Subterranean Homesick Blues (1965) - Bob Dylan -

  Filming Location - London, England

This is the a still from the song "Subterranean Homesick Blues" that opens Don't Look Back, directed and produced by D. A. Pennebaker. The black-and-white documentary of Bob Dylan's 1965 tour of England was released in 1967.

(From Don't Look Back produced by Leacock-Pennebaker (1965); Pennebaker Films)

And this is where that scene was filmed: behind London's famous Savoy Hotel, at the intersection of Savoy Hill Road and a dead-end alley called Savoy Steps, near the River Thames, in the heart of London.

And here, superimposing the still over the street today (as depicted on Google Street View). Not much has changed.

The orange circle (from Bing Maps/Bird's Eye View) shows the intersection of the street where the scene was shot, behind the Savoy Hotel which is the large building just above it that runs along "The Strand."

The same scene on a map of London.

How I found the location on Google Maps...and how you can, too. (The address itself was easily found on the Internet, so I didn't really have to "find" it.)

The two-and-a-half minute film clip of Subterranean Homesick Blues is often considered the forerunner of music videos. It was filmed at the end of Dylan's tour of England in 1965 to be used as a trailer announcing that the documentary of the tour was coming to theaters. Dylan also wanted the short film to be played on early video jukeboxes (there's more detail on this and more interesting facts on the film at the end of the entry). Right now, guv'nor, I want to take you to the location -- in London.

(From Don't Look Back produced by Leacock-Pennebaker (1965); Pennebaker Films)

But first, just in case you are wondering who's in the background. That's the poet Allen Ginsberg (on the right, with the white shawl) the writer of Howl! among other works, and Bob Neuwirth, a musician and, like Ginsberg, a longtime friend of Dylan. It's Bob Neuwirth holding the camera in back of Dylan on the cover of Highway 61 Revisited. Both men were on the Rolling Thunder tour.

(From Don't Look Back produced by Leacock-Pennebaker (1965); Pennebaker Films)

A poster of the documentary. (The DVD can be bought at most online DVD stores and in some book and video stores.)

This is the front of the Savoy Hotel in London. In the documentary, Dylan stays here and plays songs in his suite with Joan Baez and Donovan, among others. They would later help him write the words on the cards he holds in the film.

To get to the filming location online, go to Google, then click "Maps." Then, when you get to the "maps/search" page, enter the words "savoy hill and savoy steps, london" into the search box. You will be whisked to England, high above the Thames River, as in the photo.

Once there, zoom down slowly by clicking the plus sign (+) under the orange man, until you see the street name "Savoy Hill" looking the same way it does in this photo.

Then, click-and-hold on the Little Orange Man and drag him towards the word "Hill" in "Savoy Hill."

You'll see a little green circle appear under the man. Drag the green dot onto the "H" in "Hill" and let go.

You should end up on Savoy Hill Road. It should look like this. You are now on the streets of London.

Now, click the inverted "v" a few times to move up the street a little bit. Then, click_and_hold on the right side of the picture and drag it left, to spin your view, and you should now be looking up the alley called Savoy Steps."

Here's how it should look. Don't Look Back! (kidding!!)

Now, once again, here's Bob ready make rock's most famous flip book.

(From Don't Look Back produced by Leacock-Pennebaker (1965); Pennebaker Films)

As you'll read more about below, the director/producer D. A. Pennebaker filmed two other versions of the card flipping scene: this one in the Victoria Embankment Garden behind the Savoy...

(From Don't Look Back produced by Leacock-Pennebaker (1965); Pennebaker Films)

...with Neuwirth, and unidentified man, and Ginsberg...

(From Don't Look Back produced by Leacock-Pennebaker (1965); Pennebaker Films)

...and this on on the roof of the Savoy, with Bob Neuwirth, and Dylan's record producer Tom Wilson, in the fez.

(From Don't Look Back produced by Leacock-Pennebaker (1965); Pennebaker Films)

At the end of the movie clip from the documentary, Dylan tosses down a last card, walks off, and Ginsberg and Neuwirth go their separate ways, Ginsberg with a walking stick.

