A Dylan Beatles Stones Album In A Parallel Universe

Michael Gerber
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These proportions would’ve been pretty accurate I think

Eagle-eyed Dullblog commenter Hologram Sam writes us:

“In 1969, Bob Dylan had the idea to form the ultimate temporary supergroup. He wanted to record an album with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. He told his idea to Glyn Johns, who immediately started making phone calls. Long story short: George Harrison and Keith Richards were in favor of the project. Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger were not interested. John Lennon didn’t care either way.

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Dylan Beatles Stones!

Today’s thought experiment: Try to imagine a parallel universe where this album had been allowed to exist (if Paul, perhaps, was stunned into confused acquiescence by a blow to the head from one of Martha’s squeak toys, and if Mick had undergone ego-reduction surgery)… what would it sound like?

At this point, the Beatles and the Stones were past their Sgt. Pepper and Satanic Majesties phase. Dylan had progressed beyond his mid-60s sound & word paintings. Would this collaboration have been a celebration (or solemn observance) of their rock & roll, blues, country and folk roots? Would it have been a hot mess or a glorious rip in the space/time continuum?”

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  1. Avatar Rob Geurtsen wrote:

    My guess is that I don’t believe this for one bit without extra data and/or (circumstantial) evidence. Geoff that studio sound engineer was more than half wrong, and I tend to go along with Lewisohn and Kahneman that memory and human judgment are perfectly flawed and unreliable, and Paul and George may be and have been irritated by researcher that have become ‘besser-wisser’ about The Beatles, but these are plain wrong.

    If it would have been true, Dylan asked Johns, I respect the musical and marketing judgment by McCartney and Mick Jagger, it wouldn’t have worked musically, not anything like the Wilbury’s.

  2. Avatar King Kevin wrote:

    I find it very hard to imagine this project coming to fruition. Bob was probably just messing with Glyn’s mind.

  3. Michael Michael wrote:

    Oh man.

    Honestly, I can see Dylan working with the Stones (plus Billy Preston and Nicky Hopkins) around this time, but the Beatles? The Beatles were too idiosyncratically perfect to successfully collaborate with another artist, I think—especially one as idiosyncratic as Bob Dylan. George and Bob? That would have been cool to see in 1969, as George was peaking as a songwriter and Dylan was, apparently, having some trouble with writers’ block. But I think it’s Lennon, especially in the depths of heroin addiction, and McCartney, not Jagger, who wouldn’t have been able to put their egos aside and work with Bob.

    • Avatar Rob Geurtsen wrote:

      McCartney not, and Jagger yes? Well Glyn Johns suggest they both said no. And when we are discussing ego, just look at the androgyn Jagger on stage at the time, looking for an image, open to change?

  4. Chris Dingman Chris Dingman wrote:

    Trust me, it would be a mess. 🙂

  5. Avatar Joe wrote:

    On the other hand, Lennon played with Keith Richards at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus shindig — Yer Blues — and earlier Macca and Lennon had sung on the Stones’ We Love You, Mick had sung on a couple of Beatle tracks and Brian Jones had played sax on You Know My Name. As mentioned, George and Bob Dylan already had a musical rapport. So I could imagine a loose group of players from the Stones and the Beatles, one or two from one band, one or two from the other, backing Dylan. Think of those London session albums that threw together various British musicians to back the likes of Howlin’ Wolf. I can’t imagine Macca participating, I suppose, though he talks a bit now of wanting to work with Dylan. I don’t think it would’ve been such a mess. Loose perhaps, but not a mess.

    • Avatar Rob Geurtsen wrote:

      “On the other hand, Lennon played with Keith Richards at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus” – yeah right, get the dates straight, but even if it is so, Lennon was good in cooperating with pro-musicians but not in adding creativity to others… he was on his own track, not in dynamic creative coop.

