Revisit The Beatles’ impromptu Bob Dylan cover during ‘Let It Be’ sessions
On January 28th, 1969, as The Beatles were 17 days into the recording of their final album, John Lennon rolled into an impromptu cover of the band’s close friend Bob Dylan.
While Dylan and The Beatles have crossed paths countless times throughout their years in the music industry, official recordings of the musicians covering each other’s material remain elusive.
George Harrison, the guitarist who had grown close to Dylan at the time of recording Let It Be, had a recent jam session with the singer-songwriter fresh in his mind when Lennon began to sing ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’ which was recorded live from the band’s own Apple Studio.
The two artists have never been shy in sharing their adoration for one another, McCartney going as far to state that Dylan was “our idol” when reflecting on life in The Beatles. “I could feel myself climbing a spiral walkway as I was talking to Dylan,” McCartney added. “I felt like I was figuring it all out, the meaning of life.”
In response, remembering the heightened fame of rock music, Dylan said: “They were fantastic singers,” about The Beatles two leaders. “Lennon, to this day, it’s hard to find a better singer than Lennon was, or than McCartney was and still is.”
He added: “I mean I’m in awe of McCartney. He’s about the only one that I am in awe of. But I’m in awe of him. He can do it all and he’s never let up, you know. He’s got the gift for melody, he’s got the rhythm. He can play any instrument. He can scream and shout as good as anybody and he can sing the ballad as good as anybody, you know so… And his melodies are, you know, effortless. That’s what you have to be in awe… I’m in awe of him maybe just because he’s just so damn effortless. I mean I just wish he’d quit, you know. [laughs] Just everything and anything that comes out of his mouth is just framed in a melody, you know.”
Given their unique bond, the Beatles sessions for Let It Be—which were fraught with tension and ill-feeling as The Beatles were on the brink of a breakup—battled against each other’s flailing enthusiasm for the band as Lennon, Harrison, Starr and McCartney continued to grow further apart.
On the 17th day of recording, after abandoning the Twickenham Film Studios location at the request of Harrison, the band ran through a cover version of Duane Eddy’s song ‘Shazam’ before a creative and expansive tinkering with their song ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ which lasted 17 different takes.
After that, to lighten the mood, the band performed a brief blues take on Dylan’s track which is combined with some laughter from lead vocalist Lennon before it fizzles out with a simple comment: “God damn you little microphone.”