All Things Must Pass album artwork – George HarrisonWritten by: Harrison
Recorded: May-October 1970
Producers: George Harrison, Phil Spector
Engineers: Ken Scott, Phil McDonald

Released: 30 November 1970 (UK), 27 November 1970 (US)

Available on:
All Things Must Pass
Early Takes: Volume 1

Personnel

George Harrison: vocals, guitar
Pete Drake: pedal steel guitar
Klaus Voormann: bass guitar
Gary Wright: piano
Billy Preston: organ
Alan White: drums

‘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].
George Harrison
Billboard

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.
George Harrison
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.

Phil Spector
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.