The 1970 Bob Dylan/George Harrison sessions have circulated in bootleg form for decades, but they were finally released on Sunday as an extremely limited-edition package created solely to preserve the music’s copyright in Europe. The set was available for about four seconds via the website of the U.K. retailer Badlands. For the 99.999 percent of Dylan fans who didn’t manage to snag one, prepare to either shell out about $1,000 on the resale market or dive into the legal grey area of file sharing.
The recording sessions took place May 1st, 1970, in New York City, just weeks after the world learned that the Beatles had broken up. The date was technically the start of Dylan’s sessions for New Morning, but much of the day was devoted to impromptu jams on Dylan oldies, plus tunes by the Everly Brothers, Carl Perkins, and Sam Cooke, along with a single Beatles song, “Yesterday.”
Early in the day, Dylan taught George Harrison “If Not for You” and they ran through it five times. Dylan didn’t use any of those takes on New Morning, but Harrison started working on All Things Must Pass just days later and “If Not for You” was still on his mind. He cut a new version with Gary “Dream Weaver” Wright on piano, Billy Preston on organ, Klaus Voormann on bass, future Yes member Alan White on drums, and Ringo Starr on tambourine.
One year later, a reluctant Dylan was coaxed onto the Madison Square Garden stage by Harrison as part of the Concert for Bangladesh. “If Not for You” didn’t make Dylan’s set at the afternoon or evening shows, but he did run through it with Harrison at rehearsals earlier in the day while cameras rolled. Check out the video right here.
Dylan wouldn’t sing “If Not for You” in public until an April 1992 stop of his Never Ending Tour in Sydney, Australia. Harrison returned to Madison Square Garden that October for a very rare live appearance at the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Celebration. He sang “If Not for You” that night for the first time since the Concert for Bangladesh rehearsals 21 years earlier. It was also the last significant live appearance of his life.