      The Beatles and the Stones and some other musicians were close allies and watching each other while in the recording studio…

      The relation of George and Dylan? Again get the dates straights, and George was an artist in his own right when outside of The Beatles, within the confines of the band the relationship with Dylan would’ve been different – the suggestion of musical rapport between Dylan and Harrison is quite a stretch by imagination isn’t it?

      “Think of those London session albums that threw together various British musicians to back the likes of Howlin’ Wolf.”
      That is why it would never happen, I am sure neither John nor Paul would have participated as significant artists in a band like that. It would be foolish.

      And b.t.w. I don’t think McCartney is talking about a cooperation with Dylan for quite some time now, it has been the other way around since a few years ago.

      I think it was smart to not get into this web that could only negatively affect The Beatles image/status; musically they were far better than any of the others, including Bobby Zimmerman and selling way much more albums.

      • @Rob, please play nice. We’re all just blathering here.

        @Joe has the chronology right: Harrison and Dylan were already writing songs together (I’d Have You Anytime) by the time this supergroup was suggested, so in fact he already had established a significant “musical rapport” with Dylan.

        But my instinct is that you’re right about Lennon’s wanting to do his own thing, and only his own thing, by 1969; and his comments about Dylan have always struck me as a little insecure, besides. The guys Lennon seems to go out of his way to “put in their place” are Dylan and Mick. The idea he’d share the spotlight as equals with either man in 1969 is exceedingly remote. I mean, hell — he doesn’t even want to share the spotlight with McCartney, who is at least nominally on the same team.

        It’s an interesting thought experiment, but I suspect the finished product would’ve been more like A Toot and a Snore than Blonde On Blonde.

        • Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

          Something I had’t thought of: Lennon surely would have insisted Yoko contribute. Would a meeting of Dylan and Yoko be the ultimate mind game thunderdome?
          I imagine them circling each other warily like housecats.

  6. Avatar Stew wrote:

    It would have been Let it Bleed.

  7. Avatar Joe wrote:

    Rob, I wasn’t thinking much about chronology, just typing things off the top of my head. You’re right, probably, about Lennon not being the type to contribute to other musicians’ work. I wasn’t thinking of this thought experiment as whether it would have happened so much as to how it could have happened, and that’s why I thought a loose aggregation of Stones and Beatles personnel backing Dylan would’ve been the way to go if at least some of the parties seemed amenable. Yeah, I can imagine Ringo, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts involved (they all played on the aforementioned Howlin’ Wolf session) and perhaps George and Keith Richards. But if they had done it and it had sounded like ‘A Toot and a Snore’, I would certainly have wanted my money back.

    • Avatar Rob Geurtsen wrote:

