George Harrison Called the Fans Who Walked out of a Bob Dylan Concert ‘Idiots’: ‘Who’s Laying Down the Rules?’

George Harrison and Bob Dylan were life-long friends who admired each others’ work. However, their relationship went deeper than that. George was often amazed by everything that Dylan did in his career and inspired him to follow his own direction and be the person he wanted to be. When they came together, they made unbelievably good music.

So, George didn’t like the Dylan fans who weren’t as open to everything Dylan decided to do.

George Harrison and Bob Dylan performing at the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971.
George Harrison and Bob Dylan | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

George Harrison and Bob Dylan had mutual respect for one another before they became friends

George and Dylan first admired each other as they treaded down their paths in the music industry.

In Here Comes The Sun: The Spiritual And Musical Journey Of George Harrison, Joshua M. Greene wrote that when George was a teenager, he first saw Dylan in Liverpool on a Granada television program about New York’s beat poets.

“While appearing in Paris in 1964, the Beatles picked up two of Bob Dylan’s albums at a radio station and were so mesmerized by his wise lyrics and simple chords that they played the albums constantly in their Hôtel George V suite,” Greene wrote.

The admiration was mutual. “Dylan drove cross-country from Denver to New York in 1963 with friend and photographer Barry Feinstein, playing the radio nonstop, and by mid-journey, it was clear to Dylan that the Beatles were ‘doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous and their harmonies made it all valid, but I kept it to myself that I really dug them,’ he told biographer Anthony Scaduto. 

“‘Everybody else thought they were for the teenyboppers, that they were going to pass right away, but it was obvious to me that they had staying power.'”

The Beatles finally met Dylan in August 1964. During the meeting, Dylan allegedly turned the band on to marijuana.

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George couldn’t believe the fans who walked out of an important Dylan concert

Over the years since their meeting, George attended many of Dylan’s concerts. He was amazed at everything the singer/songwriter did, whether it was folk, rock, or country. Other fans weren’t as open-minded.

George was present at Dylan’s performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall in May 1965, where Dylan walked on stage with an electric guitar.

Greene wrote that the move prompted boos from fans “who viewed the switch from acoustic as a betrayal of his folk purity.”

He continued, “George called those who walked out of the concert ‘idiots’ and argued ‘it was all still pure Dylan, and he has to find out his own directions. If he felt he wanted electrification, that’s the way he has to do it. Who’s laying down the rules?’

“Dylan had started his career with folk songs and protest music but by 1966 had moved away from pointing fingers at others and begun examining himself,” Greene continued. George was entering a period of self-examination around that time as well.

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The ‘Mr. Tamborine Man’ singer was a huge influence on the Beatle

George and his first wife, Pattie Boyd, stayed with Dylan and his family for Thanksgiving in 1968. During their stay, George said Dylan was cold toward him. He’d recently broken his neck in a motorcycle accident and had entered semi-retirement.

However, George got Dylan to open up after suggesting they write a song together. They wrote “I’d Have You Anytime.” Although Dylan was closed off during most of his visit, George recognized “how happy someone could be if they followed their own direction,” Greene wrote.

“If Dylan walked away at his moment of triumph to be his own man, why could George not do the same?  ‘Even his stuff which people loathe, I like,’ George said, ‘because every single thing he does represents something that’s him.”

George and Dylan remained friends for the rest of George’s life. They performed together and even became bandmates in The Traveling Wilburys. If fans want to understand the Beatle more, all they have to do is look at Dylan. Without him, George wouldn’t have been the person he became. He quoted his idol like Scripture.

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