#11. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
-I really enjoy the sound of the album but considering there’s only two tracks with lyrics (I’m including all the “Billy” songs as one), it’s tough to give much credence to this soundtrack album.
Recorded between January and March in 1973, Dylan made part of the album in Mexico City with local Mexican musicians and the other part, which included “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” in Burbank, California.
The first track, “Main Title Theme,” has essentially the same rhythm as “Billy 1” but contains a consistent jingle bell and is much longer. It sets the tone for the sound of the rest of the album and does give you a vision of what we’re supposed to be looking at when it’s played. The song also features some good finger pickin’ by long-time Dylan collaborators, Bruce Langhorne and Roger McGuinn.
The “Theme’s”—“Cantina,” “Bunkhouse,” “River” and “Turkey”—are all pretty much skip-worthy instrumentals. They make sense in the movie but for somebody listening to the album while driving in their car, they come across as filler—like “Woogie Boogie” on Self Portrait.
“Billy 1,” “Billy 4” and “Billy 7” are actually quite an interesting set of songs. Of the three, the first one is the most powerful and, in my opinion, is far and away the best song on the album. Dylan’s gentle rhyming of…
“Playin' around with some sweet senorita
Into her dark hallway she will lead ya
In some lonesome shadows she will greet ya
Billy, you're so far away from home.”
…is very effective—which is quite an accomplishment because when rhyming “senorita” and “ya,” you’re going down a slippery slope. The only line that could have used some work is, “She may have been a whore, but she was a hot.” But I’m not one to doubt Bobby. For unintentional semi-hilarity, check out “Billy 7” because Dylan puts on this fake showman’s voice that runs rampant in Las Vegas, but not so much the Wild West.
Possibly Dylan’s most well-known track is also on Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid: “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” In the movie, it’s playing as Slim Pickens’ character, Sheriff Colin Baker, gets shot and eventually passes away while his wife grieves over the lifeless body. The song has been covered by The Grateful Dead, U2, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Eric Clapton, Avril Lavinge, Warren Zevon, Bon Jovi and Bob Marley, to name just a few. The song only runs a brief 2 minutes and 35 seconds, but its popularity can’t be overstated. Maybe it’s due to the short length? Maybe it’s because people are fascinated by songs about death and Heaven? Whatever the reason, it’ll surely be played when Dylan kicks the proverbial bucket. Either that or “Brownsville Girl,” with the line, “I don’t have any regrets, they can talk about me plenty when I’m gone.”
Very few outtakes from Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid exist, but one of the songs, “Goodbye Holly” is a keeper. It’s included on Peco’s Blues and is just Dylan and another person singing what could be considered a drinking song.
“Guitars will play your grand finale
Down in some Tularosa alley.”