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Bob Dylan sneers at his obsessive fans, but he may have more in common with them than he might think.

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The critic Greil Marcus once told an interviewer that, among musicians, Bob Dylan had the stupidest fans. “I think it’s because something in Dylan’s writing leads people to believe that there is a secret behind every song. And if you unlock that secret then you’ll understand the meaning of life,” he said. Dylan himself seems to agree. In 2001, forty years into his career, Dylan said, “These so-called connoisseurs of Bob Dylan music, I don’t feel they know a thing, or have any inkling of who I am and what I’m about. I know they think they do, and yet it’s ludicrous, it’s humorous, and sad.” A decade later, Dylan told an interviewer for Rolling Stone, “Why is it when people talk about me they have to go crazy? What the fuck is the matter with them? … May the Lord have mercy on them. They are lost souls.”

David Kinney’s new book, “The Dylanologists,” is a journey among these so-called lost souls. Kinney is a newspaper journalist and a Dylan fan; his first book, “The Big One,” from 2009, was about a different set of obsessives: the anglers who compete in an annual fishing derby on Martha’s Vineyard. Here, he travels to a Dylan-themed diner in the singer’s hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota, which catered to visiting fans. (It recently closed, after losing its liquor license; the executive chef explained to the local paper that “people from Hibbing don’t like Bob Dylan as much as people not from Hibbing like Bob Dylan.”) He stands in line in the cold among a group of Dylan’s late-career tour regulars in order to get a prime spot in the front row. And he introduces a cast of Dylan disciples: circumspect keepers of secret bootleg recordings, feuding editors of Dylan zines and Web sites, literary detectives sourcing allusions in his lyrics, and a guy who owns Dylan’s childhood high chair.

There are plenty of creeps. In the mid-sixties, perhaps unnerved by his influence over his fans, Dylan fled upstate to Woodstock, where hopeful acolytes showed up at his house. One guy sneaked into Dylan’s bedroom to watch him and his wife sleep. Later, Dylan recalled thinking, “Now wait, these people can’t be my fans. They just can’t be.” Devotion can turn strange, and sour. After Dylan moved back to New York City, in the late sixties, he was dogged by a man named A. J. Weberman, who created a peculiar translation system to “decode” Dylan’s lyrics—“in Dylan’s language Texas might mean ‘Europe’ ”—and even went through his trash. Years later, still preoccupied by bizarre theories about Dylan, Weberman tells Kinney, “I wasted my fucking life on this shit.” Another parser of Dylan’s songs became convinced that his album “Time Out of Mind,” from 1997, foretold the death of Princess Diana. As Kinney writes, “Any fool could find whatever he wanted inside the vast Dylan songbook: drugs, Jesus, Joan Baez.”

Yet, despite these unnerving examples, most of the fans that Kinney talks to aren’t fools or stalkers. They have simply developed an usually strong affinity for an artist and his music. And though their ardor seems to make the artist himself uncomfortable, Kinney suggests that Dylan might be partially to blame for it—that his own aloofness and self-made mythologies have deepened his fans’ thralldom. “Dylan created personas and then demolished them, denied they had ever existed, and scorned the people who still clung to them,” Kinney writes. Political folkie, country farmer, travelling gypsy, born-again Christian, rustic dandy—Dylan has cycled through a series of musical characters as if playing all the parts in a one-man vaudeville act. It’s been thrilling and curious, and also—most of the time, at least—deeply persuasive. Can fans be blamed for coming under one of these spells—for believing that Dylan meant what he sang at the March on Washington, or wasn’t just messing around when he recorded “Self Portrait,” or for preferring one incarnation above the others and lamenting or resenting that version’s demolition by Dylan’s own revisionism? Kinney’s own fandom seems to have lapsed a bit into skepticism, yet he never mocks the continued devotion of those who still believe. By getting his subjects to talk about the moment, often years past, in which they were swayed by Dylan’s music, Kinney humanizes the archetype of the pop junkie.

