Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid
Track Listing
  1. Main Title Theme (Billy)
  2. Cantina Theme
    (Workin' For The Law)
  3. Billy 1
  4. Bunkhouse Theme
  5. River Theme
  1. Turkey Chase
  2. Knockin' On Heaven's Door
  3. Final Theme
  4. Billy 4
  5. Billy 7
1. Booker T, Bruce Langhorne, Bob Dylan,
Tambourine-Russ Kunkel
2. Roger McGuinn, Bruce Langhorne, Bob Dylan,
Bongos-Russ Kunkel
3. Booker T, Bruce Langhorne, Bob Dylan
4. Carol Hunter & Bob Dylan
5. Booker T, Bruce Langhorne, Bob Dylan,
Voices-Donna Weiss, Priscilla Jones, Byron Berline
6. Fiddle-Byron Berline
Banjo-Jolly Roger
Acoustic Guitar-Bruce Langhorne
Rhythm Guitar-Bob Dylan
Bass-Booker T
7. Terry Paul, Roger McGuinn, Jim Keltner, Bob Dylan
Voices-Carol, Donna, Brenda Patterson
Harmonium-Carl Fortina
8. Guitars-Roger McGuinn, Carol Hunter, Bob Dylan
Voices-Donna, Brenda, Terry Paul
Recorder/Flute-Gary Foster
Harmonium-Carl Fortina
Cellos-Fred Katz & Ted Michel
Bass-Terry Paul
Drums-Jim Keltner
9. Bob Dylan & Terry Paul
10. Jim Keltner, Roger McGuinn, Terry Paul, Bob Dylan

Recorded but Not Used
Billy Surrenders
And Then He Killed Me Too
Goodbye Holly
Peco's Blues

Recorded at Columbia Studios, Mexico City and Burbank Studios, Burbank January/February 1973

pat garrett & billy the kid - cover

"I'm not a movie star, but I've got a vision to put up on the screen. Someday we'll get around to doing it. The Peckinpah experience was valuable in terms of getting near the big action" Bob Dylan January 1974.

The idea of working in a different medium must have been attractive to Bob Dylan in late 1972. The chance to get out of New York and work in an environment that he had professed to have a great affinity for (i.e. the Mexican landscape) and the opportunity to be involved in the movie making process certainly appealed to his creative side. When he was approached by old friend, novelist Rudy Wurlitzer who wrote the screenplay for "Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid" to write some music for the movie, he jumped at the chance. "Rudy sent the script and I read it and liked it and we got together and he needed a title song. And then I saw "The Wild Bunch" and "Straw Dogs" and "Cable Hogue" and I liked them. The best one is "Ride The High Country" enthused Dylan "So I wrote that song [Billy] real quick" Wurlitzer then suggested that there might be a part in the movie for him and he went down to New Mexico to meet director Sam Peckinpah. If Peckinpah knew who Dylan even was, he was unaware of his status and was considering country singer Roger Miller for the soundtrack. Persuaded by lead actors Kris Kristofferson and James Coburn to listen to Dylan, Peckinpah was impressed, and according to Coburn said "Goddamn kid! Who the hell is he? Who is that kid? Sign him up" and he was offered the part of Billy's sidekick "Alias." Filming began on November 13th 1972, and Dylan moved his family to Durango later that month, it was a decision that he would come to regret. Sara Dylan hated the place and the people that her husband was working with. Peckinpah, not the easiest man to work with at the best of times, was involved in a political row with MGM over the film's budget and was struggling to maintain artistic control, and to make matters worse, a major disaster involving the main camera set production back by two weeks. Dylan himself had to cope with all this, plus the unwelcome attentions of the press, and in early January he took his wife to England for two weeks to stay with George Harrison, the Beatle with whom he remained most friendly.

a moody dylan

Returning to the set in mid January, Dylan found that things had not improved and the situation was compounded by the fact that he now had to start recording the soundtrack. He flew to CBS's studios in Mexico City along with Coburn, Kristofferson and Wurlitzer to record "Billy" and some of the instrumental tracks that were needed. Again things did not go well, Dylan and the resident engineer did not hit it off and the presence of too many musicians in the studio, including members of Kristofferson's band was resulting in friction, particularly in light of Dylan's notoriously haphazard recording technique. This session (January 20th) went on until four a.m. but proved to be rather fruitless, only the very last of several takes of "Billy" (which appeared on the album soundtrack as "Billy 4") and thirty seconds of an instrumental tentatively called "Billy Surrenders" (which made its way into the movie but not the album) were used. Even the only other vocal track "Goodbye Holly" was abandoned. Dylan returned to Durango knowing that a lot more work was needed to come up with an acceptable amount of soundtrack material. Meanwhile MGM increased the pressure on Peckinpah who felt obliged to bring in Jerry Fielding, a man experienced in film scoring to "supervise" Dylan. Unfortunately, Fielding considered Dylan an amateur and his work "...a lot of nonsense which is strictly for teenyboppers." Among his recommendations (most of which Dylan amazingly accepted) was the writing of a song to replace "Goodbye Holly" at which point Dylan submitted "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" one of his finest and most evocative pieces of work. "So finally he brought to the dubbing sessions another piece of music - Knock-Knock-Knockin' On Heaven's Door. Everybody loved it. It was shit. That was the end for me." was Fielding's opinion. Drummer Jim Keltner's opinion could not have been more different "This was for a particular scene in the movie where Slim Pickens is dying and that's the first time I ever cried when I played. It was a combination of the words, Bob's voice and the actual music itself..."

