There has been understandably less hubbub about the 40th anniversary tomorrow of Dylan's much-discussed Isle of Wight performance than there has been about the Woodstock anniversary.
And much of the discussion about the Bethel, New York rock festival concerned various theories as to why Dylan didn't appear there, especially since he was living in those days nearby in the town of Woodstock, New York. That of course was the original intended site of the festival which would eventually end up being staged on Max Yasgur's dairy farm spread an hour away to the southwest.
But for a specific reason, I've always been glad Dylan didn't make the three-day affair. For had Dylan done a set and been thusly memorialized in the film, his performance would likely have resembled what was on display just two weeks hence in the south of England. To put it politely, you have to search far and wide for anyone who considers the Isle of Wight a solid Dylan performance. As one critic put it, Dylan sang his tunes as if he were one of that generation of bad Dylan imitators who when covering his work always put the emphasis in all the wrong places.
So just a fortnight earlier at Woodstock, the result likely would have been similar to the Isle of Wight performance disaster. And thus that peculiar variation of Dylan's endless changes would be the one cemented in the mind of the general public at large as supposedly "classic" Dylan.
Fortunately, today merely a few Dylan afficionados lament decades later about how lousy the Isle of Wight performance was—or at least how few moments besides "Wild Mountain Thyme" ever found Dylan in the groove that entire night, and in front of three-quarters of The Beatles, for Heaven's sake! So how would you like having every Woodstock viewer conjuring that as their default image of Dylan?
But, I suppose, that would ultimately have been de fault of Dylan himself.