wasn’t full but it was lovely to see lots of whole families there. David, I hope you enjoyed the Rome gig too.

    • Hi Caroline
      I’m a Sheffield guy and was there at Earls Ct that night in June.
      My Xmas/ birthday present this year is to see Mr Dylan on my
      birthday 4th April at Sally Sata Celina I Rome … can’t wait.
      I’m in N Wales now .. Wilson Oevk .. bought back memories but do go back to
      Sheffield to see my other love … Wednesday .. will be going over this Good Friday.
      Don’t listen to this Galvin .. there are always negative opinions .. usually the don’t have a ticket.
      Have a great time on the 26th.


      • Posted by Galvin Carnley on March 29, 2018 at 11:51 am

        Surely not David Lee the Mining Geologist? Guess not cos with a crazy name like Galvin sure you would have known who I was from the British Coal then Gleeds days.

      • Posted by Galvin Carnley on March 29, 2018 at 12:41 pm

        As it happens I am also Wednesday always have been always will be just like Dylan will always be my hero irrespective of whether I have any “desire” to see him live again.
        First game Sheff Wed 2 Man Utd 2 1966 rattle in hand

  12. Posted by Christopher Semmens on August 15, 2018 at 5:59 pm

    Just tonight my young brother (- 7 yrs) brought over the programme of the Earles Court shows with the tickets inside: First show Thursday 15 June 1998 – Block 24 – F28 and 29. He had recently come across it and admitted that he had “pinched” it from me.
    I have been agonising for years as to which of the – I think 6 – concerts we attended. I wanted to know if it was the one that I have the bootleg recording of. Question answered! Wonderful show. I just saw His Bobness again a week ago Wed 7 Aug at Perth Arena. Loved that show too. Chris


  13. Posted by Nigel Pearce on May 29, 2019 at 4:07 am

    I had to spend an entire day in a queue snaking around Birmingham City Centre for my ticket! The most impressive thing about the concert was that I didn’t recognise any of the songs. I knew the songs so it was a real shock!


    • Posted by Eric on August 29, 2020 at 2:30 pm

      I was in Birmingham queue as well. Was dropped off at the back of the queue by an older pal at 7:30 pm the night before on the corner of New St & Ethel St. I went prepared with an old army greatcoat and of all things a deckchair for the overnight wait because I didn’t fancy the cold pavement. It was freezing, with the icy wind blowing straight up New St as I recall. Next day it was quite hot and I had to carry all my stuff to the front of the queue sweating buckets in my greatcoat. I got my 3 or 4 tickets for myself, my older brother and 1 or 2 of his pals and jumped in a taxi to get home because I was too tired to haul all my stuff to bus stop and home. Stayed overnight in Millwall before the concert with brothers pal. It was my birthday week too mid June ( 19 ) and during the concert there was a drunk directly behind us still heckling Dylan for going “electric” years before. I still regret not putting him out of our misery but I think he passed out or got thrown out before the end. I still have fond memories of “I was there” though, and on the way back to Brum I had one of the old 6 passenger compartments on the train to myself Sitting with the strong sun coming through the window. I felt on top of the world. It was my first live concert and it had been Bob Dylan. I still have my ticket framed…somewhere?


      • Posted by vintagerock on August 29, 2020 at 4:43 pm

        Happy days Eric many thanks for your great story of queueing. Very different to how we buy tickets today; but in many ways it was much more fun then cheers Peter

  14. Posted by Chris Mulroy on July 13, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    Just noticed this as I too was at the 20/6/78 show. queued in Oxford for mine along with a German girl who claimed they would never be as patient in Germany. I loved the show with the changed arrangements though I was in block 88 at the back of the arena. I finally saw him again at Hyde Park yesterday and I have to say vocally he is now terrible. He should prbably have quit live perfomances many years ago.


    • Posted by Galvin Carnley on July 14, 2019 at 12:59 pm

      So true Chris. It’s like Ali the one fight too many. Elvis did the same. That’s why I want to remember to Bob as I last saw him not as he is now. All to our known despite some Dave guy suggesting to think like that is because you can’t get a ticket. Today anyone can get a ticket that’s the proof he’s not the man he was but neither I hasten to say am I.


  15. Posted by Peter Trower on September 6, 2019 at 10:28 am

    We queued all night in Sheffield, also bought tickets from Wilson Peck, luckily we were under cover in a little walk though arcade, memories of a young girls face getting dropped off at 09:00 in the morning thinking it was hoping to be easy to get tickets, she probably didn’t good queue by then. Great memories.


  16. Posted by Andrew Crosthwaite on August 3, 2020 at 8:13 pm

    I was there too. I haven’t a clue how I got tickets but my then gf and I went to loads of concerts in London. We certainly didn’t camp in the street. I’d seen the Stones in the same venue in 76 (I made a point of going as I thought they’d probably never tour again..🙄.). I just remember the pure excitement of seeing Bob Dylan Yes, Bob Dylan. We hugged each other with glee. Happy days


  17. Peter, I was there that night, I think. My first gig. I was in the Arena. The guy in front of me was 6′ 6! Dylan was just awesome. My elder brother, 1 year, Charlie was the real fan, but….. 2 weeks later I saw Bowie.


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