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Oh Wolfgang, you’ve done it again: Knock, knock knockin’ on the Dragon’s Door with Bob & Neil



I’ve been savouring and saving this concert for the right moment to listen to it. Today, a beautiful and sunny Friday morning, is the right moment. I pulled this gig off of my beloved trove of live treasure that is Wolfgang’s Vault. Wolfgang’s Vault is the place to be if you weren’t actually there (somewhere a @Dopeburger is smiling). 

It is both ridiculous and remarkable as to how much great live…classic live…material they have on the site for both streaming and downloading. It is the Library of Congress of hip live recordings. Please check them out if you have not. 

The concert in question is a 1975 Bay Area benefit show called S.N.A.C.K. (Students Need Athletics Culture and Kicks). This show has “Legend” status for one key reason: the Bob Dylan / Neil Young paring. If those students needed their kicks, they got ’em that day. 

Neil and two of the Stray Gators (Ben Keith R.I.P and Tim Drummond) teamed up with Bob and the Band for a ramshackle rumbling through a selections of stellar songs. We get some Band songs, we get a handful of Neil songs, Bob songs, a couple cover songs and then we get a crazy off–the-cuff concoction of classic and combustion: “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”.

This was no ordinary version of “Knockin'”. No, this was a spur of the moment, wing-it, striking sparks sing-a-long. First of all, they don’t just start the song, they conjure it up off of the back end of Neil’s “Helpless”. Yeah…Helpless right into Knocking on Heaven’s door. Whew. 

These two songs tower above in the respective collections of hits, misfires and experimental musings from these two champions. This is a Haley’s Comet union. It is unique that these songs show up in a setlist segue; it is even more impossible that they are performed live, together, by their masters. The playing is not perfect, but would you want it to be? No, you want surprise and shock and awe and a “moment”. Well folks, you get that and more.

The craziest thing about this pairing is the version of “Kockin'”. Bob goes all William Burroughs on us with a completely new set of obscure and indecipherable lyrics. Well, not all of the new lyrics are indecipherable…we know that they don’t knock on heaven’s door, rather they are knock, knock, knockin’ on the Dragon’s Door. WTF? Who/what is the dragon? Where is it’s door? Are they singing about Richard Manuel?

Yeah, it’s a version drenched in mixed-ip confusion…and I like it.  You will, too. Here is what Senior Wolf had to say about it:

The highlight of the set comes next, when the band plays together on Young’s classic ballad “Helpless.” On this number the loose circumstances actually work in the song’s favor and it sounds quite good with these musicians. As “Helpless” is coming to a close, the group continues playing, and the song flows very naturally into Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” – an inspired pairing. It’s a unique version lyrically as well, as Dylan improvises lyrics and changes the chorus to “Knockin On The Dragon’s Door,” a change that’s significance is open to speculation.

Hot damn. Cool shit. Speculation…ah, the joy of Rock and Roll speculation. Makes you want to pop the top off a cold one, drop the cans over your ears and slip on into the slipstream, doesn’t it?  

About those indecipherable lyrics for ‘Dragon’s Door”…I tried to decode them. Shit out of luck here. This is what I could get from them…can you figure them out?

Something, something, something, night
Hey, that’s the girl dancin’ on the shoreSomething, something to the neon lights
Feel like scratching at the dragon’s door
Knock, knock knockin’ on the Dragon’s door (repeat)
Straight thru headin’ to the sun
All in front of the tangled trees
We’re off in infatuation
Take me across your bended knees
Knock, knock knockin’ on the Dragon’s door (repeat)

Speculation, indeed…


The Players: 
Bob Dylan – guitar, vocals 

Neil Young – guitar, piano, vocals
Tim Drummond – guitar
Ben Keith – pedal steel guitar 
Rick Danko – bass, vocals
Garth Hudson – keyboards
Levon Helm – drums, vocals

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dopeburger #

    fucking right i’m smiling man. something tells me there might have been some Groucho noses on the walls backstage at this one…that might provide a clue as to what they’re singing about. thanks as always homey!

  2. Judd Marcello #

    @dopeburger Ha! Yes, Grouches noses everywhere. Good one. Seriously…great set. Thanks.


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