dylan as alias

With the shooting of the movie over, Dylan headed for California and CBS's studios in Burbank to complete his section of the project. Sessions here lasted only a few days and the results were far more positive, due in no small part to him working with some of the best musicians in the business. Both movie and record album were released to disappointing reviews but for different reasons. The movie because it was cut and edited according to MGM's instructions which completely ignored the concept that Peckinpah was trying to convey, Dylan himself was particularly dissatisfied "I saw it in a movie house just one cut away from [Peckinpah's] and I could tell that it had been chopped to pieces. Someone other than Sam had taken a knife to some valuable scenes that were in it. The music seemed to be scattered and used in every other place but the scenes in which we did it for. Except for "Heaven's Door" I can't say as though I recognized anything I'd done [as]... being in the place I'd done it for" As for the album, people seemed unable to judge it on its own merits and thought of it only as a "Bob Dylan album" and because there had been no new Dylan material for almost three years, perhaps that was understandable.

dylan on set

It is an album that time has been kind to. Wonderfully atmospheric it is a perfect accompaniment to Peckinpah's beautifully realized vision of a dying way of life. Mainly instrumental, there are only two vocal tracks, "Billy" in three different versions (numbers 1, 4 and7) and of course the original of the classic "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" of which there have been so many different versions by so many people it is worth re-visiting this, the definitive one. All of the instrumental tracks have a haunting quality that Bruce Langhorne commented on later, "I thought that Bobby didn't know anything about film scoring" he said "I realized afterwards that it wasn't about them doing the best film score. It was about capturing the feeling of the film." This is particularly true of "Turkey Chase" a blue grass number with some virtuoso banjo by Jolly Roger and some excellent country fiddle by Byron Berline which accompanies a hilarious sequence in the movie (the turkeys that were caught during this scene were apparently consumed at a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by Peckinpah). The vastly different versions of "Billy" all have the same underlying menace and inevitability, and the slow delivery of "Billy 7" sees Dylan's western drawl as almost a parody of himself. Billy's fate is never in question, lines like "Billy, they don't like you to be so free" and "Billy, don't you turn your back on me" confirm that, and if we are in any doubt, there is the repeated "Gypsy queens will play your grand finale." An excellent song that Dylan has chosen to never perform live. However, if any song was going to give Dylan's career the kick start that it needed, it was most certainly "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," the one that Fielding hated, but everyone else loved. A huge hit for Dylan, it went on to become one of his most recognisable and enduring pieces of writing. It has been recorded by everyone from Eric Clapton to Guns 'n' Roses and thirty years after its initial success, British R&B singer Gabrielle applied for and was given permission to use the haunting backing track on her hugely successful single "Rise."

Although not universally panned, the album was not particularly well received, Jon Landau writing in Rolling Stone called it "...merely awful" an opinion that Dylan dismissed as "...inexperienced and immature," but it would not be until the release of the following year's "Planet Waves" that Dylan's musical fortunes would improve. In the meantime, he was unable to come to terms with CBS over a new contract, and signed with David Geffen's fledgling Asylum, for whom he would release two albums. CBS responded by vindictively releasing "Dylan" an album of out takes from the "Self Portrait/New Morning" sessions that should never have reached the public domain. "Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid" is an album that does not sit easily in Dylan's body of work and should be regarded as a separate venture and judged purely on its own merits. The album which was nominated for a Grammy in 1974 for Best Original Soundtrack is dedicated to Sam Peckinpah.

entertaining children

The film was thankfully returned to its intended running length in 1989 with many of the original scenes replaced and has gained something of a cult following. Peckinpah did come in for some criticism for his glorification of Billy and transforming a vicious psychopath into an attractive and charismatic figure. That aside, it is a fine piece of cinema, beautifully photographed and with outstanding performances from Coburn and Kristofferson in the lead roles. All the smaller cameo roles are well portrayed and Dylan in particular received some positive criticism, he "...appears as a captivating little figure" said David Robinson in the London Times. "Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid" remains one of the distinctive works of a distinctive director who defined a movie making genre. Sam Peckinpah died of a heart attack in December 1984, he was fifty nine.


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