John Lennon is filmed with Bob Dylan

The Beatles were all fans of Bob Dylan, whom they had first met in August 1964. They met him again the following year, and once more on this day during his tour of the United Kingdom.

In 1965 Dylan divided audiences by moving from his folk roots and adopting electric instruments. On this tour he was backed by The Band, and on 26 and 27 May 1966 was scheduled to perform at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The occasion was a fractious one, with audience members jeering and protesting at his new direction.

Dylan invited The Beatles to his shows, and John Lennon and George Harrison attended the second Royal Albert Hall show. Furthermore, all four Beatles spent time with Dylan in London nightclubs and at his hotel.

Following his 26 May concert, Dylan visited Kenwood, Lennon’s home in Weybridge. The following day the pair were filmed being driven to the May Fair Hotel in Stratton Street, London, where Dylan was staying.

Present in the limousine was director DA Pennebaker, who had been hired to make a documentary on Dylan’s UK tour, and sound operator Bobby Neuwirth. The footage, titled Eat The Document, was later shelved after the US TV network ABC, which had funded the shoot, rejected a rough cut.

Two 10-minute film reels were filled during the journey to London. Lennon and Dylan were evidently recovering from the after effects of drug taking, and both wore sunglasses and smoked cigarettes. In the first reel the pair discussed contemporary musical acts, including the Mamas and the Papas, Barry McGuire, The Silkie and Johnny Cash.

At the beginning of the second reel Dylan is seen complaining of illness, and is pictured leaning forward with his head in his hands. He tells the driver, Tom Keylock, to hurry to the hotel as he may be sick. Pennebaker later revealed that he and Lennon had to help Dylan to his hotel room upon their arrival.

In the final cut of Eat The Document, only a few minutes of the footage was included. The film was screened at the New York Academy of Music on 8 February 1971, and again in 1998, but has rarely been seen since.

An alternative edit, titled You Know Something Is Happening, was made by Pennebaker for private use. This contained more footage of the limousine encounter, but also remains unreleased. Footage from the journey has long circulated among bootleg collectors, however.

Following the evening concert, Dylan, Paul McCartney, Neil Aspinall and The Rolling Stones all visited Dolly’s nightclub on Jermyn Street, London.

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4 responses on “John Lennon is filmed with Bob Dylan

  1. JustinR

    Do you know what drugs they’d been taking? I’ve seen the video, and it just looks like Dylan is hungover and John seems kinda embarrassed by Dylan’s ramblings. If John was drunk and/or high he hid it pretty well.

    1. Joe Post author

      In his 1970 Rolling Stone interview Lennon said they were both on junk (ie heroin), but I don’t think I believe that. There’s no other evidence to suggest Lennon was using heroin that early (I don’t know about Dylan’s habits); in 1980 Lennon also said he hadn’t seen the drug in 1967, when making Sgt Pepper.

      1. robert

        I’ve always felt that when John said “junk” he just meant a bunch of stupid stuff. It would be hard to believe that Lennon was doing heroin that early on.

  2. Whacko

    I’m sure I read an interview with director Richard Lester, who spoke about some beautiful girl trying to get Paul into heroin during the filming of Help!. He even described it as an “act of calculated cruelty.” Or something. Probably shouldn’t put that bits in quotes!

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