Bob Dylan Books S/D

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Don't think there's a thread about this ... I'm reading Revolution in the Air, the first of two volumes by Clinton Heylin covering every song Dylan has written. The first one goes through Planet Waves and has hilarious bits like "the issue of Dylan's first vocal overdub is fraught with contention." But overall, it's a good read, Heylin knows his stuff -- he's tracked down all sorts of manuscripts, early versions, bootlegs, etc. His Behind The Shades is probably my fave Dylan bio too.

tylerw, Thursday, 5 November 2009 17:48 (twelve years ago) link

destroy that Paul Williams

Fox Force Five Punchline (sexyDancer), Thursday, 5 November 2009 17:54 (twelve years ago) link

aw, I kind of find it hard to hate on Paul Williams (the Crawdaddy dude). Not the greatest writer, but so enthusiastic and un-jaded. I remember back in the day before the Internet made every Bob Dylan bootleg available his Performing Artists books were essential reading.

tylerw, Thursday, 5 November 2009 18:02 (twelve years ago) link

Million Dollar Bash book on the Basement Tapes era is good fun - I thought it was pretty well done.

BlackIronPrison, Thursday, 5 November 2009 18:06 (twelve years ago) link

this found its way to my bookshelf (i certainly don't remember purchasing it):

it's a collection of early reviews, essays, interviews (playboy, voice, etc) and various news items from like '61 -'70. what's cool is a lot of the stuff is written well before Dylan is a Really Big Deal. nothing too earth-shattering, just interesting the way it tracks his celebrity, etc... some of it is amusingly dismissive iirc.

feed them to the (Linden Ave) lions (will), Thursday, 5 November 2009 18:07 (twelve years ago) link

Yeah, I like the Million Dollar Bash book for the most part, though his song-by-song analysis is sometimes a bit less than inspired. Lots of good info/history, though.

tylerw, Thursday, 5 November 2009 18:16 (twelve years ago) link

Chronicles, obviously

I liked Studio A: The Bob Dylan Reader quite a bit -- a good selection of articles, interviews, etc. spanning his career.

Brad C., Thursday, 5 November 2009 18:27 (twelve years ago) link

i want Chronicles II!!!!

TGAAPQ (Mr. Que), Thursday, 5 November 2009 18:28 (twelve years ago) link


Brad C., Thursday, 5 November 2009 18:28 (twelve years ago) link

Ha, yeah, I wonder if that'll ever happen ...?

tylerw, Thursday, 5 November 2009 18:32 (twelve years ago) link

Probably more likely to get Christmas album II, unfortunately

Brad C., Thursday, 5 November 2009 18:36 (twelve years ago) link

i like Positively Main Street by Toby Thompson ("That boy....this fellow, Toby... has got some lessons to learn" - Dylan) and All Across the Telegraph: a Bob Dylan Handbook edited by Michael Gray and John Bauldie (comes w/ an introduction from English cricketer Bob Willis.)

Ward Fowler, Thursday, 5 November 2009 18:40 (twelve years ago) link

Luc Sante essay in Kill All Your Darlings is key.

BIG STROON aka the santaclara drug (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 5 November 2009 18:59 (twelve years ago) link

gah, keep forgetting I need to get that Sante book.
Suppose Greil Marcus is the elephant in the room. I like some of Invisible Republic, but find parts pretty insufferable.

tylerw, Thursday, 5 November 2009 19:10 (twelve years ago) link

Anthony Scaduto's 1971 biography is a good read, written with Dylan's co-operation. Interesting in many ways because of its limitations (only being able to consider his work up to New Morning / Self Portrait).

Duke, Thursday, 5 November 2009 19:19 (twelve years ago) link

I also have Howard Sounes "Down the Highway", which I remember liking, without being bowled over by it. I think it was Sounes who claimed the credit for discovering that Dylan had married his backing singer, Carolyn Dennis.

Duke, Thursday, 5 November 2009 19:24 (twelve years ago) link

D: Marcus' book on "Like A Rolling Stone". dullllll...

