After I posted some comments about The Concert for Bangladesh a little earlier, I stumbled accidentally across this gem, which is in some ways better than anything from the actual film. It’s Bob Dylan and George Harrison singing “If Not For You” from the rehearsal for the show (the song didn’t make it actually into the live performances).
On the one hand, the video documents what Joan Baez and others had already proven – singing a duet with Dylan is tough, because his phrasing can be pretty variable. Indeed, it might be one of the reasons that this wasn’t done live – you don’t want to have two of the biggest stars on the planet sort of faltering through a song in front of 20,000 people.
On the other, I like this video because it seems to point to something simple – that two of the biggest stars on the planet can just be friends. Dylan and Harrison seemed to really understand each other. They performed each other’s songs, and they even will form a band together. It was always evident that of all The Beatles, George was the one that Dylan connected with most (Paul seemingly least). By all reports, they hung out a lot around this period, and you can see that a bit here.
Walking the dog tonight I re-listened to the recordings that Dylan and Harrison produced on May 1, 1970. Bjorner reports thirty-seven tracks were recorded on that day. I have twenty of those, but there were also multiple takes of “Sign on the Window” and “Time Passes Slowly” for New Morning, and probably some false starts.
It’s not a great bootleg because George doesn’t sing, except on “Your True Love” (the Carl Perkins song), which would be the primary appeal of hearing them record together. Harrison mostly just plays guitar and the two of them (and bassist Charlie Daniels and drummer Russ Kunkel) are just jamming (“Your True Love” ends with laughing and Dylan says “That’s an oldie”, as if he’s surprised to have remembered it, and they are just dredging things out of their minds). They cover a number of Dylan tunes, possibly at Harrison’s request (you can hear Dylan explain that he can’t remember the chords for “Please Crawl Out Your Window”), and one Beatles song (“Yesterday”, a song Dylan was definitely not born to sing). They even cover, lamely, “Da Doo Ron Ron Ron”.
The best thing to come out of the session, I guess, is “Working on a Guru”, a loopy Basement Tapes sounding piece that gently mocks Harrison’s connections to the Hare Krishnas. It was released on Another Self Portrait. It’s an inessential, but fun, tune.
The Dylan/Harrison sessions took place one month after The Beatles broke up, and before Harrison began working on All Things Must Pass. The visit apparently inspired Harrison’s “Behind That Locked Door”, his country-Hawaiian song that is read as a tribute to Dylan (who was seen to be hiding his talent by doing all of the covers that appeared on Self Portrait (and will soon appear on Dylan)). I have to say, I had never heard this theory before tonight. I always thought that song was just romantic mush (though with awesome steel guitar). Judge for yourself if Harrison is writing about Dylan: