The Beatles meet Bob Dylan

Saturday, May 28, 1966
Timeline More from year 1966
Mayfair Hotel, London, UK

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Bob Dylan went on a tour across North America, Australia, and Europe from February to May 1966. He played in Copenhagen on May 1, and then travelled to London, where he met Paul McCartney on May 2. After that, he went to Dublin for a concert on May 5, followed by a series of dates in England, Wales and France. Later on, he returned to London to perform two shows on May 26 and 27. The Beatles attended this latest show.

On May 28, The Beatles visited Dylan again in his hotel room in London. During their meeting, they watched “Dont Look Back,” a D.A. Pennebaker film that documents Bob Dylan’s concert tour in England in 1965.

In the afternoon, Pennebaker arranged a private showing of Don’t Look Back, the startling black-and-white documentary he’d shot on Dylan’s previous British tour. He had an answer print with him hoping to be able to show it at the Festival de Cannes. Subsequently deemed a classic of its genre and a penetrating portrait of Dylan at his most powerful and enigmatic, it had not yet been seen by the public and wouldn’t be released for another year. In a screening room in the bowels of the Mayfair Hotel the four Beatles watched the ninety-six-minute film.

According to Pennebaker, the black-and-white film — shot with handheld cameras, that had no narration, and where the director was merely a fly on the wall — confused John and Paul. Because of their own experience with film they were expecting something more slick, linear, and smartly packaged. “They thought of it as Dylan’s home movie,” Pennebaker recalls. “I don’t think they took it very seriously.” George, on the other hand, was totally impressed and told the director that he understood what he was doing. He said, “That’s a real movie, isn’t it?” Pennebaker agreed with him. “No,” George continued, “I mean that’s a movie that could be shown in theatres, right?” Pennebaker said, “Well, I hope so. It hasn’t happened yet but that’s the idea.

From “Beatles ’66: The Revolutionary Year” by Steve Turner

From Wikipedia:

Dont Look Back is a 1967 American documentary film directed by D. A. Pennebaker that covers Bob Dylan’s 1965 concert tour in England.

In 1998, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. In a 2014 Sight & Sound poll, film critics voted Dont Look Back the joint ninth best documentary film of all time.


The opening scene of the film has Dylan displaying and discarding a series of cue cards bearing selected words and phrases from the lyrics to his 1965 song “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (including intentional misspellings and puns). This was the first single from his most recent album, Bringing It All Back Home, and a top ten hit in the UK when he filmed it there (a fact discussed in the film). Allen Ginsberg appears in the background having a discussion with Bob Neuwirth.

The film features Joan Baez, Donovan and Alan Price (who had just left the Animals), Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman and his road manager Neuwirth. Marianne Faithfull, John Mayall, Ginger Baker and Allen Ginsberg may also be glimpsed in the background. […]


The original title of this film is Dont Look Back, without an apostrophe in the first word. D. A. Pennebaker, the film’s writer director, decided to punctuate the title this way because “It was my attempt to simplify the language”. Many sources, however, have assumed this to be a typographical error and have “corrected” the title to Don’t Look Back. In the commentary track to the DVD release, Pennebaker said that the title came from the Satchel Paige quote, “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you,” and that Dylan shared this view.


Dont Look Back was shot in black-and-white with a handheld 16mm-film camera and utilized direct sound, thus creating the template for the “rockumentary” film genre. Production began when Dylan arrived in England on April 26, 1965, and ended shortly after his final UK concert at the Royal Albert Hall on May 10. Pennebaker has stated that the famous “Subterranean Homesick Blues” music video that is shown at the beginning of the film was actually shot at the very end of filming. Pennebaker decided during editing to place it at the beginning of the film as a “stage” for Dylan to begin the film.


The film was first shown publicly May 17, 1967, at the Presidio Theater in San Francisco, and opened that September at the 34th Street East Theater in New York.

A transcript of the film, with photographs, was published in 1968 by Ballantine Books.

Reception and Legacy

Dont Look Back has been very well received by critics. It has a rating of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 55 reviews. The film received a 5 star review from AllMovie and has a Metacritic score of 84, indicating “universal acclaim”. In August 1967, a Newsweek reviewer wrote, “Dont Look Back is really about fame and how it menaces art, about the press and how it categorizes, bowdlerizes, sterilizes, universalizes or conventionalizes an original like Dylan into something it can dimly understand”.

Kurt Cobain identified it as the only “good documentary about rock and roll” in a 1991 interview with his Nirvana bandmates, a sentiment with which Dave Grohl concurred.

The film has been parodied and paid homage to by many other films and television shows including This Is Spinal Tap, Bob Roberts, and Documentary Now!. The opening sequence featuring “Subterranean Homesick Blues” has likewise inspired many music videos, including INXS’ “Mediate”, MC Evidence’s “The Far Left” and “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Bob”, and was cited by journalist Roger Friedman as “the most copied, most revered, music video of all time”. […]

Last updated on December 9, 2023

Going further

The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years

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We owe a lot to Barry Miles for the creation of those pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - a day to day chronology of what happened to the four Beatles during the Beatles years!

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