Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid is the twelfth studio album and first soundtrack album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on July 16, 1973 by Columbia Records for the Sam Peckinpah film, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Dylan himself appeared in the film as the character "Alias". Consisting primarily of instrumental music and inspired by the movie itself, the soundtrack included "Knockin' On Heaven's Door", which became a trans-Atlantic Top 20 hit. Certified a gold record by the RIAAPat Garrett & Billy the Kid reached #16 US and #29 UK.


 [hide*1 Filming of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

Filming of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid[edit]Edit

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid scriptwriter Rudy Wurlitzer, who was a previous acquaintance of Dylan's, asked him to provide a couple of songs for the movie.[1] Dylan performed "Billy" for director Peckinpah, who found the performance very moving and offered Dylan an acting part on the spot.[1][2] The role he ended up getting was a character named Alias.[3] In November 1972, Dylan and his family moved to Durango, Mexico, where filming took place.[2] Filming lasted from late 1972 to early 1973.[4]

Recording sessions[edit]Edit

Dylan's first session for the Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid soundtrack was on January 20, 1973 at CBS Discos Studios in Mexico City.[5] The only song from that day that was included on the album was "Billy 7"; also recorded were multiple other takes of "Billy", and the outtakes "Under Turkey", "Billy Surrenders", "And He's Killed Me Too", "Goodbye Holly" and "Pecos Blues".[5] The following month, Dylan recorded two days at Burbank Studios in Burbank, California. The rest of the album's songs were recorded, as well as the outtakes "Sweet Armarillo" and "Rock Me Mama".[5]


The Mexico City session produced two notable outtakes: "Pecos Blues," an instrumental based on the traditional "What Does The Deep Sea Say?," and the song "Goodbye Holly." Both tracks were rejected but eventually bootlegged.

The Burbank sessions yielded a few spontaneous recordings, including a jam titled "Sweet Amarillo" and a simple, improvised song titled "Rock Me Mama." Neither one was seriously considered for the soundtrack as they were born more out of leisure than actual work. The latter was eventually written fully and recorded as "Wagon Wheel" by Nashville roots rock band Old Crow Medicine Show, then subsequently by artists such asAgainst Me! and others.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic [6]
Robert Christgau C+[7]
Entertainment Weekly C+ [8]
Rolling Stone [9]

Robert Christgau of The Village Voice described it as "two middling-to-excellent new Dylan songs, four good original Bobby voices, and a lot of Schmylan music".[7] Jon Landau wrote in Rolling Stone that "it is every bit as inept, amateurish and embarrassing as Self Portrait. And it has all the earmarks of a deliberate courting of commercial disaster, a flirtation that is apparently part of an attempt to free himself from previously imposed obligations derived from his audience."[10]

Despite the album's lukewarm reception, it spawned a significant hit in "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," which would be covered by acts such as Eric Clapton and Guns N' Roses. Years later, "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" endured as a popular favorite among critics and fans as well as a concert staple, with its inspirational tone and lyrics regarding impending death.


After Peckinpah completed his own cut of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, MGM re-cut the film without his input, removing several significant scenes and re-shuffling most of Dylan's music in the process.[11][12]Peckinpah's film was released to mixed reviews.[13] Years later, critical re-evaluation of Peckinpah's film would lead many to regard it as one of his major works, a revisionist view aided by the restoration of Peckinpah's original cut in 1984.

After witnessing firsthand Peckinpah's battles with MGM, Dylan had his own problems with Columbia Records. After years of minimal activity, Dylan had lost Columbia's patience, and when negotiations for a renewed contract began in 1972, the label (except for Clive Davis) had little interest in being generous. "Early in 1973 I finally did conclude negotiations for a new contract with Bob," wrote Clive Davis in his autobiography. Davis had been a longtime supporter of Dylan's, but he had been the victim of a corporate coup. While finalizing the details of Dylan's contract, Davis was fired by CBS president Arthur Taylor on May 29. Dylan testified on Davis's behalf in a well-publicized civil trial held in July 1975. In the meantime, the incident soured Dylan's relationship with CBS, convincing him to sign with David Geffen's fledgling Los Angeles-based label Asylum Records.

Track listing[edit]Edit

All songs written by Bob Dylan.

Side one
  1. "Main Title Theme (Billy)" — 6:07
  2. "Cantina Theme (Workin' for the Law)" — 2:57
  3. "Billy 1" — 3:57
  4. "Bunkhouse Theme" — 2:17
  5. "River Theme" — 1:30
Side two
  1. "Turkey Chase" — 3:34
  2. "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" — 2:32
  3. "Final Theme" — 5:23
  4. "Billy 4" — 5:04
  5. "Billy 7" — 2:10




Year Chart Position
1973 Billboard 200 16[14]
UK Top 75 29[15]


Year Single Chart Position
1973 "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" Billboard Hot 100 12[16]
UK Top 75 14[15]

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