The Time The Beatles Acted Like ‘Scared Little Boys’ in Front of Bob Dylan

The Beatles were the unquestioned masters of popular music in 1966. Bob Dylan was one of the few musicians who could rival them, but even he took a back seat to the Fab Four. Their chart success decisively proved how wrong the singer who called John Lennon and Paul McCartney idiots was. Despite the success, Marianne Faithfull said The Beatles behaved like scared little boys when they met Dylan after one concert. They could barely speak that night. Yet The Beatles (eventually) had nice things to say about Dylan.

The Beatles were just ‘scared little boys’ in Bob Dylan’s presence, according to Marianne Faithfull
The Fab Four already had several No. 1 hits in England before they made it big in the United States. They stormed the U.S. in early 1964, placing 31 of the 64 singles that became top 100 songs on the Billboard charts that year. Dylan never had a No. 1 song.

The TL;DR: The Beatles were the biggest band in the world when they met Dylan in late August 1964.

If anything, the band might have become even more popular by 1966. Six of their albums — Beatles ‘65, Rubber Soul, Help!, Beatles VI, Revolver, and Yesterday and Today — spent a combined 41 weeks holding the No. 1 spot on the Billboard albums chart in 1965 and 1966. They had five straight chart-topping singles and three consecutive No. 1 albums in England those two years.

The TL;DR again: The Fab Four might have been even bigger when they popped backstage at a Dylan concert.

The Fab Four were on top of the world when they connected with their idol after a show in London in May 1966, but they didn’t act like it. Marianne Faithfull couldn’t help but notice how The Beatles looked like scared little boys in Dylan’s presence (via 150 Glimpses of The Beatles):

In Faithfull’s view, The Beatles were so deferential to Dylan that they appeared to be different people. And she would know. Though not necessarily part of the Fab Four’s inner circle, she was active in London’s social scene in the 1960s, even before she started a relationship with Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger. John, Paul, George, and Ringo’s boisterous, fun-loving, carefree behavior went out the window in front of Bob Dylan in 1966.

What did The Beatles say about Dylan?

Harrison, Lennon, McCartney, and Starr were so in awe of their idol that they could barely speak. So what did The Beatles say about Dylan when he wasn’t around?

George probably knew him best among the Fab Four. The guitarist visited the singer-songwriter at his New York home in 1968, where they collaborated on “I’d Have You Anytime” off George’s All Things Must Pass record. Harrison and Dylan teamed up again at the Concert for Bangladesh and in the Traveling Wilburys supergroup. George thought the world of Dylan and his music, saying he could have been bigger than anyone except The Beatles.

Ringo wasn’t the strongest songwriter among the Fab Four. When he thought he had a brilliant song of his own, it turned out to be a Dylan tune.

Like his bandmates, Paul was a massive fan of the performer born Robert Zimmerman. He showed his jealous side by once saying he wished he were more like Dylan.

John’s relationship with Dylan was more complicated. The Beatles’ founder took a lot of inspiration from the American and wrote several Dylanesque songs (“You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” for example). Yet Lennon got irritated when Zim said The Beatles learned everything from him. The opinionated John also torched one late 1970s Dylan song, calling it pathetic and embarrassing.

The Beatles were nothing more than scared little boys in Dylans’s presence. They could barely talk, according to Marianne Faithfull. When they did find the words, the Fab Four had nothing but great things to say about him and his music.

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