(From Don't Look Back produced by Leacock-Pennebaker (1965); Pennebaker Films)

Some interesting facts about Subterranean Homesick Blues" from DON'T LOOK BACK.

Here is a list of some behind-the-scenes info about the video from Wikipedia and also from a discussion between filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker (D.A.P.) and musician Bob Neuwirth (who's in the film) on YouTube in a video called "Bob Dylan - Don't Look Back - Clip" - which you will come to below, after the list.

- Dylan came up with the idea that he wanted a lot of things written on paper. The cue cards are filled with intentional misspellings and puns. (D.A.P)

- The cue cards were written on the cardboard you get in shirt laundry. (D.A.P)

- The words and phrases were drawn by Dylan, Joan Baez, Pennebaker, Bob Neuwirth and Donovan. (D.A.P.)

- The song was filmed at the end of the tour that is the basis of the documentary, but Pennebaker moved it to the beginning to set the "stage" for the film.(Wik)

- The song "Subterranean Homesick Blues" was released in March 1965 as a single on Columbia Records; it was then the lead track on "Bringing It All Back Home," released a few weeks later. It is 2 minutes and 20 seconds long. The first showing of the film was in May 1967. (Wik)

- In addition to the Savoy Steps clip, two alternate takes were shot: one just outside the back of the Savoy Hotel in the Victoria Embankment Gardens featuring Bob Neuwirth, Allen Ginsberg, and an unidentified man. And another, on the roof of the Savoy Hotel, featuring Neuwirth and Dylan's Columbia Records producer Tom Wilson who is wearing a fez. A montage of the three clips can be seen in the documentary "No Direction Home." (from Wikipedia, with updated clarifications)

-Tom Wilson produced The Times They Are a-Changin'; Another Side of Bob Dylan, and Bringing it All Back Home. Bob Neuwirth, a singer/songwriter and friend of Dylan, is the person holding the camera behind Dylan on the cover of Highway 61 Revisited.

- Dylan wanted to make the short music film in order to show it on special French-made machines called 'Scopitones' that were available in many major world cities thoughout the 60's and into the mid 70's. (D.E.P.) A Scopitone machine was like a video jukebox that played 3-minute music films in 16-milllimeter. (see Wikipedia for the whole description and a photo). (I don't know if Subterranean was ever released as a Scopitone.)

- Wikipedia describes the song's origins this way: "It was in fact an extraordinary amalgam of Jack Kerouac (who wrote "The Subterraneans"), the Woodie Guthrie/Pete Seeger song Taking It Easy ('mom was in the kitchen preparing to eat, sis was in the pantry looking for some yeast') and the riffed-up rock'n'roll poetry of Chuck Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business." Wikipedia adds, "In 2004, Dylan said, "It's from Chuck Berry, a bit of "Too Much Monkey Business" and some of the scat songs of the 40's."

This was the original promotional clip from "Don't Look Back" (now commonly referred to as "The Subterranean Homesick Blues video") with modern commentary by the director D. A. Pennebaker and Bob Neuwirth.

One of the most famous early remakes of the clip was this by the Australian group INXS from 1987 in a song called Mediate.

The clip has been parodied countless times in TV shows and commercials and you can see dozens of them by going to Google/YouTube and searching for "Subterranean Homesick Blues parody."

Perhaps the most famous parody was done by "Weird Al" Yankovic who substitutes palindromes for the words of the song. A palindrome is a word or phrase that is spelled the same forwards or backwards, so the name of the video, "Bob," is a palindrome itself. To see it on YouTube, search for "Weird Al Bob" (I had problems imbedding the YouTube video into this entry.)

Thanks for visiting. Keep a clean nose. Watch the plain clothes...and remember...

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

And addendum follows "The End" sign.


PopSpots reader Narbi Price, whose work can be seen at , sent in the follow painting named "Untitled Alley Painting" based on the Subterranean Homesick Blues site and also on the research of the PopSpots entry. Thank you, Narbi.