This is the song by The Beatles that Bob Dylan thought ripped him off
‘Norwegian Wood’ is one of the more beautiful numbers by The Beatles, which is some achievement considering their back catalogue. But one man who certainly isn’t a fan of the 1965 track is Bob Dylan who believes the song was The Beatles’ attempts at trying to copy his distinct style.
The track, of course, featured on 1965’s Rubber Soulas a gorgeous acoustic number ala Dylan and it marked the first time that George Harrison would debut his soon-to-be trademark sitar on a Beatles track as his love of Indian music added another dynamic layer to The Fab Four’s sound.
Dylan was angered to see mainstream pop acts such as The Beatles and Sonny & Cher gain global attention that he could only dream of. He felt like their sound was directly copying him but without the singer seeing his own benefits. The latter’s ‘I Got You Babe’, Dylan believed to be a rip-off of his ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ – then when he heard Rubber Soul, the pioneering artist was not best pleased to put it politely.
Rather than take this as a compliment that he was clearly doing something right, he was instead fuming that the Fab Four were apparently using his trademark style. So much so that he clearly felt Lennon especially was trying to steal the gimmick that he invented. In reference to Rubber Soul, Dylan said: “What is this? It’s me, Bob. [John’s] doing me! Even Sonny & Cher are doing me, but, f’cking hell, I invented it.”
One track from Rubber Soul that especially rubbed him up the wrong way was ‘Norwegian Wood’, in which he ended up hilariously parodying on ‘4th Time Around’. The Dylan track ends with the lovely swipe at Lennon: “I never asked for your crutch / Now don’t ask for mine”.
Lennon sat on the fence when he was asked about his opinion on the track by Rolling Stone in 1968 as he avoided further confrontation, Lennon stated: “I didn’t like it…I was very paranoid. I just didn’t like what I felt I was feeling – I thought it was an out-and-out skit, you know, but it wasn’t. It was great.”
Bob famously first met The Beatles in August 1964, as they partied in his hotel room after a show at New York’s Forest Hills Stadium when the troubadour would introduce The Fab Four to cannabis for the very first time. This was a habit that the Merseysiders had well and truly got into when it came to recording Rubber Soul which Lennon labelled their “pot album” so Dylan influenced them sonically as well as recreationally for the record.
It would all be water under the bridge in the years that would follow with Dylan ending up being a convert to at least one member of The Beatles. He would form The Travelling Wilbury’s with George Harrison who became a close friend of his and someone he clearly thought more of than Harrison’s former bandmate John Lennon.
“George got stuck with being the Beatle that had to fight to get songs on records because of Lennon and McCartney,” Dylan once said of Harrison. “Well, who wouldn’t get stuck?” He added: “If George had had his own group and was writing his own songs back then, he’d have been probably just as big as anybody.”
Listen to the beautifully bitter ‘4th Time Around’ and the Dylan inspired ‘Norwegian Wood’ below.