“Knockin’ On Dylan’s & Sam Peckinpah’s Door”
In 1973, I was only 14 years old and it was a golden year for music & film. Instead of following teen rock stars I was, you might say, way ahead of my time. My idols were guys like Kris Kristofferson & Bob Dylan. So by sheer good luck and the will of Sam Peckinpah, imagine my amazement to learn about the 1973 release: “Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid.” It seemed like they had custom made this movie just for me. What else can I say? It contained all the cool guys I wanted to be like and they were all in the same movie! (I’m leaving out a-lot of names here). But Dylan & Kris were the main two guys for me.
It’s rumored that it was Kristofferson who talked Dylan into taking the part of “Alias” offered by Sam Peckinpah…(also one of my idols). And since I was from New Mexico originally, this was like old home week. My Mom had to get me into the movie since it was rated “R.” What I learned years later as an adult was that the studio had cut the hell out of the film but I still loved it just the way it was. (Years later, a number of Director’s cuts would surface that I also enjoyed).
Sam Peckinpah also made the correct decision to ask Dylan to do the soundtrack since he was going to be in the film anyway. The recording session took place in Mexico City and featured: Jim Keltner, Booker T. Jones, Roger McGuinn, Russ Kunkel, and Dylan himself on guitar, harmonica & vocals. Not a bad lineup at all. And there was to be one very famous chessnut from the session(s): “Knockin’ On Heavens Door.” This song only made it to #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 that year but would later become one of Dylan’s main stay tunes.
“Knockin On Heaven’s Door” was used in a very moving scene between the great Slim Pickens & veteran Katy Jurardo. The film may have flopped with critics back in 1973, but there was no doubting the perfect marriage between a song and film that Peckinpah & Dylan pulled off! As a 14 year old watching this scene, tears beyond my years streamed down my face. This could be my favorite scene in a movie of all time.
“Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” has been recorded by: Warren Zevon, Guns & Roses and covered live by: U2 & The Alarm. It was Guns & Roses that really brought the song back and made it more mainstream though. Now days when anyone starts to strum the unmistakable first three chords…everyone knows which song is coming up. I guess we call that a “standard.” It has also been featured in a number of other films & TV shows too long to list here.
There were also a number of other songs on the soundtrack that really went nowhere, however, in my opinion, Dylan’s overall soundtrack for “Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid” is the most perfect mixture between a film and it’s soundtrack ever produced! Durango, Mexico stood in perfectly for the lovely New Mexico as well.
So, years later after Sam’s death the film was reissued as a “Director’s Cut” and finally the critics agreed that they had been perhaps WRONG or a little bit TOO CRITICAL of the film in it’s original cut from 1973. To be honest with you I knew in my gut that this film was a winner in 1973 at the age of 14. So, I guess Sam Peckinpah got the last laugh after all. And Bob Dylan aint doin’ too bad either the last time I checked.