George Harrison loved Bob Dylan from the moment he first saw him
From the moment George first saw Dylan, he loved him.
In Here Comes The Sun: The Spiritual And Musical Journey Of George Harrison, Joshua M. Greene wrote that as a teenager, George first saw Dylan in Liverpool on a Granada television program about New York’s beat poets.
“While appearing in Paris in 1964, the Beatles picked up two of Bob Dylan’s albums at a radio station and were so mesmerized by his wise lyrics and simple chords that they played the albums constantly in their Hôtel George V suite,” Greene wrote.
The admiration was mutual. It was clear to Dylan that The Beatles were “doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous and their harmonies made it all valid, but I kept it to myself that I really dug them,” he told biographer Anthony Scaduto.
“‘Everybody else thought they were for the teenyboppers, that they were going to pass right away, but it was obvious to me that they had staying power.’”
The Beatles finally met Dylan in August 1964. During the meeting, Dylan allegedly turned the band on to marijuana. George became a huge fan of Dylan. Unlike others, he was amazed at everything the singer/songwriter did, whether it was folk, rock, or country.
George attended Dylan’s performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall in May 1965. Dylan walked on stage with an electric guitar, which prompted boos from fans.
Greene continued, “George called those who walked out of the concert ‘idiots’ and argued ‘it was all still pure Dylan, and he has to find out his own directions. If he felt he wanted electrification, that’s the way he has to do it. Who’s laying down the rules?’
George didn’t want to imagine a world without Dylan
The former Beatle loved Dylan for his individualism. People only ever saw George as a Beatle, and he desperately wanted out. Dylan got to do whatever he wanted, and it was meaningful, intelligent, and inspiring. That’s everything George aspired to be.
In It’s Not Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, George’s former sister-in-law, Dr. Jenny Boyd, wrote, “George Harrison agreed that musicians, with insights drawn from their own experiences, can help those who listen to their music. But he also cautioned, ‘You have to be very careful, I suppose. In one way, we all have a duty to help each other, to help ourselves and then help each other in whatever way, whether it’s just to get through the day.
“I think it’s important to share experiences. For instance, if Dylan hadn’t said some of the things he did, nobody else was going to say them. Can you imagine what a world it would be if we didn’t have a Bob Dylan? It would be awful.
“There’s that side of it. But then there’s the other side, where you can start mistaking your own importance. I think I’ve been in both of those [positions] at various times. You suddenly think you’re more groovy than you are and then usually something happens to slap you down a bit, so it all has to be tempered with discretion.”
The former Beatle was thankful for Bob Dylan
George continued to be amazed by everything that Dylan did, good or bad, in and out of the recording studio.
“Dylan’s influence was incredible,” Barry Feinstein, a friend of both George and Dylan, told Greene. “You couldn’t be with Dylan and not be influenced, not think about everything that you’ve done and see it simply as bulls*** by comparison. I was with Dylan at a party when he said to Mick Jagger, ‘Are you serious about
what you write and play and sing? You can’t be serious about your music.’ Mick said, ‘Of course I am.’ ‘No, man,’ Bob said. ‘That kind of music’s not serious.’ That gave me a handle on what happened to George.
“People who knew Bob would get this feeling, ‘Take everything I’ve done and throw it out and let me start over again. This is where it’s at. Let me see if I can get on the same trip.’ One thing that was really important for Dylan was that he believed once you’ve done something, you don’t go back to fix it. Move on. That was an important lesson for George.
“If you write a song or take a picture, then later you don’t think it was that good—leave it, let it go, and get on with the next thing. That’s what made Dylan great, and that’s what Bob’s influence was on George.”
In 1989, George told Mark Rowland that he was thankful for Dylan. “I think being out there, whether you like him or not, he’s Bob, and I’m thankful that there’s people like that.”
Later, George and Dylan got to be roommates in The Traveling Wilburys, which was George’s dream. It’s worth wondering whether George would’ve carried on in music after The Beatles if Bob Dylan wasn’t around.