Bob Dylan and George Harrison first met in 1964 while both were at the height of their popularity. The Beatles had played a concert at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens, New York, one night in late August. After the show, The Beatles set off to the other side of town, where they met their hero, Bob Dylan.
At the time, Dylan was still gliding on cloud nine following the release of his seminal album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan the year before and The Times They Are a-Changin earlier in 1964. Dylan’s launch to stardom as a prominent protest singer had already captured the souls of a generation earning him a messiah-like status.
Allegedly, this first meeting of legends was made all the more historic as Bob Dylan introduced The Beatles to the wonders of cannabis. Dylan got the Fab Four so stoned that Paul McCartney thought that he had figured out the meaning of life. Meanwhile, Ringo Starr was seemingly unaware of the conventional joint sharing policy and held onto the joint instead of passing it along. Dylan’s road manager Victor Maymudes, realising that he was dealing with amateurs, rolled a joint for each band member. Starr shared the story’s inevitable conclusion with late-night TV host Conan O’Brien in 2012, saying: “We got high and laughed our asses off”.
Over the years, The Beatles and Dylan would remain close as friends and inspirational competitors. Following the split of The Beatles in 1970, It appeared that Dylan remained particularly close with Harrison. The pair spent a lot of time together in the studio to work on their new material. Dylan was working on his album New Morning at the time and Harrison was working on All Things Must Pass. Dylan co-wrote the song ‘I’d Have You Any Time’ with Harrison and allowed him to record a cover of his song ‘If Not For You’, both appearing on All Things Must Pass.
Over the next two decades, they remained close, and by 1988 they had formed the supergroup Travelling Wilburys with Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty. During the Travelling Wilburys recording sessions, George’s son Dhani and Bob’s son Jakob became close while they waited for their fathers to finish work in the studio.
As Dhani once recalled, “I hung out with my parents. I was always trying to be with the big kids, and the big kids at my house were like [ELO frontman] Jeff Lynne,” Dhani said. “You’d come home and it was like, ‘Bob Dylan’s here.’ It’s hard to get a bit of perspective on, like, ‘How did your school test go today?’”
Dhani continued, talking about his dad’s home studio, “I grew up in that studio,” he said. “As a kid, I remember sneaking in, seeing how far I could get in before anyone saw me. You’d smell cigarette smoke and I’d be thinking: ‘I’m not supposed to be here.’”
“You might catch Roy Orbison singing ‘Not Alone Anymore’ or Carl Perkins or Duane Eddy doing an instrumental. It was mind-bending. It offers you a different perspective on life to have these people around the house. It made going to school easier because you wouldn’t take yourself so seriously.”
As well as growing up in a house full of rock legends, Dhani also got to hang out with the children of all his dad’s friends. So, while he was an only child, he always had the likes of Jakob Dylan, Sean Lennon and Stella McCartney to hang out with.
While Travelling Wilburys were recording their second album, Dhani and Jakob would become the first ears to behold the new music. But as Dhani recalls, at the time, he and Jakob were more interested in playing Duck Hunt on his Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) gaming console.
Listen to the Travelling Wilburys classic ‘Wilbury Twist’, recorded while Dhani and Jakob played video games, below.