How Bob Dylan almost made an album with the Beatles and Rolling Stones…

Bob Dylan gazing into the flame and cigarette held by John Lennon // via Beatle.net

Bob Dylan gazing into the flame and cigarette held by John Lennon // via Beatle.net

Glyn Johns is a record producer and engineer harnessing a résumé to be the envy of any music industry hopeful. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Johns had an impact on albums by the Beatles (Let It Be, Abbey Road), The Who (Quadrophenia, Who’s Next), Led Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin), Neil Young (Harvest), the Clash (Combat Rock), Rolling Stones (Sticky Fingers, Let It Bleed) and countless others. Now he’s pushing out a memoir, “Sound Man” (available on November 13th), and the book contains a tremendous depth of insights to his 50-year career.

One of the emerging tales to crackle the fire of buyer interest comes from the summer of 1969. From the report by Rolling Stone, Johns was at a New York airport with the Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner, who had recently completed an interview with Bob Dylan. Johns and Dylan soon were face-to-face and got to complimenting each other’s work – Dylan asking Johns about his recent work with the Beatles and saluting his job shaping the Stones in-studio over the years, while Johns admitting they’d all be influenced by his work. Eventually, Dylan posed the opportunity of a lifetime, as Johns writes:

“He said he had this idea to make a record with the Beatles and the Stones. And he asked me if I would find out whether the others would be interested. I was completely bowled over. Can you imagine the three greatest influences on popular music in the previous decade making an album together?”

Johns was quick to the phones, but not all parties were on board with the concept:

“Keith and George thought it was fantastic. But they would since they were both huge Dylan fans. Ringo, Charlie and Bill were amicable to the idea as long as everyone else was interested. John didn’t say a flat no, but he wasn’t that interested. Paul and Mick both said absolutely not…. I had it all figured out. We would pool the best material from Mick and Keith, Paul and John, Bob and George, and then select the best rhythm section from the two bands to suit whichever songs we were cutting. Paul and Mick were probably, right, however I would have given anything to have given it a go.”

There’s a lot of could-have’s and what-if’s to this story, yet all of those classic rock fans out there have to wonder: could there have been any bigger supergroup than this? In retrospect, it’s probably best this project never came to fruition. If it had, all of those babyboomers out there would have likely imploded.

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