Euler, Thursday, 5 November 2009 19:25 (twelve years ago) link

xpost yeah, that was the big revelation of that Sounes book, iirc. which sort of amounted to a big "so what"? Haven't read that Suze Rotolo memoir. The Robert Shelton "No Direction Home" book has some essential stuff in it (the 1966 interview sequence in particular) but drops off hugely following the 60s. If he had actually finished it back then (rather than in the 80s) it would've been the definitive account of 60s Dylan though.

tylerw, Thursday, 5 November 2009 19:27 (twelve years ago) link

And yeah, Marcus' Like A Rolling Stone book was a slog. Seemed like a something a publisher had suggested and then Marcus just wrote it in a weekend.

tylerw, Thursday, 5 November 2009 19:27 (twelve years ago) link

Can't be said enough -- Chronicles is kind of an amazing book. Like the ultimate non-autobiography.

tylerw, Thursday, 5 November 2009 19:28 (twelve years ago) link

I can't remember which of these I've read. A bunch, that's for sure. Spitz maybe was the first, but I later learned that people don't think much of that one. I thought it was alright.

Euler, Thursday, 5 November 2009 19:29 (twelve years ago) link

Can't really remember the Spitz one, though it may have been the first one I ever read. Myabe it seemed more like a "celebrity bio" rather than something that actually had a feel for Dylan?

tylerw, Thursday, 5 November 2009 19:33 (twelve years ago) link

But yes, it is ridiculous how many Bob Dylan books I've read. I can't stop!

tylerw, Thursday, 5 November 2009 19:34 (twelve years ago) link

I recently got the Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan...gonna nerd out to that one pretty soon. I mean:

The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan
A towering figure in American culture and a global twentieth-century icon, Bob Dylan has been at the center of American life for over forty years. The
Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan brings fresh insights into the imposing range of Dylan’s creative output. The first Part approaches Dylan’s output
thematically, tracing the evolution of Dylan’s writing and his engagement with American popular music, religion, politics, fame, and his work as a songwriter and performer. Chapters in Part II analyze his landmark albums to examine the consummate artistry of Dylan’s most accomplished studio releases. As a writer Dylan has courageously chronicled and interpreted many of the cultural upheavals in America since World War II. This book will be invaluable both as a guide for students of Dylan and twentieth-century culture, and for his fans, providing a set of new perspectives on a much-loved writer and composer.

Kevin J.H. Dettmar is W. M. Keck Professor and Chair of the Department of English, Pomona College, California.

Euler, Thursday, 5 November 2009 19:38 (twelve years ago) link

haha, sweet, hadn't heard of that one. I almost went to Pomona College. I could've majored in Dylanology! DAMN IT.

tylerw, Thursday, 5 November 2009 19:40 (twelve years ago) link

x-post there are so many out there. it's like Dylan albums. you buy your first and next thing you know you've got 20 in the shelf.

Duke, Thursday, 5 November 2009 19:40 (twelve years ago) link

The Sloman one about Rolling Thunder is off-kilter but I'd recommend it, there's a lot of fun nuts hyperbolic stuff where Sloman freaks out about how Grossman et al are limiting his access to Dylan and he blows up about it, Bob has to calm him down, etc. And nice Renaldo & Clara bits. Also IIRC Joni plays the as-yet unrecorded Coyote to Sloman in his hotel room (an "OK I can die happy now" moment).

dad a, Thursday, 5 November 2009 19:42 (twelve years ago) link

oh the Sloman one is awesome

TGAAPQ (Mr. Que), Thursday, 5 November 2009 19:44 (twelve years ago) link

yeah the Sloman Rolling Thunder book is essential, and also kind of hilarious. Is there a book devoted to just the weird gonzo theories that people had about Dylan in the late 60s/70s? I'd read that.

tylerw, Thursday, 5 November 2009 19:50 (twelve years ago) link

The Rolling Thunder logbook is great. Also another vote for Chronicles.

tomofthenest, Thursday, 5 November 2009 20:33 (twelve years ago) link

i bought million dollar bash a few months ago but tossed it the next day. too much speculation, not enough facts. would rather read a zany fanfic basement tapes novel.

guammls (QE II), Thursday, 5 November 2009 22:27 (twelve years ago) link

I read parts of this and thought it was decent

Bay-L.A. Bar Talk (Hurting 2), Thursday, 5 November 2009 22:38 (twelve years ago) link

I like both the Marcus books a lot, but I guess I'm pretty drawn to his approach in general. I picked up The Rough Guide to Bob Dylan recently and it's fun to flip through, enjoyable junky music reading. Although the writer does have an irritating tendency to frame every song in terms of what was going on in Dylan's life and who specific songs might be "about". To me, that's always been missing the point of his music. Just never cared who Mr. Jones was, you know? But at the same time, I understand the desire to geek out on stuff like that.

