It's widely believed that the Bob Dylan song "4th Time Around" was inspired by "Norwegian Wood" by The Beatles. However, music producer Al Kooper claims that John Lennon heard live renditions of "4th Time Around," earlier. Is Kooper's claim true?

In this video (at 44:25) of an interview with producer Al Kooper, Kooper tells this story:

When we were running it down I said to Bob flat out, I said, "don't you think you're going to get a little shit about this from The Beatles?" and he said, "No, I think I should've given them shit about Norwegian Wood." So I think it's the other way around. They heard [4th time around] live... and I think they took that song and stole it from him.


2 Answers 2


Norwegian Wood was recorded by The Beatles in October 1965.

4th Time Around was recorded by Dylan in February 1966 (and released in May). I can't find any information regarding whether Dylan played this song live at any point before October 1965.

However, it is possible that Al Kooper is mistaken about why Dylan said "I should've given them shit about Norwegian Wood." Lennon and McCartney were starting to grow into more complex melodies at the time of writing the song, and many fans and musicians drew parallels to Dylan's work and felt The Beatles had been inspired by Dylan. That Dylan felt The Beatles were copying him would be enough motivation to "give them shit".

Rather than Norwegian Wood inspiring 4th Time Around, which was recorded later, Dylan's song seemed to have been written as a warning to Lennon away from co-opting Dylan's style and devices.

  • 4
    So... this is basically just speculation. It's interesting speculation, but it doesn't add any new supported facts. It would be improved significantly by evidence to support "many fans and musicians drew parallels to Dylan's work and felt The Beatles had been inspired by Dylan", and/or other indications that Norwegian Wood was in some way more like Dylan's earlier work than it was like the Beatles' earlier work.
    – Ben Barden
    Sep 21, 2017 at 13:20
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    It's a summary of the respective wiki articles and their sources - some of which analyse the songs in more detail than I'd care to write. The only speculation I can see is Kooper's miscomprehension. Ultimately, the question was if John Lennon wrote Norwegian Wood after hearing 4th Time Around - the current evidence shows that Norwegian Wood was written and recorded before 4th Time Around, so it is unlikely unless someone can place Lennon at a Dylan gig playing a song he wouldn't record for months
    – user2276
    Sep 21, 2017 at 14:43
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    Yeah, but "was there a Dylan gig playing a song he wouldn't record for months" was basically the gist of the original question. Also, wiki articles in and of themselves aren't generally taken as strong evidence around here. If you could pull in (and, preferably, quote) a few of those sources with credible statements supporting the analysis you claim, that would fix the issue.
    – Ben Barden
    Sep 21, 2017 at 16:04

Check this video: https://youtu.be/9Xw6Ll9F38E?t=227

Partial transcription:

Dylan: You asshole. You hit her. That's the thing I was pissed off about. I wasn’t pissed off at—about the flick. Do you remember what you said to me when I played you those tapes?

Lennon: No. What?

Dylan: I'll say it later. I was just gonna say it.

Lennon: Well say it now!

Dylan: Oh, remember you said to me... I played you a song and you said, something about, "That's gotta be in..." I didn't realize it at the time. Robbie told me. You said that it's gotta be in your song publishing company! What's the name of it? What's your, you know, your song publishing company?

Lennon: Oh, the song publishing company!

Dylan: Yeah, what is the name of it?

Lennon: Dick James.

Dylan: No, no... Is that the name of it?

Lennon: Mhmm.

Dylan: Dick James... That wasn't the name I heard.

Lennon: Northern Songs?

Dylan: Right, that was it. "That oughta be in Northern Songs." I said, "What's Northern Songs?" And then I was never told and I had to go out and find out.

Lennon: Didn't we tell ya?

Dylan: No, man. You didn't tell me. You said, "This oughta be in Northern Songs." You laughed and Paul McCartney looked the other way talking to Ringo...

Lennon: ...and Mick Jagger looked up and balloon dropped out of his face.

Dylan: Mick Jagger looked up and then shit through his nose.

I found this thread while looking for the exact quote of Al Kooper’s first testimony I read about the subject, which appeared in MOJO magazine (issue 60, November 1998). Couldn’t find exactly that one but a reference to it and the video in this discussion, which altogether show that Kooper’s recollection varies from time to time, so one might suspect he’s also adding something to the story. The quote I couldn’t find was in the terms of: “-Bob, ain’t that song very similar to NW? -No way! It’s their song that’s too like mine!”. Somewhere else I found: “Kooper said he was worried the Beatles might sue Dylan. Dylan said NW was his song in the first place, so a lawsuit was out of the question."

This is gonna be wordy but, to explain the circumstances of the video I posted: Lennon and Dylan are taking a cab ride in London, 1966, with Bob Neuwirth and D A Pennebaker (who’s filming). Among a lot of gibberish, Dylan tries to confront Lennon about something: he has at some point shown the Fab4 some tapes, one song in particular, to which Lennon has commented, half joking, that it should be in Northern Songs, their publishing company. Dylan says he didn’t understand it at the time but that Robbie (Robertson, of The Band, then still called The Hawks) explained/showed it to him. In short, he’s complaining that he’s shown the guys some tapes and that they’ve ripped him off (of one song in particular). Unfortunately, Lennon seems to understand what Bob’s aiming at, realizes he’s on camera, and jokes himself out of the discussion.

This doesn’t prove Dylan’s talking about 4th Time Around but he possibility has been mentioned of Bob playing the song live for the Beatles. Here we see that Bob did show material for the guys, he played them tapes. And the whole context makes sense. Bob shows the Beatles the recordings, Rubber Soul comes out (December 3, 1965), with Norwegian Wood, Dylan records 4th Time Around (February 66) for he’s apparently pissed because of Norwegian Wood. The cab ride must’ve taken place late May 66, around Dylan’s concerts at the Albert Hall (26 and 27 May). Bob tries to ask for an explanation, but he’s not mad about it.

Dylan showed and sent recordings away for other people to record all the time, even after this incident. The whole story of the Basement Tapes is there to show. It is even possible that hearing Norwegian Wood might have spurred him to record the song. The sad part is, when Blonde on Blonde is finally released (on June 20, 1966), 4th Time Around is generally received and perceived as Bob’s RESPONSE to Norwegian Wood. Could get pissed for less.

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    IMO, this transcript doesn't prove much. For one thing, there's no evidence to suggest that the song Dylan is referring to is actually "4th Time Around".
    – F1Krazy
    Jul 30, 2020 at 8:48

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