      @Michael and @ Joe sorry maybe to harsh or direct criticism on the time-line. Did not want to be offending. Yet I think the suggestion that Dylan and Harrison already had of musical rapport is way too much speculation and was not supported by facts.
      Let me try again…
      Dylan was creatively dead after ‘John Wesley Harding’. On Wikipedia you can find the reconstruction of composing that brilliantly memorable opening of the album ‘All Things Must Pass’ “I ‘d Have You Anytime” on Wikipedia, confirms that Harrison was the better and stronger musician/composer than Dylan. Like I wrote before, I guess this was a good thing for Harrison as he, not for the first time, found inspiration and strength outside the confinement of The Beatles. The “musical rapport” that is suggested remains unproven, maybe it’s my flawed understanding of the concept “musical rapport”, which suggests some equality. The convincing (sources are presented) reconstruction of “I’d Have You Anytime” in Wikipedia shows there wasn’t much equality. Late 1968 and in 1969 Dylan was looking for a way out, most likely he thought that playing, and maybe even composing, with The Beatles and the Stones he could outgrow and escape his creative depression by joining creative bands that were equal or bigger than him.
      By the way, at the time Harrison’s love songs were an important inspiration for me, a fourteen year old kid, living in Holland longing for a younger mountain girl, living way south in the Alps. “I’d Have You Anytime” was one of the first songs I learned to play and sing, playing with others both in that mountain village, in the valley below the mountain-farm where she lived or in the attic at home with my neighbor.
      The origins of another joint composition, “If Not For You”, is in the dark for me, the first mention of it is May 1st 1970 – as far as I know. So much about the discussion of the timeline.
      @Joe I like your suggestion about Ringo, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts being able to support Dylan, and I would add George. Just get to play, to jam – not In the Twickenham Studios, but maybe the studio-space in the Apple building on Savile Row – that makes sense and would be a fascinating experiment. However that band lacks keyboards and rhythm guitar. There are other restrictive arguments:
      1) most important, Dylan, being in a creative depression, probably would have been unable to jam long enough with these accomplished musicians to wait for a inspiring sound to emerge.
      2) also consider Ringo’s tambourine playing at ‘The concert for Bangla Desh’ was uninspiring, and I have tried to copy it and play along quite often, it was and is utterly uninspiring.
      3) I am not so sure whether any of the Stones’ and Beatles’ musicians, besides McCartney and Harrison (dunno whether Mick Taylor was already aboard), were able to support the voice and lyrics, the songs of Dylan. The synergy and contribution In the original bands was very different from what would have been required to get Dylan or his songs going.
      Another thought about Lennon and McCartney’s capability to cooperate with other musicians and composers.
      Looking back on John’s creative life we can see he has proven himself hardly capable of cooperation with other composers, whether it was songsmiths like Paul or folks outside the box like even Yoko. We have to wait until the long not so lost weekend, to see how in the company of David Bowie (‘Fame’), Harry Nilsson (Pussy Cats) and Elton John (Whatever Gets You Thru the Night) Lennon gets to write nice licks and songs or arrangements, and of course the opportunity to go to New Orleans to meet up with Paul McCartney to join creative forces, which Yoko seem to have prevented. And of course other have mentioned here that John would’ve wanted Yoko being involved… ha ha ha I love her music but please it is not complementary (Is that the right word?) to Dylan’s art, then nor now, and not to forget his disgusting anti-woman attitude. Paul McCartney, at least during his life so far, showed a respectable ability to co-create songs and music with other artists, not just Elvis Costello, his creative output accomplished in cooperation with others is a lot larger and more advanced and more likeable than John’s, but okay he lives a lot longer.

      • “By the way, at the time Harrison’s love songs were an important inspiration for me, a fourteen year old kid, living in Holland longing for a younger mountain girl, living way south in the Alps. “I’d Have You Anytime” was one of the first songs I learned to play and sing, playing with others both in that mountain village, in the valley below the mountain-farm where she lived or in the attic at home with my neighbor.”

        This is lovely to think of, @Rob. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

    My short take on this prospect is “too many chefs, not enough kitchen.” The odds of its turning out to be an artistically worthwhile endeavor seem to me minimal.

    And Sam, you should write up that possible meeting between Dylan and Yoko and sell it as a screenplay!

  9. Chris Dingman Chris Dingman wrote:

    There’s a reason why bands have 4 or 5 members and not 10, 3 of whom are drummers. What might be amazing is if they could have camped in Abby Road Studios for a month and just gone in every day and noodle and let the pairings and groupings evolve wherever the energy was. Each songwriter could bring in half-done song ideas or little riffs and see who else got interested.

    Speaking of egos, yes, McCartney liked to control or perfect his own songs but he was also the ultimate sideman. Jagger, on the other hand, if Keith’s account (and another biography of Mick I read) can be believed, was prone to “lead singer syndrome,” (I think that’s what Keith called it) and seemed to need the attention on him. Seems like he would be the least amenable. Dylan was so idiosyncratic and obtuse, it would have been hit or miss for him, though something tells me it would be a miss. All the others would have been able to contribute to whatever was happening, I think…

  10. Chris Dingman Chris Dingman wrote:

    Sorry: TWO of which are drummers (though maybe I was subconsciously counting Paul…)

  11. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    Here’s Bob singing “Things We Said Today”

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