The relationship between The Beatles and Bob Dylan has always been one of admiration, even if that admiration was slightly stronger on the Liverpool half of the relationship. However, that doesn’t mean that Bob Dylan, like any self-respecting artist of the day, hasn’t, on occasion, paid tribute to the Fab Four over the course of his extensive career.
Having first met in 1964, a time when Dylan reportedly got The Beatles stoned for the first time, the two creative forces were given a taste of each other’s styles and, it would seem, they both liked it. While John Lennon and Paul McCartney were somewhat in awe of Dylan’s poetic and personal writing style, Dylan himself became impressed with the amount of fame and success the Liverpudlian group were enjoying using their unstoppable formula.
Some believe this first meeting between The Beatles and Dylan impacted the way Lennon and McCartney went about their songwriting; others believe this conversation played a massive role in Dylan’s decision to ditch the acoustic guitar and somewhat controversially move to electric. The reality is, likely, that both were correct. Dylan showed the songwriters the new way of personal pop while The Beatles proved what plugging in could do.
While Dylan has always spoken of his admiration for the songwriting ability of Lennon, McCartney and George Harrison, he rarely put his own spin on The Beatles tracks. That is until one night in 1990 at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton, Canada, when Dylan decided to perform 1965 Rubber Soul track ‘Nowhere Man’ live.
The track, written by Lennon, was birthed out of frustration while trying to complete the band’s sixth studio album: “I’d spent five hours that morning trying to write a song that was meaningful and good, and I finally gave up and lay down,” Lennon once said in an interview with Playboy. Adding: “Then ‘Nowhere Man’ came, words and music, the whole damn thing as I lay down.”
McCartney continued: “That was John after a night out, with dawn coming up. I think at that point, he was a bit…wondering where he was going, and to be truthful so was I. I was starting to worry about him.” The song has since become synonymous with both these two men as Lennon gets lost in the apparent immaculate conception of his song while Macca worries about his friend.
For now, though, let’s have a listen to what Dylan did with the song. The freewheelin’ troubadour has taken on many, many songs during his time but his affection for this one seems more authentic than we’ve heard before. It’s a great cover for two reasons, primarily. Firstly, it’s not a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
For one, the song isn’t exactly one of The Beatles most well-known songs and, given that in Dylan’s hands he could make ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ sound like he wrote it, chances are it would take a while for the crowd to catch on. Secondly, the song is a personal track that is meant, in our opinion, to be heard with headphones on in an introspective mood.
Dylan, however, proves us wrong and delivers a quite stunning cover of The Beatles song ‘Nowhere Man’. You can listen to that cover below.