“I don’t want to do it”: the Bob Dylan song, given to George Harrison

By Tony Attwood

“I Don’t Want to Do It” was written by Dylan after “I threw it all away” in 1968 and was seemingly given to George Harrison who demoed it for “All things must pass” but then passed up on it.  (There is a link to this demo below).

However although Dylan did not record it Harrison returned to “I don’t want to do it” later and recorded the song again in 1984 and released it in 1985.  The song was produced by Dave Edmunds who was famous (at least in my house) for songs such as “Girls Talk” and “Queen of Hearts”.  It was the only song Harrison released between 1982 and 1987.

Dave Edmunds’ involvement came about because he was helping to select the music for the soundtrack of the film, Porky’s Revenge! (itself a sequel to “Porky’s”) and this movie then contained the song.  The version of the song released as a single is different from the version heard in the movie but in both cases the vocal harmonies as well as the lead vocal are performed by Harrison.

The movie version of the song was later remastered by Dave Edmunds and included in the album “Let it Roll: Songs by George Harrison”





The demo from the All Things Must Pass sessions as a Harrison solo is included on this web page – just scroll down – sorry I can’t separate it out from the article.

It has been suggested that Dylan was writing about leaving his wife and young family in order to go touring, and the fact of being torn between the two – as we now know he stayed at home.

Here are the lyrics

Looking back upon my youth
The time I always knew the truth
I don’t want to do it
I don’t want to say goodbye

To go back in the yard and play
If I could only have another day
I don’t want to do it
I don’t want to make you cry

To go back
On the hill beside the track
And try to concentrate
All in all the places that I want to be
No, it shows you that I could not wait

So come back into my arms again
This love of ours, it has no end
I don’t want to do it
I don’t want to make you cry

I have finally plumped for the song being placed here in the chronology of 1969


but dates around this time are confusing (well, at least for me) and certainly others don’t put Minstrel Boy at this point in the sequence.  I’ll have a look at “I’d have you anytime” next.

Think there’s something missing or wrong with this review?

You are of course always welcome to write a comment below, but if you’d like to go further, you could write an alternative review – we’ve already published quite a few of these.  We try to avoid publishing reviews and comments that are rude or just criticisms of what is written elsewhere – but if you have a positive take on this song or any other Dylan song, and would like it considered for publication, please do email Tony@schools.co.uk

What else is on the site

1: Over 490 reviews of Dylan songs.  There is an index to these in alphabetical order on the home page, and an index to the songs in the order they were written in the Chronology Pages.

2: The Chronology.  We’ve taken the songs we can find recordings of and put them in the order they were written (as far as possible) not in the order they appeared on albums.  The chronology is more or less complete and is now linked to all the reviews on the site.  We have also produced overviews of Dylan’s work year by year.     The index to the chronologies is here.

3: Bob Dylan’s themes.  We publish a wide range of articles about Bob Dylan and his compositions.  There is an index here.

4:   The Discussion Group    We now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook.  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

5:  Bob Dylan’s creativity.   We’re fascinated in taking the study of Dylan’s creative approach further.  The index is in Dylan’s Creativity.

6: You might also like: A classification of Bob Dylan’s songs and partial Index to Dylan’s Best Opening Lines and our articles on various writers’ lists of Dylan’s ten greatest songs.

And please do note   The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, is starting to link back to our reviews



  1. We know that Minstrel Boy is a Basement Tape song as it is included on the complete sessions box set. Therefore, it pre-dates I Don’t Want To Do It by at least two years.

  2. Paul, I am not convinced that every selection of songs by the record company is quite right – but of course I don’t have all the evidence they have.

  3. Really like this song, though I could do without the ’80s production (i.e. big drum machine sound). But then again it was cut smack dab in the middle of the ’80s so there you have it !

  4. Thanks for posting this. I love the 1985 version. Absolutely beautiful. George is just so damn spiritual. Ah man, the sound of that slide guitar! Heaven.

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