It is risky to be an earnest Bob Dylan fan—the kind of person who is inclined to follow him around on his Never Ending Tour, which began in 1988 and hasn’t stopped, as Dylan plays on past his seventy-second birthday. Or someone like the music critic Lester Bangs, who found himself, in the seventies, using Dylan’s album “Blood on the Tracks” as “an instrument of self abuse”—something he put on after every heartbreak, a personal soundtrack of misery. Dylan might very well sneer at one of the hardcore fans whom Kinney talks to, who describes what he feels when he watches the singer onstage: “I just wanted him to know that I existed and that I loved what he did. But it goes deeper than that. I don’t know why, but if Bob is sad, or his music is sad, I feel sad, and I feel sad for him. When he’s singing and he’s hurting, it hurts me, too.” Another fan, who followed the tour as a young woman, told Kinney that she went out of her way not to meet Dylan on the road; she’d heard about his mercurial, often prickly personality, and couldn’t imagine how she could go on listening to his music if he were to shoot her an icy, dismissive stare.

Like a disappointed father—or an angry God—Dylan seems to lament the foibles of his followers. But Kinney argues that Dylan may have more in common with his obsessive fans than he might think. Like them, he is a collector of cultural ephemera, a hoarder of odd texts and phrases, and an avid, idiosyncratic student of the past.

In the summer of 2003, a schoolteacher from Minnesota was travelling in Japan and happened to pick up a book about the world of Japanese organized crime called “Confessions of a Yakuza.” On the book’s first page, he read a line, about a man sitting like a “feudal lord,” that stood out. He realized that it echoed a line from one of Dylan’s songs from the album “Love and Theft,” which was released in 2001. He brought the book home and found a handful of other, unmistakably reused phrases. Dylan had not credited his strange source, which seemed to have been selected almost at random. In the years since, with the help of Google Books, Scott Warmuth, a fan from New Mexico, has been delving deeper into Dylan’s recent writing and finding all kinds of odd, uncredited borrowings. Passages from Dylan’s memoir, “Chronicles: Volume One” (2004), were taken from disparate sources: from H. G. Wells, Jack London, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald; from Tony Horowitz’s nonfiction book “Confederates in the Attic,” a travel guide about New Orleans, and an issue of Time, from 1961. Listeners of Dylan’s album “Modern Times” (from 2006) found lyrics that came from the work of an unremembered Civil War poet named Henry Timrod. Some have called these plain cases of plagiarism; others have suggested that they diminish or else entirely scuttle the idea of Dylan as an original American voice.

But Kinney takes a different view of these discoveries. Warmuth’s reading of Dylan’s memoir has revealed that Dylan’s “appropriations were not random. They were deliberate. When Scott delved into them, he found cleverness, wordplay, jokes, and subtexts.” The thefts that Dylan made were part of the story—he had, as Kinney writes, “hidden another book between the lines.” Kinney remarks on an especially intriguing section of “Chronicles,” in which Dylan seems to be explaining the method behind his guitar playing. Dylan writes, mysteriously, “You gain power with the least amount of effort, trust the listeners to make their own connections, and it’s very seldom that they don’t.” If this sounds inscrutable as musical technique, that’s because it is lifted from a self-help book about gaining influence over others called “The 48 Laws of Power,” by Robert Greene. This, then, is a cunning bit of dark humor: Dylan purports to explain the magic behind his music, but he’s really just revealing how susceptible devoted fans are to this kind of florid nonsense.

This unpacking of Dylan’s memoir, and the increased scrutiny given to his recent albums, is a reminder that Dylan’s work has always been spurred on by his own fannish, idiosyncratic obsessions. Michael Gray, who has written extensively about Dylan’s songwriting, tells Kinney, “You want him to be this lone genius who came from another planet. He never pretended to be. He’s created something out of something else.” Dylan’s earliest songs borrowed chords and lyrics from traditional folk songs; he has lifted lines and licks from the blues; he has repurposed and reassembled the Bible, press clippings, English poetry, the American songbook, and a half century of cultural comings and goings to create a kind of ongoing, evolving musical collage. Dylan is an archivist and a librarian in addition to being an artist.

