This film should be played loud!
This is a message on a title card at the beginning of the film. The greatest concert movie ever made. This post concerns the movie, the audio releases have to wait for it’s own post.
The Last Waltz was a concert by the rock group The Band, held on American Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1976, at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. The Last Waltz was advertised as the end of The Band’s illustrious touring career, and the concert saw The Band joined by more than a dozen special guests, including Paul Butterfield, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Ringo Starr, Muddy Waters, Ronnie Wood, Bobby Charles and Neil Young.
The event was filmed by director Martin Scorsese and made into a documentary of the same name, released in 1978. The film features concert performances, scenes shot on a studio soundstage and interviews by Scorsese with members of The Band. A triple-LP soundtrack recording, produced by Rob Fraboni, was issued in 1978. The film was released on DVD in 2002 as was a four-CD box set of the concert and related studio recordings.
I have several versions of the film, and I’ve seen many versions of it. I’ve seen it at the cinema, I’ve played it to death on video cassette, I have two DVD releases , a Blu-ray release and I’ve seen/heard quite a bit of bootlegs of the show.
This is a film that I’m really passionate about, and I have often wondered if there’s footage, filmed sequences, that is not in the official version. Whatever condition such film would be in was irrelevant, I wanted to see as much as possible of the legendary concert.
The Last Waltz – Alternative versions
I found webpages mentioning some black and white stuff, but described it as unwatchable and with terrible sound. I finally got to see it. It is in bad shape, but it’s wonderful. It had a lot of stuff I hadn’t seen. More Muddy Waters, more Neil Young, more Van Morrison, more Joni Mitchell and some great songs by Dylan.
The Lost Waltz
It clocks in at over four hours and, frankly, it is an essential addition for any fan of the official release. As a historical documentation it is important, and whatever condition it should have been included in the official release. It is sometimes referred to as “The Lost Waltz”.
Here it is in three parts:
Here are a few a comparisons:
Semi black & white pro shot footage from The Last Waltz, showing The Band perform 4 songs alone or with friends, These are completely different from the version included in the Official Movie or they weren’t included. It was filmed Thanksgiving Night 1976 at The Last Waltz.
The Weight – The Band:
And now, the official version:
And now, the amazing finale to The Last Waltz! This amazing footage gives you a whole new idea to just how great the lineup was, and now thanks to this footage, Richard Manuel is seen singing his verse in the Bob Dylan classic he was known for . You also get to see Eric Clapton playing the guitar solo, and Paul Butterfield playing harmonica, as well as all the other guests.
I shall be released – Bob Dylan and many more:
And the official release:
The Band and their friend Eric Clapton does a fine song off Clapton’s “No Reason To Cry Album” (which featured members of The Band). Rick Danko and Eric Claptons vocals really make this song great. Another good song sadly left off The Last Waltz.
Eric Clapton and The Band – All our Past time:
And now for my favorite outtake,Bobby Charles and The Band singing Down in New Orleans. There’s not much footage of Bobby Charles and it’s a shame that this gem wasn’t included in the official release. Great accordion!
Bobby Charles and The Band – Down in New Orleans
Great footage or what?!
But this is not all…
The Bad Wizzard Release
I then found another “release”, the so called Bad Wizard release. This release presents most of the songs in colour and when this is not possible because the footage was not on the original film, it has it replaced by b&w footage from the film outtakes (the “Lost Waltz” footage) in order to present the complete performance.
But this version breaks a lot of copyright laws. On this release the unedited footage that were not part of Martin Scorsese’s film is included, but the uncut performance, in back and white, is offered in stereo, probably from the 4 compact discs expanded edition released in 2006.
The historical value of this stuff is great and the whole lot can be appreciated in full, but it is illegal and therefore I will not recommend downloading it. Instead we should write an e-mail to the owners and beg for a complete official release, no matter how “bad” the missing footage is.
Sometimes the bootleggers get it right and this is very close. This has to be the most complete Last Waltz possible. They used the Lost Waltz footage to complete the official. They even use it in the middle of songs, perhaps where the film went to an audience shot? This bootleg DVD really looks like
something a fan would do.
So is it perfect? No it is not. When the Lost Waltz footage is used it is letterboxed with the label’s ID and information on the borders. Most on screen information during the concert is in Japanese, and cannot be removed by turning off the subtitles. The edit between the outtake Dylan and the released Dylan is rough at times. And the audio is sometimes on the bad side (mono and quite low).
My favorite version is the Blu-ray edition. Fantastic picture, fantastic sound, but oh, how I wished the could have put the missing footage in, at least in the extras section. Hopefully the studio will someday come to their senses and release the complete Last Waltz on Blu-ray/DVD. Fingers crossed.
Lets finish this post with the great official clip of Forever Young by Bob Dylan:
5 thoughts on “The Last Waltz different versions”
I remember a Robbie and/or Scorsese interview and they mention that most of the unused 35mm footage (of which there was a lot) has been lost. It was put in storage and never seen again i think was the story, though i’m not sure about the specifics. When i first heard this it seemed to me they knew the status of the footage (purely my speculation) but perhaps were waiting for copyrights of some kind to expire, or something like that, and allow they to use it the way they want to…and concocted the lost footage story until then. It’s probably somewhere on the audio commentary of a DVD version or bonus material. Sorry i can’t be more specific.
It is also important to know that the officially released albums and film are the product of much over dubbing and editing by Robbie after the fact, like he did with the Basement Tapes material. Levon (in his book) claims he would have nothing to do with it and his performances in the film and soundtrack are unvarnished. I actually don’t mind as it gives us two versions to enjoy.
More Van and less Joanie is my only gripe…And no doubt Neil Diamond was out of place, although Robbie was working with him around this time. With the benefit of hindsight i’d say stick a rollicking version of ‘Look out Cleveland’ and Dylan’s ‘Tough Mama’ in there instead, please.
I think that the released version is fantastic, the “overdubs” have never bothered me.
Thanks for you comment
Robbie’s overdubbing? The majority of the overdubbing is Richard and Rick, and given the level of performance captured on The Complete Last Waltz, you should be happy.
I watched the film version on Wolfgangs Vaults some years ago when it was free to watch . I don’t know if it is still going that site but it had some wonderful music on it.The version they showed was from Bill Graham’s archive and was untouched by Robbie’s overdubbing that was added for the official release. The songs appeared to me to be a lot rougher than the polished released version.I don’t know if it is still available on the site although it is probably were the bootleg stuff was taken from .
I believe it is the same footage (the full 4hrs and 10 min) that we have included in our post (with that raw sound, without overdubs).
Thanks for your feedback
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