Bob Dylan & Neil Young: "Helpless", 1975 Radio Broadcast
Here's Bob Dylan & Neil Young on "Helpless" and what has come to be known as "Knockin' on the Dragon's Door" from a 1975 radio broadcast of a benefit concert in San Francisco, CA.
Unfortunately, Dylan is all but inaudible on "Helpless", as the radio announcers comment on after tracks complete.
Bill Graham created the SNACK Benefit concert in 1975 at Kezar Stadium. When Bill learned a budget cut was about to put an end to all extracurricular activities in San Francisco public schools, he persuaded the city to let him put on a benefit he called SNACK -- an acronym for "San Francisco Needs Athletics, Culture, and Kicks."
On March 23rd, 1975, fifty thousand people filled Kezar Stadium to watch The Grateful Dead, Graham Central Station, Bob Dylan and the Band, Jefferson Starship, Tower of Power, the Doobie Brothers, Santana, Mimi Farina, and Neil Young perform. Featured speakers at the event included Marlon Brando, Joan Baez, and Willie Mays. The concert raised enough money to fund after-school programs in San Francisco schools for another year.
Although Bill had been doing benefits ever since he had first opened the Fillmore, SNACK was the first big rock benefit concert in history (*see comment below). By using the drawing power of artists who were willing to contribute their services for a worthy cause, Bill had discovered a way to use rock "to solve a social problem." His willingness to invest his time and energy in projects from which neither he nor his company earned any money would in time make him the go-to guy in rock for anyone with a worthy cause.
From Wolfgang's Vault:
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.
From The 6149:
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?
Bob Dylan, Neil Young & Eric Clapton
Madison Square Garden, New York City - 1992
More on the story of Bob Dylan and Neil Young.