‘He really couldn’t play’: Elliott Landy remembers hypnotizing night for the Band’s Robbie Robertson

Photographer Elliott Landy followed the Band in its early days, both through signature moments like the album-cover shoot for their sophomore self-titled album and in smaller moments away from the spotlight.

That included a scary evening, featured in a forthcoming fine-art book of Landy’s prints, when guitarist Robbie Robertson was stuck in his hotel room with a sudden illness, seemingly unable to go on stage at the Fillmore West in San Francisco where the Band was set to make its official debut.

“He had the flu, or something like that, and was really wobbly,” Landy remembers. “He really couldn’t play.” Nothing seemed to be working and, as showtime grew near, worry turned to desperation — and a hypnotist was brought in.

“You’ll see pictures of that,” Landy says. “I have a great picture of Bill Graham standing outside the motel window, where Robbie was being hypnotized and listening in.”

Many of these shots have never been seen, having been locked away in Landy’s files. Fans interested in exploring these rare and stirring images can find out more via Landy’s Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication. Deadline for donations is January 28, 2014.

“The hypnotist did help him get over it,” Landy adds. “He said: ‘Everytime I snap my fingers, you’ll feel better,’ and it worked. … Robbie says there was this cacophony of sound on stage, with all of the instruments and amplifiers — and yet, everytime the hypnotist snapped his fingers — he heard it.”

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