Sitting in his living room in the West Village, Mr. Alderson was cranking up Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” as recorded in Liverpool, England, on May 14, 1966, in a version never released before: raw and clear, direct from the tapes that Mr. Alderson made as the live-sound engineer for Mr. Dylan’s 1966 tour.
That tour, on which Mr. Dylan was backed up by musicians who became the Band, has attained almost mythic status as a tableau of confrontation, as Mr. Dylan’s folk fans rejected his embrace of electric rock ’n’ roll. In its most famous incident, an audience member in Manchester, England, blurted out, “Judas!” (In response, Mr. Dylan told his band to “play loud” — adding an expletive that made the instruction spiteful, joyous or both.)
Some of these shows have long circulated in bootleg versions. But on Friday, Columbia/Legacy will release every known recording from the tour as a 36-CD boxed set, “Bob Dylan: The 1966 Live Recordings,” most of which have never been heard in any form. It is a monumental addition to the corpus just as Mr. Dylan has been named the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
The new boxed set is the latest archival release from Mr. Dylan, after “The Basement Tapes Complete” (six CDs) and “The Cutting Edge 1965-1966” (up to 18 CDs), that have been gobbled up by fans. For Mr. Dylan, there may also be a more prosaic motivation for the release: to secure European copyright protection on the recordings. (The works are eligible if released before they’re 50 years old.)
As the sound man, Mr. Alderson had a front-row seat on the historic tour. In an interview with The New York Times, and in a short film made by the record company, he reminisced about the demands of the job and the perplexing crowd reactions. The video includes previously unseen footage of the tour, onstage and off, shot by D. A. Pennebaker, who directed the film “Dont Look Back,” about Mr. Dylan’s 1965 tour.
Boxes of master audiotapes from 1966
A particular challenge of the 1966 tour, Mr. Alderson said, was building a sound system at a time when most theaters were ill equipped for a loud, amplified band.
“There was kind of no precedent for it,” Mr. Alderson, now 79, said as a terrier puppy yipped at his heels, and a pile of Dylan bootlegs sat on the coffee table for comparison.
The recordings trace Mr. Dylan’s tour through the United States, Australia, Britain and Europe, repeating the same two-part set with virtually no changes. In the first, acoustic half, he sang incantatory versions of “Visions of Johanna” and “Desolation Row”; for the second half, the entire band’s full-throttled takes on “Like a Rolling Stone” do not always drown out the jeers.
Even in the exhaustively documented field of Dylan studies, Mr. Alderson has been nearly lost in plain sight. He ran the tape machine for Mr. Dylan’s shows at the Gaslight Cafe in 1962 but was uncredited on the official release of those recordings in 2005. He also appears, unidentified, in “No Direction Home,” a documentary by Martin Scorsese that was also released that year. His name is barely in the Dylan history books (of which there are many).
“Nobody really wants to give me any credit,” Mr. Alderson said. “When I brought up the fact that I’m in the Scorsese film — I’m on screen with Dylan in some of the most important parts — the response was, ‘We thought it was some other Richard.’”
Mr. Alderson’s own career offers some explanation for the lapse. He was hired for the 1966 Dylan tour after recording Nina Simone at Carnegie Hall and building a live sound system for Harry Belafonte. After the tour ended, Mr. Dylan had a motorcycle accident and withdrew; Mr. Alderson ran his own studio — recording avant-garde jazz and rock bands like the Fugs — before burning out in 1969 and leaving for Mexico.
Richard Alderson, the sound engineer who recorded the performances on Mr. Dylan’s 1966 tour
FRED R. CONRAD FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES
“I stayed in Mexico the entire time that Nixon was president,” Mr. Alderson said. “I completely lost touch with the New York recording scene.”
The audiotapes from the Dylan tour were made to accompany film footage being shot of the shows, some of which were used for the famously disjointed film “Eat the Document.”
Once the tour ended, Mr. Alderson turned over the tapes, which sat in refrigerated storage for five decades in Mr. Dylan’s extensive archives. Mr. Alderson reconnected with the Dylan circle over the last year as the boxed set came together, but his involvement was minimal. Until an interview with The Times, he had not heard the recordings in 50 years.
Richard Alderson, left, with Bob Dylan on tour in 1966.
Speaking now, Mr. Alderson is still a little cranky but is clearly thrilled by the belated attention. He said that working with Mr. Dylan in 1966 was “more like working with a friend,” even though the video captures his old client bossing him around in no uncertain terms. And he doesn’t overthink the magic that went into capturing the tour on tape.
“You put good microphones up in front of good music,” Mr. Alderson says in the video, “and it sounds good.”
He was also careful to note his gratitude to Sony Music, the parent company of Columbia/Legacy, and to the Dylan camp for including his name in the official credits: “Mixing board tapes recorded by Richard Alderson.”