Before Robert Zimmerman was Bob Dylan, he was an eager music fan. As a young man, he couldn’t wait to blow out of Minnesota and meet his idol, Woody Guthrie. He was, Kinney writes, “earnest, embarrassingly so. He would talk and talk and talk about traveling east, meeting Woody, making it big.” Dylan, just nineteen years old, visited Guthrie at the Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital, in New Jersey, where Guthrie, suffering from Huntington’s disease, had been committed. Guthrie was debilitated by the illness—there wasn’t much he could teach Dylan. Perhaps Dylan learned that idols never live up to a fan’s expectations, and so it’s silly to expect otherwise. But Dylan had been a musical pilgrim long before he inspired others to make pilgrimages in his footsteps. Kinney tells another story, of the time when Dylan, years later, in 2009, showed up for a tour at John Lennon’s childhood home. Or the year before, in Winnipeg, when he was spotted at the house where Neil Young grew up. Another time, he was seen at Sun Studios, in Memphis, where Elvis had cut his first records. Someone stopped him and told Dylan what his music had meant to him. Dylan responded, “Well son, we all have our heroes.”

Credit: Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns/Getty.

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Bob Dylan’s 10 Craziest Fans

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Bob Dylan’s 10 Craziest Fans

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The wildest people from David Kinney’s new ‘The Dylanologists: Adventures in the Land of Bob’

Bob Dylan

Val Wilmer/Redferns
By
James Sullivan
May 16, 2014 2:00 PM ET

The body of scholarship on Bob Dylan rivals that on Shakespeare or James Joyce. Literary critics like Christopher Ricks have written a books about him, Rolling Stone’s first reviews editor, Greil Marcus, has added three of his own and Princeton professor Sean Wilentz has served as the “historian in residence” at bobdylan.com.

And then there are the real fanatics – the Dylan obsessives who dig in the singer’s trash, buy the high chair he used as a baby and crash his sons’ bar mitzvahs. It’s those devotees who are the subject of The Dylanologists: Adventures in the Land of Bob, a new book by Pulitzer Prize–winner David Kinney examining the well worn legacy of rock & roll’s biggest enigma through the theories and fixations of his most devoted zealots. Here are 10 of the weirder episodes in the long, not-so-distinguished history of extreme Dylanology.

20 Overlooked Dylan Classics

  1. Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?
    Recent owners of Dylan’s boyhood home in Hibbing, Minnesota, replaced 19 windows and gave the old ones to various fans (including one guy who named his sons Bob and Dylan). “It’s like the 4,000 fragments of the true cross,” said one recipient.
  2. Motorpsycho Nightmare
    A.J. Weberman, the man Rolling Stone once called the “king of all Dylan nuts,” is notorious for digging in Dylan’s garbage. Dylan reportedly once roughed him up on the street, tore off Weberman’s “DLF” – Dylan Liberation Front – button and rode away on his bicycle.

  3. In the Kitchen With the Tombstone Blues
    A tape of Dylan made in St. Paul in 1960, then thought to be the earliest recording of him performing, surfaced in 1978. When fanzine writer Brian Stibal asked for a listen, the owner’s husband insisted on doing the dishes as they played it. As the husband suspected, the writer had hidden a tape recorder in his jacket. The subsequent bootleg became known as the “armpit tape” for its awful sound quality.

  4. One More Cup of Coffee
    Concert tapers have used many innovative methods to smuggle recording equipment into Dylan shows, with one obsessive who stuffed his gear inside a pillow, strapping it to his “pregnant” girlfriend’s belly. Another created a coffee thermos with a false bottom that would hide his video camera lens.

  5. Self-Portrait
    Dylan fanatic Robin Titus made her son a sweatshirt that read “Bob Dylan” on the front and “Won’t Let Go Can’t Let Go” (from his born-again song “Solid Rock”) on the back. The kid ended up wearing it in all his class pictures – she made bigger versions for him every few years.

  6. Throw Your Panties Overboard
    On one of the rare occasions when Dylan approached fans outside a venue, he bantered with a woman who claimed she’d brought red lacy underwear embroidered with the name Bob. The pleasantries ended abruptly when another female fan asked whether Dylan had been breast-fed as a boy.

