Knockin’ On Heave’s Door is just about the one Bob Dylan song every pub band has in the repertoire of covers. Every time I see an average live band they’ll always do this one. Some of them are doing the Guns n Roses version and probably knock it’s a Dylan song from the movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, but hey! It’s all good. Here are five great versions by Dylan each one different of Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.
1. With Tom Petty
This is a full on rock version with Dylan in leather trousers, biker boots and waistcoat at the height of his Christian period. Love the lengthy harmonica solo at the start, and note the way he reaches an arm out behind him to stop the band when they’re expecting the song and vocals to start. Raspy voice, improvised third verse. Brilliant!
Laid back setting at the MTV studios for this Unplugged session. Starts slow with just acoustic guitar, but by the end there’s a dozen instruments all going at it. The drummer is throwing everything he’s got. Dylan’s singing crazy, seems to be making up a new melody.
3. Original movie version
The original version for the 1973 film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Super clean production and voice. The laid back, tired version that started it all.
4. Live in 1974
Ok, this isn’t a particularly great version. And the quality of the video is pretty poor. But I included it because it’s a live show from 1974 a year after the original was released and it’s nteresting to look at how the younger Dylan sings the song compared with the videos above where he is older. I would say he’s less confident in this one.
5. In Italy with the Pope watching
This is a nice clean live version in Italy in 1997 at the World Eucharistic Conference with 200,000 people in the crowd – including Pope John Paul II. Interesting because of how important religion is to Dylan to see him performing here. I’m sure he would have known the Pope was round, too.