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Music

The Bob Dylan songs Paul McCartney would love to cover

@TylerGolsen

Paul McCartney doesn’t really do a lot of covers while performing live. The man has the deepest catalogue out of just about any artist in recorded history, so even a three-hour concert is going to have some songs left out. Why add someone else’s tune to the list when fans are still asking you to bust out ‘Magneto and Titanium Man’ like it’s still the Wings over America tour. 

In fact, the only cover material that he consistently plays, as of late, is a snippet of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Foxy Lady’, and that only lasts about a minute at the tail end of songs like ‘Let Me Roll It’. His version of John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace a Chance’ is technically a cover, but McCartney had a songwriting credit on that song for about 20 years, so he’s got a more than tangible connection to that number.

It’s strange: for a man whose Beatles live sets were riddled with old school rock and roll covers, McCartney rarely pays tribute to his influences during his modern-day live set. That’s not to say that McCartney isn’t itching to do so, as he revealed during a Q+A on his website back in 2016. When a query noted that Bob Dylan covered The Beatles’ ‘Things We Said Today’ on the compilation album The Art of McCartney, McCartney was asked what Dylan song he would reciprocate with if given the chance.

“That’s a very difficult question to answer,” McCartney answered. “As there are so many great songs. ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ comes to mind because it’s something you could cover. Singing Dylan songs can be difficult because something like ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, it’s so Dylan that it would be hard to get the spirit that he puts on it. ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ is another good one, you know. I’d put that on a list as well.”

Hearing McCartney take on all 47 verses of ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ would be quite a sight to behold. He could easily slot in ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ if he fires up some of The Beatles’ more twangy Rickenbacker cuts like ‘Eight Days A Week’ or ‘I’m Looking Through You’, channelling The Byrds version and killing two influential Byrds with one stone (sorry). 

During the Let It Be sessions, The Beatles tossed around an endless stream of song fragments to try and kick start their own malaise, and as a band full of Dylan admirers, they amicably jammed on a few Dylan tracks including ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’ and ‘I Shall Be Released’. Harrison had recently visited Dylan and The Band in Woodstock, hoping to replicate the communal creativity of their sessions with The Beatles.

That didn’t happen, but the group gave a few Dylan songs a proper try.