‘Behind That Locked Door’ was a country-tinged song which appeared on side two of George Harrison’s album All Things Must Pass.
The song was written in August 1969, and inspired by Harrison’s friendship with Bob Dylan. It was intended as a message of encouragement to Dylan, who was about to make a highly-anticipated return to live performing.
I think that was very much influenced by Bob’s Nashville Skyline period. I actually wrote that the night before the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 [sic].
Harrison gave Dylan a Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar shortly before the Isle of Wight performance, and watched Dylan perform from the VIP enclosure. ‘Behind That Locked Door’ continues the theme of friendship and openness previously touched upon in their collaboration ‘I’d Have You Anytime’.
Dylan was apprehensive about returning to live performing, and Harrison’s words in ‘Behind That Locked Door’ urged him to leave behind self-doubt and reveal his talents once again to the world:
The love you are blessed with
This world’s waiting for
So let out your heart, please, please
From behind that locked door
The song appeared on All Things Must Pass directly after Dylan’s own ‘If Not For You’. Both songs marked a break from the Phil Spector ‘Wall of Sound’ production which smothered much of the rest of the album, and provided a moment of simple musicality with a basic line-up of acoustic guitars, keyboards and drums.
The recording prominently features pedal steel guitar virtuoso Pete Drake, who had previously appeared on Dylan’s Nashville Skyline album. Harrison later described Drake’s work as “the bagpipes of country and western music”.
‘Behind That Locked Door’ was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in the early summer of 1970, shortly after he Harrison performed on a session for Dylan’s New Morning album in New York.
Harrison recorded all three acoustic guitar parts, as well as the backing vocals, which were credited on the album to the “George O’Hara-Smith Singers”.
It was a good excuse to do a country tune with pedal steel guitar.
I Me Mine
Phil Spector left the All Things Must Pass sessions in June 1970 for health reasons, and recuperated in Los Angeles. Harrison continued working in England without him, recording backing tracks and overdubs and overseeing preliminary mixes.
Harrison sent these mixes to Spector, who wrote a letter outlining his thoughts on the album’s progress.
BEHIND THAT LOCKED DOOR:
Maybe the vocal performance can be better. I’m not sure. Also, the mix may be able to be better as well. The voice seems a little down.
19 August 1970
An early recording of ‘Behind That Locked Door’, featuring just Harrison’s vocals, two acoustic guitars and pedal steel, featured on the deluxe edition of Martin Scorsese’s Living In The Material World documentary CD/DVD. It subsequently appeared on the 2012 collection Early Takes Volume 1.
Pete Drake recorded cover versions of ‘Behind That Locked Door’, ‘Isn’t It A Pity’, and ‘Something’, which were released nine years after Drake’s death in 1988, on an eponymously-titled album.
One of the most simple tunes on All Things Must Pass, yet one of the best. The melodic motive is perfectly matched to the lyrics, and few artists outside folk/contry music could have created a song so perfectly suited to the style, and yet so original ; one could imagine that if it were by Willie Nelson it would have been one of his most beautiful songs.