  7. No Secrets to Conceal
    After confirming that chunks of Dylan’s memoir, Chronicles, were cribbed from other sources, Edward Cook told no one for a week. He wanted to feel like he had “a secret with Dylan.”

  8. You Cut Me Like a Jigsaw Puzzle
    Well-known fan and blogger Scott Warmuth, who decodes the sources of Dylan’s lyrics has studied puzzles, circus sideshows, magicians and cryptography to gain more insight. One description in Dylan’s memoir, Chronicles, was drawn from The 48 Laws of Power, Warmuth discovered: from a section called “The Science of Charlatanism, or How to Create a Cult in Five Easy Steps.”

  9. The Psychiatric Couch
    Fanzine editor Andy Muir spent his weekends in the office of his employer, British Telecom, photocopying 35,000 pages for his 750 subscribers. Running out of room for his vast collection of concert tapes, he hollowed out his couch for more storage space. It collapsed.

  10. Like a Complete Unknown
    One woman might have spoken for all Dylan freaks when she explained her lifelong dream to meet the man. “He and I have been through a lot together and he doesn’t know it,” she told the author. “I just think it’s not fair that it’s a one-way relationship.”

Related
The 10 Best Bob Dylan Bootlegs
Bob Dylan Releases Frank Sinatra Cover, Plans New Album
Quiz: Do You Know Your Dylan?

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/bob-dylans-10-craziest-fans-20140516#ixzz31zPUdfdd
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THE BEATLES ARRIVING IN AMERICA 1964

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Yesterday and Today

          Eric Francis Coppolino          •     2 days ago          •     4 Comments


    

THE BEATLES “I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND”

http://youtu.be/3MHkgwA8t-g

The following originally appeared on planetwaves.net.

When The Beatles landed at the newly named John F. Kennedy Airport on Feb. 7, 1964, it was just 78 days after one of the most profound collective griefs in decades, one that unlike many before it was amplified by the power of television. The young president had been struck down in broad daylight in an American city, sending the Western world into shock.

The Beatles did not merely arrive; they stepped into a gaping void, a psychic and emotional cavern that had been violently ripped open like the president’s skull. With JFK’s death, the nation had lost it’s father and was still reeling with disorientation. Even people who detested him cried. The loss is palpable till this day.

The death of the president also meant there was a vacuum of male presence and leadership. Then a group of young men in their early 20s had unwittingly stepped up to the task, though I am sure this was not recognized for what it was at the time.

We cannot say what would have happened with The Beatles had JFK lived, whether they would have had the same impact or been received so passionately. We only know what actually happened.

When you consider the morbid scenes from that prior November, the presidential motorcade passing through Dealey Plaza, the unshakable Walter Cronkite crying on the air, Jackie Kennedy with her dress stained in her dead husband’s blood, Lyndon Johnson being sworn in aboard Air Force 1, the ambulance taking the president’s body to the morgue, the funeral procession with its riderless horse — it seems like a different universe from the screaming girls and clever lads taking questions from the press.

People huddled around their televisions watching Kennedy’s casket go by morphed into families clinging to their TVs as screaming teenagers stampeded through airport corridors and Ed Sullivan introduced The Beatles that Sunday night.

Indeed it was a different universe. Sometime during those 78 days, the Sixties had begun. That contrast of a collective wound and something to fill the void, or some element of healing, set a pattern and would repeat many times in this era.

Though the Sixties aspect, the Uranus-Pluto conjunction, would not make its first exact contact until October 1965, encounters between these two slow-moving, world-changing planets have a long warmup during which the most notable effects can be felt in advance.

If you want to understand the influence of this aspect, consider that The Beatles went from “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to “I Am the Walrus” in a few short years.

The Sixties were a rough time in history. For many, it was an exciting time; for many others, painfully controversial, as many facets of the old order were stripped away and something else began to take their place. Many more people struggled to hold onto the familiar as everything seemed to change around them — not recognizing that the changes were within them as well.

The nascent Civil Rights movement, which had begun to make progress in the Fifties, had some successes and also came under ongoing violent attack, surveillance and infiltration.