Mark, Thursday, 5 November 2009 23:42 (twelve years ago) link

Yeah, the Heylin book I'm reading does a bit of the biographical stuff (who was Queen Jane!??), but for the most part concentrates on process, tracking songs from early versions through the released studio takes to later live re-interpretations.

tylerw, Thursday, 5 November 2009 23:48 (twelve years ago) link

I liked the Suze book.

It's not all "Dylan Dylan Dylan", which is all to the good.

Mark G, Friday, 6 November 2009 10:43 (twelve years ago) link

got very fed up with the boomer mythology in Marcus' Like a Rolling Stone book, but loved the take-by-take commentary at the end. That Heylin book looks good, any more recommendations along those lines ( ie anal studio geekery lol)

tomofthenest, Friday, 6 November 2009 11:59 (twelve years ago) link

Michael Gray's Song and Dance Man is terrific. Not interested one jot in celebrity or gossip, it spends most of the time talking about how Dylan's songs trace back to old blues memes. V cool, if a bit daunting.

NotEnough, Friday, 6 November 2009 13:34 (twelve years ago) link

I read some of Song & Dance Man -- the thing's massive! Would like to get the Dylan Encyclopedia Gray did as well. Maybe the ultimate in Dylan nerdery?

tylerw, Friday, 6 November 2009 17:02 (twelve years ago) link

this thread is reminding me that i STILL have never read david hajdu's positively 4th street. what's my problem?

and i haven't thought about positively main street in years! that book is a hoot. i have the paperback somewhere.

oh and i still need to read bob's book too. i'll get to it. i have read tarantula though!

scott seward, Friday, 6 November 2009 17:08 (twelve years ago) link

"Chronicles Pt. 1" is pretty essential reading to any Dylan fan, I'd say.

o. nate, Friday, 6 November 2009 17:09 (twelve years ago) link

i'm a lazy dylan fan.

scott seward, Friday, 6 November 2009 17:11 (twelve years ago) link

david hajdu's positively 4th street sorta annoyed me when i read it for some reason. or the dylan/baez bits annoyed me -- the Farina stuff was interesting, and got me to seek out his records.

tylerw, Friday, 6 November 2009 17:12 (twelve years ago) link

I have a copy of the Encyclopedia but it's not really the sort of thing you sit down and read. There's an 8 page entry on "Angelina" alone.

Euler, Friday, 6 November 2009 17:13 (twelve years ago) link

The sections on "Oh Mercy" and "New Morning" are kind of skippable, but the rest of Chronicles is much better than I would have expected.


o. nate, Friday, 6 November 2009 17:13 (twelve years ago) link

I think those are my fave sections! Oh Mercy in particular, with him road tripping through Louisiana. It's like an epic Dylan tune come to life!

tylerw, Friday, 6 November 2009 17:17 (twelve years ago) link

the section with Dylan and "lady" at a gift shop somewhere ... also section with Dylan going through friends' library.

Fox Force Five Punchline (sexyDancer), Friday, 6 November 2009 18:07 (twelve years ago) link

The real achievement (for me) of Chronicles is that it reminds you that the guy who made Oh Mercy, New Morning, the s/t debut album, etc. is ONE GUY. It kind of establishes a continuum between all of these different personas that Dylan has tried out over the years.

tylerw, Friday, 6 November 2009 19:02 (twelve years ago) link


The whole opening section about his early Greenwich Village days is an amazing piece of writing -- it's hard to think of a better memoir by a musician. That is followed by some real talk about his early fame that is funny and poignant in its deflation of the mystique.

I didn't like the "Oh Mercy" section as well as the rest of the book, but maybe that's because he was more in rock star mode at that point. It's still fascinating.

Brad C., Friday, 6 November 2009 19:16 (twelve years ago) link

Tyler otm, Oh Mercy chapter in Chronicles is crucial

"I get through more mojitos.." (bear, bear, bear), Saturday, 7 November 2009 20:35 (twelve years ago) link

Picked up Wicked Messenger from the library this weekend -- guess it's an updated version of the Chimes of Freedom book mentioned upthread? Sort of a study of Dylan's politics as they related to the 60s. Could be good, could be boring. They also had the Suze Rotolo book, so I'll probably get that at some point too! DYLAN DYLAN DYLAN.

tylerw, Monday, 9 November 2009 17:16 (twelve years ago) link

one year passes...

