“Behind every beautiful thing, there’s been some kind of pain.”―Bob Dylan.
The relationship between The Beatles and Bob Dylan has always been one of admiration and respect, even if that admiration was felt more intensely on the Liverpudlian half of the relationship. However, that doesn’t mean that Bob Dylan, like any self-respecting artist of the day, hasn’t, on occasion, paid tribute to the Fab Four over the course of his extensive career.
Having first met in 1964, a time when Dylan reportedly got The Beatles stoned for the first time, the two creative forces were given a taste of each other’s styles, and, it would seem, they both liked it. While John Lennon and Paul McCartney were somewhat in awe of Dylan’s poetic and personal writing style, Dylan himself became impressed with the amount of fame and success the Liverpudlian group were enjoying using their unstoppable formula.
With 38 studio albums to his name, a collection that includes no fewer than 13 live albums, Dylan’s extensive back catalogue can be daunting for even the most avid fan. It is an accumulation of deeply poignant and trailblazing songs that would not only change the way we understand contemporary music today, but establish Dylan as one of the most important artists in the history of music.
Having released his debut self-titled album in 1962, Dylan has been nothing short of prolific in his ability to consistently churn out hit records which, in many ways, have defined folk, rock and roll and blues music like no other and continued to blur the genre lines: “The thing about rock’n’roll is that for me anyway, it wasn’t enough,” he once commented. “There were great catch-phrases and driving pulse rhythms… but the songs weren’t serious or didn’t reflect life in a realistic way. I knew that when I got into folk music, it was more of a serious type of thing.”
However, while Dylan set off on his pursuit to bring his new brand of folk-inspired rock and roll to the masses, he had inspired countless others to join him on a quest for sonic enlightenment. While his contemporaries such as Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix and others would take their own journey, it was four young hopefuls from Liverpool that would end up as the British ying to Dylan’s yang. “There’s one or two people who I would be quite nervous about,” former Beatle McCartney would once comment. “Bob Dylan would make me go, ‘Oh my God, what am I gonna say?’ I did see him, we did Coachella… I got to talk to Bob there and he was really nice. I don’t know why I would’ve been nervous, but you get that with some people.”
Even recently, while in the promo push for his recently released, Macca couldn’t hold back his adoration for Dylan, stating: “I always like what he does,” McCartney told Uncut. “Sometimes I wish I was a bit more like Bob. He’s legendary…and doesn’t give a shit! But I’m not like that.”
While Dylan would famously take aim at The Beatles during the height of their fame, occasionally suggesting that his style had been copied by Lennon, the now-legendary singer was also willing to let the mask slip every now and then, offering high praise to Lennon’s songwriting partner: “I’m in awe of McCartney,” Dylan once commented. “He’s about the only one that I am in awe of. He can do it all. And he’s never let up… He’s just so damn effortless.”
Adding: “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.”
Concluding: “They were fantastic singers. Lennon, to this day, it’s hard to find a better singer than Lennon was, or than McCartney was and still is.”
Speaking about The Beatles in a more general sense, Dylan once stated: “They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid. You could only do that with other musicians. Even if you’re playing your own chords you had to have other people playing with you. That was obvious. And it started me thinking about other people.
“But I just kept it to myself that I really dug them. Everybody else thought they were for the teenyboppers, that they were gonna pass right away. But it was obvious to me that they had staying power. I knew they were pointing the direction of where music had to go. I was not about to put up with other musicians, but in my head the Beatles were it. “