At the same time, there were numerous artistic and technological breakthroughs, and many horrid political tragedies. It’s difficult to sum up an era that included the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr., the Vietnam War, the election of Richard Nixon, Woodstock, the Moon landing, protests on campuses across the nation and students murdered at Kent State.

From the Conjunction to the Square

Fifty years after The Beatles arrived, we are now at the next major meeting of Uranus and Pluto — the square. These two planets move so slowly that it’s taken them nearly half a century to go from their conjunction, the equivalent of the New Moon phase, to the square, the equivalent of their first quarter phase.

The first quarter is a major turning point in any planetary cycle, and also a time of structural change. It’s a time of re-evaluating events since the beginning of the cycle, though usually history moves so fast at the time of Uranus-Pluto events that you can have the feeling that there’s no time to think. What the Sixties and our era have in common is how easy it is to feel overwhelmed.

The square can have many properties similar to the conjunction, though of course it happens in a different historical context. The square also lasts longer. The conjunction had three exact contacts in 1965 and 1966. The square has seven exact contacts from spring 2012 through winter 2015. Both have a wide margin on either side.

We saw the early influence of the square with the Arab Spring movement, the public union protests in Wisconsin and then the global Occupy movement, all of which began and peaked in 2011. Those protests were suppressed by governments pretty effectively, and also by various chilling effect measures like discovering that the NSA is databasing everyone’s phone records, email and other communications.

Laws that define participation in the environmental movement as a form of terrorism are going to deter some people. So will mass arrests, pepper spray and the prospect of lifelong surveillance. It all adds up.

Though there are some similarities, I think there is one significant difference between the Sixties and today. In the Sixties, many people believed that change was possible, and moreover, that their personal actions could lead to progress — not merely to personal or corporate profit. There was widespread idealism in the air, despite the many terrible events that took place.

There was the sense that anything is possible. The craving for freedom first described in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road had become a sweeping social movement.

There was the feeling that if we don’t do something about this — that is, about whatever problem society is facing — nobody will. That value may not have saturated the culture, but there were plenty of people who felt that way, and they got a lot done. Out of the Uranus-Pluto conjunction era were born many movements that are still active today — anti-war, environmental, women’s liberation, gay rights, black power and others.

Today, cynicism has replaced idealism. The sensation that ‘we’re goin’ down’ has replaced ‘we can change the world’. I am aware that there are activists in our time working earnestly for change. What I object to is how little help they have, and how easy it is to dismiss their efforts as futile.

That so many people are overwhelmed is, I believe, the result of many factors. We know more than we did then — for example, about how serious the environmental situation is. What can anyone do, or think they can do, about a radioactive plume spilling out of a nuclear power plant in Japan, encompassing the north Pacific Ocean and spreading into all of its currents? What can we do about the tons and tons of plastic collecting in ocean gyres? Imagine trying to live without using plastic, no matter how much you want to.

What can we do about the rate at which fossil fuels are being extracted from the ground and injected into the atmosphere, trapping heat on the planet? What about all the methane being released from frozen reservoirs as the Arctic ice cap melts, doing far more damage than carbon?

How about politicians wasting time and resources trying to ban birth control and take away food stamps when the world is headed for a diversity of different brinks?

Every individual problem is overwhelming on its own, with 100 more like it right behind: GMO foods, the banks that get away with anything, billionaires by the million, chaos reigning in Iraq and Afghanistan and Syria and many, many other countries, an economy that is vacuuming wealth to the top faster than the Fed can print cash, people in massive debt from educations that are now worthless for getting a job, the cancer pandemic…and it goes on and on.

It’s amazing that anyone has the gumption to be able to confront the future at all, much less envision some great improvement that might happen. Many people are reduced to getting through the day. Many are reduced to doing whatever it takes to get by.

In this environment, you could describe cynicism as the more appropriate response than idealism, or hope, or faith. It’s hard to have faith when greed has gone from being a problem that some people had to the religion of the masses.

At the Uranus-Pluto conjunction, Bob Dylan came up to The Beatles’ hotel suite and encouraged them to do something relevant with their platform; to recognize that they could deliver a message. They listened. Dylan may have been the single biggest moral and artistic influence on The Beatles.