RIP Suze

Her social views, especially her commitment to the civil rights movement and her work for the Congress for Racial Equality, had a strong influence on Mr. Dylan’s writing, as did her interest in theater and the visual arts, which exposed him to ideas and artists outside the world of music.
When, to his distress, she went to Italy in 1962 to study art at the University of Perugia, her absence inspired the plaintive Dylan love songs “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” “Boots of Spanish Leather” and “Tomorrow Is a Long Time.” He later wrote a song highly critical of her family, “Ballad in Plain D.”

Ms. Rotolo spent most of her adult life avoiding discussions of her relationship with Mr. Dylan and pursuing a career as an artist, but she relented after Mr. Dylan published his autobiography. She appeared as an interview subject in “No Direction Home,” Martin Scorsese’s 2005 documentary about Mr. Dylan, and wrote “A Freewheelin’ Time” in large part to tell her side of the Dylan story and to portray herself as more complicated than a muse.

curmudgeon, Monday, 28 February 2011 19:27 (ten years ago) link

RIP! Haven't read her book, but maybe I will now. She was great in the interviews on No Direction Home...

tylerw, Monday, 28 February 2011 19:36 (ten years ago) link

Book is great.

I read it in NY, sort of coincidentally (I bought it in London before getting a cheap flight deal, so it became appropriate).

And now, a cafe-wha flyer is its permanent bookmark.

Mark G, Tuesday, 1 March 2011 12:19 (ten years ago) link

Ok, so that's another book on this thread that I need to read.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 1 March 2011 14:27 (ten years ago) link

ten years pass...

Ok so what I would like to read is a book that tracks what this off the chart weirdo did in his life, mostly after the motorsiccle accident…who did he associate with? what does he like to do, what is he like to be around? what are the significant relationships in his life? does he have anything to do with his children? does he have shit tons of unacknowledged children? what did the people who worked with him directly made of him and his methods, beliefs, hygiene? I am resolutely uninterested in what the likes of Clinton Heylin thinks of "Blind Wille McTell" or any other song, lyric, etc etc… the guy and his team have done an extraordinarily good job in obscuring his personal life from view in the past 40 years, but there must be a book along the lines of what I am seeking? anybody?

veronica moser, Wednesday, 12 January 2022 01:52 (one week ago) link

Sorry but Heylin's probably your best bet in terms of amount of detail. He's written so many different books that focus on different things. Bob Dylan: A Life in Stolen Moments : Day by Day, 1941-1995 is basically a day by day summary, probably similar to the one Mark Lewisohn did of the Beatles many years ago, so if that's a format you like, there you go. Otherwise, Behind the Shades is your best bet. There's still musical criticism in there but it's primarily a full-blown biography. (The UK edition is more updated if you want stuff past 1999.) One big knock on Heylin is he's a dick to his contemporaries so he's not good about giving research credit where it's due, but regardless all the information is there.

birdistheword, Wednesday, 12 January 2022 02:02 (one week ago) link

This guy followed the paper trail & got interviews; dunno how good it is, but here's hype for latest edition:
Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan Paperback – May 4, 2021
by Howard Sounes
...Sounes’s prodigious research has resulted in new insights on every aspect of Dylan’s life. He has obtained exclusive information to provide the clearest picture yet of Dylan’s 1966 motorcycle accident and subsequent “lost years” in Woodstock, New York, and he uncovered the star’s unknown second marriage. He gives inside accounts of the tours, the creation of every album and the most celebrated songs, Dylan’s labyrinthine love life, his life-threatening heart illness in 1997, and more―directly from interviews with girlfriends, family, friends, producers, concert promoters, and fellow musicians.

As Dylan approaches his eightieth year, Howard Sounes once again brings Down the Highway up to date...

dow, Wednesday, 12 January 2022 02:18 (one week ago) link

it is a little astonishing to realize how little we know about dylan's personal life after a certain point. presumably it's because he's still with us (thankfully!), but i can't even think of any tell-all books or anything that have come out about post-60s dylan. (compare to john lennon, where it sometimes seems as if anyone who bumped into him in a bar has written a book.)

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Wednesday, 12 January 2022 02:21 (one week ago) link

I kind of liked that Sounes book, although that guy is kind of grumpy and tends to be a little mean towards his subjects.

