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Music

The classic song that George Harrison and Bob Dylan wrote together

It is well known that The Beatles were tremendous admirers of Bob Dylan and that his work was a considerable influence on their creative output. Luckily, for guitarist George Harrison, he became a close friend of Dylan’s, and it would be a fruitful one. The relationship gave us the supergroup The Travelling Wilburys, a collection that also starred the likes of Tom Petty and Roy Orbison. 

However, it also transpires that the pair wrote a song together long before The Travelling Wilburys, and it is an effort that has long been a fan favourite of George Harrison admirers but is less well-known in the mainstream — I think it’s high time that changed. 

The story goes that after Dylan’s near-fatal motorcycle accident in 1968, the Minnesota native moved to Woodstock in upstate New York. Here, he wrote an endless stream of music, and some of the songs created during this period became the classic album, The Basement Tapes, which Dylan recorded with The Band in their famous cabin, Big Pink. 

However, during this duration of downtime, Dylan also teamed up with his old friend George Harrison to write ‘I’d Have You Anytime’ on November 20th, 1968, four years after they’d first met. The song ultimately became the opening track of George’s third solo album, 1970’s All Things Must Pass, which perfectly set the tone for the rest of the record and was hailed as a classic as soon as it was released.  

In a 1977 interview with Crawdaddy magazine, Harrison recalled his time with Dylan and went into detail about the song’s origins and how he viewed the track retrospectively. He explained that he felt the song represented something departure from the rest of the songs on All Things Must Pass, as it wasn’t written within the confines of The Beatles during their fraught last chapter but in a completely different and relaxed environment with Dylan. 

Asked if the timeless ‘My Sweet Lord’ was his favourite song on the album, Harrison responded: “No, not particularly. I liked different songs for different reasons. I liked the first song that was on the album, ‘I’d Have You Anytime,’ and particularly the recording of it, because Derek and the Dominoes played on most of the tracks and it was a really nice experience making that album– because I was really a bit paranoid, musically.” 

He explained: “Having this whole thing with The Beatles had left me really paranoid. I remember having those people in the studio and thinking, ‘God, these songs are so fruity! I can’t think of which song to do.’ Slowly I realised, ‘We can do this one,’ and I’d play it to them and they’d say, ‘Wow, yeah! Great song!’ And I’d say, ‘Really? Do you really like it?’ I realised that it was okay… that they were sick of playing all that other stuff. It’s great to have a tune, and I liked that song, ‘I’d Have You Anytime’ because of Bob Dylan. I was with Bob, and he’d gone through his broken neck period and was being very quiet, and he didn’t have much confidence anyhow– that’s the feeling I got with him in Woodstock. He hardly said a word for a couple of days.”

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The former Beatles man recalled: “Anyway, we finally got the guitars out and it loosened things up a bit. It was really a nice time with all his kids around, and we were just playing. It was near Thanksgiving. He sang me that song and he was, like, very nervous and shy and he said, ‘What do you think about this song?’ And I’d felt very strongly about Bob when I’d been in India years before– the only record I took with me along with all my Indian records was Blonde On Blonde. I felt somehow very close to him or something, you know, because he was so great, so heavy and so observant about everything. And yet, to find him later very nervous and with no confidence.” 

The pair quickly found their creative footing, and it was Dylan who came up with the song’s bridge: “So I was thinking that there is a way out of it all, really, in the end. He sang for me, ‘Love is all you need / Makes the world go round / Love and only love can’t be denied / No matter what you think about it/You’re not going to be able to live without it / Take a tip from one who’s tried.'” 

The gregarious Harrison remembered: “And I thought, isn’t it great, because I know people are going to think, ‘Shit, what’s Dylan doing?’ But as far as I was concerned, it was great for him to realise his own peace, and it meant something. You know, he’d always been so hard… I thought a lot of people are not going to like this, but I think it’s fantastic because Bob has obviously had the experience.” 

The pair found their rhythm, and they helped each other return to form. Harrison said to Dylan, “You write incredible lyrics”, and Dylan responded with, “How do you write those tunes?”. The pair discussed “weird” chords, and after experimenting with a G major 7th, they came up with the song, which Harrison described as “really nice”. 

Wanting to bring the song to life sufficiently, Harrison invited his other good friend and guitar hero, Eric Clapton, to play on the song, as they’d already struck gold with ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ on 1969’s Abbey Road

In 2001, Harrison was asked by Billboard if it was a difficult decision in choosing ‘I’d Have You Anytime’ as the album opener. He reflected: “It probably was, because it goes, ‘Let me in here…’ [Laughs]. It just seemed like a good thing to do; it was a nice track, I liked that. And maybe subconsciously, I needed a bit of support. I had Eric [Clapton] playing the solo, and Bob had helped write it, so it could have been something to do with that.”

A stellar song featuring three of the all-time greats, ‘I’d Have You Anytime’ is one of the era’s best songs, and more people need to hear it. I’d even argue that it’s a better song than ‘My Sweet Lord’, as those minor 7th chords are hard to beat. 

Listen to ‘I’d Have You Anytime’ below.