It was Dylan, the visionary, who warned of “guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children” before anyone outside of Rand Corporation, the White House or the Foreign Relations Committee had heard of the Vietnam War.

Now at the Uranus-Pluto square, we have Bob Dylan doing a Chrysler advertisement on the Super Bowl. No doubt he rationalizes it on the basis of American pride, the theme of the ad. Would that be the same patriotism that was drummed up to start the past 10 wars?

This one-time passionate advocate for blacks and the poor, who has decried slave labor in Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan working for 30 cents a day, personally encouraged tens of millions of Americans watching the ad to “let Asia assemble your phone” — because they do it out of pride in their work.

Ask people why Dylan did the ad and they will probably say “he needed the money,” as if that’s a good reason for someone who has put out 35 studio albums and a heap of boxed sets. He can only top this one by going onto FOX News and encouraging us all to support the bombing of Iran.

The Common Ground of Pisces

Besides top-shelf Uranus-Pluto aspects, the astrology of our era has something else in common with the Sixties, which is Chiron in Pisces. This placement is a profound spiritual longing, which has many potential answers.

It is interesting that throughout the entire Uranus conjunct Pluto era of the Sixties and the current Uranus square Pluto era, Chiron is simultaneously in Pisces. The astronomical synchronicity involves Chiron’s 50-year cycle and the nearly 50 years it’s taken Uranus and Pluto to go from conjunction to square (0 degree relationship to 90-degree relationship).

Pisces, particularly with such a strong influence as Chiron, can be activated as a vast common ground, where people can discover how much they have in common, how much they can share and how much they can accomplish together.

I consider Chiron in Pisces The Beatles factor of the Sixties — the loving and spiritual element without which there would have been very little grounding or sense of purpose. It was not just The Beatles, but they personified it effectively, in a way that millions of people could relate to.

This can be expressed as well as related to or identified with — for example as art, music, community, intimacy and sex — among a million other friendly activities.

Yet Chiron in Pisces can also evoke a mystical longing that can be answered in toxic ways as well. The mystical longing is usually evoked by suppressing healthy expressions of emotion, passion, desire and creativity. People need to be people, which means we need to be together, feel together, do tribal things together and have collective experiences. When that natural instinct is suppressed, it expresses itself in many toxic ways.

One of them is rallying around the flag — a poisonous abstraction of the tribe. Another is worshipping a charismatic leader, which Dr. Wilhelm Reich identified as one of the key ingredients of a fascist takeover. Get people so desperate for sex and closeness, they will flock to a dangerous substitute, one that can destroy a society or a culture.

In our era, we are seeing the corporate form of this. It seems that every last thing is sponsored by a multinational or “nonprofit” corporation. Capitalism and greed are revered with religious fervor, and violating them can get someone branded a heretic or infidel. This common ground is becoming so crowded by corporate culture, I am surprised there aren’t Nike ads in yoga studios.

Oh wait — there already are, on yoga mats, garments and bags. Next we will have advertisements telepathically broadcast into meditation.

What corporate authority can interfere with but not completely suppress is the authentic inner spiritual and creative calling. No matter how much the Merlins of advertising and branding and finance may strive to do so, they cannot entirely vanquish your humanity. That’s why they have to spend so much money trying to do so.

They can come close. You can be anesthetized into thinking you’re not who you are, for a while. You can be lured away from your humanity, conditioned what to think, distracted from your soul or consume alcohol and fast food until you’re semi-blotto — but you’re still human, because you possess the Inner Light, the inner connection to the same intelligence that orchestrates your DNA. You are, even if you forget. So you may as well remember.

Yes, remembering your humanity can be painful in such dehumanized times. One of the paradoxes of awakening is the encounter with how many other beings are struggling. As you improve your life, you have to figure out what to do with any potential guilt that you have it good and others do not.

If you pay attention, you will find some people who have their ideals intact. Be kind to them and keep them in your life. There is very little you can accomplish alone, though you are personally the starting point for everything that happens to you. You are the one thing that all your relations have in common.

Remember that, as the world seems to grow darker than we ever dreamed it could.

Lead image: The Beatles, moments after stepping off their Pan Am flight on Feb. 7, 1964: Library of Congress.