Working on a Guru: a Dylan self-portrait that was missed from the album

This turns up on Another Self Portrait.  I can’t find it on line, so you’ll have to get the album or else go to Spotify  – here’s a link in case you are not familiar with the service…

Wiki tells us that after work on Self Portrait was just about done and dusted a series of sessions were held in New York with George Harrison, Charlie Daniels and Russ Kunkel but nothing came from the sessions that was going to be used.

And the New Yorker in a review called it “a fun if inessential collaboration between Dylan and George Harrison”.

But what Mr Harrison – a man known to be rather interested in gurus – made of it all I am not quite sure.  He seems to be playing along quite happily, so presumably he was in on the joke.

It is in essence a standard 12 bar blues, which means all the musicians can follow Dylan at once without any rehearsal – because everyone who has ever played pop or rock knows how to play extended 12 bar blues.  Hence they can get this sort of result in the first recording without any rehearsals.  It also explains why Bob calls out, after the second verse “Hey one time” indicating the next verse is a guitar solo.  Bob is obviously playing rhythm guitar as normal, holding it all together.

I’m not sure if any lyrics were written down even though Bob clearly had some words in mind, because the repeat of verse two into verse three, and the repeat of verse one in verse four suggests he just had a smattering of an idea.

Anyway, as much because I don’t have anything else to add as for any other reason, here are the lyrics…

Rain all around, windshield wipers movin’
Water on the ground, sure don’t feel like groovin’
Working on a guru
Working on a guru
Working on a guru, before the sun goes down

Rain all around, I need me an umbrella
Water on the ground, I am that kind of fella
Looking for a guru
Working on a guru
Working on a guru, before the sun goes down

Walking on the street, I need me an umbrella
Just to keep it sweet, I am that kind of fella
Looking for a guru
Working on a guru
Working on a guru, before the sun goes down

Rain on the ground, windshield wipers movin’
Water all around, I sure don’t feel like groovin’
I’m working on a guru
Yes, I’m working on a guru
But I’m working on a guru, before the sun goes down

Working on a guru
Working on a guru
Well, it’s true, it could be you
I’m working on a guru

Now there is one area of all this that you might want to indulge in, and maybe even have the ability to disentangle, which is the Church of Bob, which appears in the Dylanchords site and which makes reference to this song.

I am not at all sure my understanding of what is going on there is adequate to bring any further meaning to this song, so I leave that one totally in your hands.  If you want to give a summary of what those pages are all about, please do write in.

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

What else is on the site

1: Almost 500 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. Hi Tony, I thought that the painting on the cover of Another Self Portrait was of Richard Prince – because it looks like him. Around that time BD had a show of paintings at Gagosian Gallery and Richard Prince wrote the catalogue notes for this show. The paintings were all appropriations of photos and seemed to me to be in Richard Prince’s then style, actually quite skillful and not like BD’s style at the time IMO. So having an image of Richard Prince on Another Self Portrait could be a reference to this show of paintings. Of course this a very subjective theory and I have no actual evidence for it.

  2. I just did some research into this idea and it turns out that others think the same thing – that some series of BD’s work from around this time are by Richard Prince. With Working on a Guru is BD perhaps sending up George Harrison’s religious beliefs (what about ‘don’t follow leaders’l or did George Harrison write most of the lyrics? Usually a guru is not an Allen Ginsburg type of holy man, but is a conduit or link to the higher more sacred teachings of a religion.

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