The Door into Summerisle (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 12 January 2022 02:22 (one week ago) link

I think the only book on Dylan I’ve read (apart from Chronicles) is Heylin’s book on the Christian years, which is maybe the only era where I find his life more compelling than the music. I started out enjoying it and by the end Heylin’s style was driving me up the wall. For some reason I’m rarely driven to read much about him, I think I have the assumption that any book about him would be more reflective of the author than it would be of Dylan. I suppose you could say that about Chronicles too - you find out more about where Dylan was as a writer at the time than you do about his life.

JoeStork, Wednesday, 12 January 2022 03:33 (one week ago) link

Chronicles is excellent. Personally, when it comes to memoirs, I'm more interested in the writing than prying into an artist's life, so I typically don't dive into them unless I hear good word-of-mouth. Of the handful I've read, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Chuck Berry and Richard Hell's are the best. Keith Richards was a decent read but it didn't live up to the hype for me. I need to revisit Patti Smith's as I was too skeptical of the romanticizing. I was wary of Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello's but I eventually caved and liked them a lot, probably more than most - not perfect, Springsteen feels a bit too much in spots (in some ways, I prefer the Broadway show as a concentrated version of it) and Costello's life/work does get less interesting after the McCartney collaborations, but they both have a lot to recommend. Some people don't like Costello's non-chronological approach but I actually enjoyed his choice to do that rather than the standard approach most biographies take.

birdistheword, Wednesday, 12 January 2022 05:22 (one week ago) link

Forgot Richard Thompson's was good too. That may be it in terms of what I read front to back. I've skimmed or sampled a lot of others, but it probably amounts to 15 minutes to an hour of reading of each at best. The Prince memoir was like that - it's a BEAUTIFUL book, but it's better to look at than read, if that makes sense. Also I thought Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson's would make fun reading going back and forth between the two, but there's a lot about both that I didn't like so I wound up skimming them.

birdistheword, Wednesday, 12 January 2022 05:26 (one week ago) link

Mostly what I remember about Anthony Scaduto's Bob Dylan, which I read when it first came out in early 70s (?) drugstore paperback, is hilarious tales told by Baez, also then known for BD parodies and zings in her concerts. She's followed suit in her own books and elsewhere, really should do a collection of her Dylan stories (like she has of his songs), with prev. unpublished still plentiful, no doubt. Maybe she will yet!

dow, Wednesday, 12 January 2022 17:37 (one week ago) link

Also infotaining:
David Hajdu's Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña, and Richard Fariña

dow, Wednesday, 12 January 2022 17:41 (one week ago) link

Cool, tell Big Joan I said hi!.

The Door into Summerisle (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 12 January 2022 17:46 (one week ago) link

WTF w the Paul Williams hate at the beginning of this thread. His three books on Dylan are incredible.

Naive Teen Idol, Thursday, 13 January 2022 17:34 (one week ago) link

Man, I gotta read Louie Kemp's book:
By Stephen Silver, JTA
Jewish summer camp is such a crucial part of the American Jewish experience that many Jewish adults, even in their older age, likely remember the names of many of the kids in their cabins from when they were 11 years old.

One of those cabins — more than 60 years ago — contained a couple of interesting young Jewish boys.

Louie Kemp would go on to head his family’s seafood company and played a key role in introducing imitation king crab to the United States. Robert “Bobby” Zimmerman went on to become Bob Dylan.

Kemp has written a memoir called Dylan & Me: 50 Years of Adventures (WestRose Press), detailing his friendship with the iconic singer.

The author lived with Dylan for a time in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, during the period when Dylan briefly became a Christian. Kemp, who then was becoming a more observant Jew, which he remains to this day, claims credit, along with some rabbis, for bringing Dylan back into the Jewish fold a couple of years later.

Kemp’s book is full of delightful, specifically Jewish details, such as Dylan’s years of participation in Chabad telethons, the time he opened the ark on Yom Kippur while being mistaken for a homeless man and the story of how Kemp arranged for Kaddish to be said for Allen Ginsburg each year on his yahrtzeit. All that, and many, many visits to Canter’s Deli.
He writes specifically about how he believes Dylan’s Jewish background informed his later success.

“[Jews] have a passion to seek out meaning and give it new expression, morally and artistically,” Kemp wrote. “That drive — along with another Jewish trait known as chutzpah — have always been strong in Bobby, and his gifts have made his expression worthy of the ages,” Kemp told JTA.

Herzl Camp, where it all began, has taken notice of Kemp’s book.

dow, Thursday, 13 January 2022 18:04 (one week ago) link

Good pix too!

dow, Thursday, 13 January 2022 18:06 (one week ago) link

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