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That Wild Mercury Sound

Charles Nicholl: Dylan’s Decade

1 December 2016
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965-66 
by Bob Dylan.
Columbia, £60, November 2015
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... BobDylan’s​ first album, recorded in New York in late 1961, was simply called BobDylan. The creation of ‘BobDylan’ – the persona, the sound, the look – was as important as the record’s contents. He’d been using the alias since the summer of 1960. His given name was Robert Zimmerman and he had grown up ...
23 May 1991
The Dylan​ Companion 
edited by Elizabeth Thomson and David Gutman.
Macmillan, 338 pp., £10.99, April 1991, 0 333 49826 7
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Bob DylanPerforming Artist. Vol. I: 1960-73 
by Paul Williams.
Xanadu, 310 pp., £14.99, February 1991, 1 85480 044 2
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DylanBehind the Shades 
by Clinton Heylin.
Viking, 528 pp., £16.99, May 1991, 0 670 83602 8
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The Bootleg Series: Vols I-III (rare and unreleased) 1961-1991 
by Bob Dylan.
Columbia, £24.95, April 1991
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... May the 24th is BobDylan’s 50th birthday. To anyone involved with Dylan in the mid-Sixties, say during his medicine-fuelled blaze with the Band through Australia and Europe in 1966, the fact that he is not only alive but still performing twenty-five years later must in ...

Forget the Dylai Lama

Thomas Jones: Bob Dylan

6 November 2003
Dylan's Visions of Sin 
by Christopher Ricks.
Viking, 517 pp., £25, October 2003, 9780670801336
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... The object of his satire is the paranoid and xenophobic response of some of his fellow Americans to the threat posed by a sinister and nebulous enemy from the other side of the world. It could be BobDylan performing his ‘Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues’ (‘I discovered there was red stripes on the American flag’); but the year is 2002, and the song is ‘Talkin’ Al Kida Blues ...


Philip Horne and Danny Karlin: Million Dollar Bashers

22 June 1989
... 5 November 1988. In the Madison suite of Sacha’s Hotel in Manchester (motto: ‘Sacha’s Only Looks Expensive’), Paul Williams recalls an unrewarding encounter with BobDylan: ‘But I shook his hand which was ... and this was at the beginning of the tour ... and things changed significantly during the tour ... he became more sociable, I’ve been talking to a number of ...
5 February 1987
No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob​ Dylan 
by Robert Shelton.
New English Library, 573 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 450 04843 8
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... Portraits require sitters. Portraits of the famous, which often seem designed for target practice, require the sitters to be sitting ducks as well. But BobDylan can’t stand sitting. Try playing chess with him: ‘His knees bounce up against the table so much you think you are at a séance. The pieces keep jumping around the board. But he beats me every ...
16 November 1995
... that a moment before said fear now says who cares. The rhythm becomes a chase after pleasure; the chase is caught and let loose for the pleasure of chasing it down again. With every chorus BobDylan and Richard Manuel lift their voices and then abandon them, stranding their words right at the edge of a cliff, suspending the sound in dead silence until the next verse begins. It’s a stark ...

Father Figures

Marguerite Alexander

1 September 1983
A Journey in Ladakh 
by Andrew Harvey.
Cape, 236 pp., £8.50, May 1983, 0 224 02056 0
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All of us There 
by Polly Devlin.
Weidenfeld, 200 pp., £7.95, June 1983, 9780297782247
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The Far Side of the Lough: Stories from an Irish Childhood 
by Polly Devlin and Ian Newsham.
Gollancz, 118 pp., £5.50, June 1983, 0 575 03244 8
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... monastery to drown his spiritual bewilderment in drink (something called chang which, in keeping with the spirit of the place, inebriates without aftermath), then entertains the Ladakhi youth with a BobDylan song and a demonstration of disco dancing. He is good on the puritanical outrage of Westerners at any sign of commercialisation and turns in some Chaucerian vignettes of his fellow pilgrims. I ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Bob Dylan’s Tall Tales

21 October 2004
... USA’ as the anthem of his re-election campaign, having failed to pay attention either to the song’s lyrics (which are kind of ironic) or to the general thrust of Springsteen’s blue-collar rock. Bob Dole, having failed to pay attention to Reagan’s mistake, wanted to use the song during his unsuccessful campaign in 1988. Springsteen, co-opting a slogan of Nancy Reagan’s, just said no. Now the ...

The Style It Takes

Mark Ford: John Cale

16 September 1999
What’s Welsh for Zen? The Autobiography of John Cale 
by Victor Bockris.
Bloomsbury, 272 pp., £20, January 1999, 0 7475 3668 6
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...  could they all have been on Dr Collis Browne’s mixture in their infancy? To be able to play the classical repertoire, to compose orchestral pieces, to write scores for ballets or settings for Dylan Thomas poems, however, is well beyond the competence of other stars in the firmament, even Paul McCartney. There have been various, normally embarrassing attempts by rock groups, or ex-members of ...

Queen Mary

Michael Neve

20 December 1984
A Darker Shade of Pale: A Backdrop to Bob​ Dylan 
by Wilfrid Mellers.
Faber, 255 pp., £6.95, November 1984, 0 571 13345 2
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by Jonathan Cott.
Vermilion/Hutchinson, 244 pp., £20, October 1984, 0 09 158750 6
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... seem increasingly difficult to take a certain kind of confident professor seriously. A happy professor of political science, for example, must be a very weird cat. As with (almost) everything else, BobDylan has something to say about this. In ‘My Back Pages’, a fine song that connects scepticism with a sense of becoming increasingly youthful as the years pass, he recalls: A self-ordained ...

True Grit

Christopher Tayler: Sam Shepard

6 March 2003
Great Dream of Heaven 
by Sam Shepard.
Secker, 142 pp., £10, November 2002, 0 436 20594 7
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... were instructed, should be treated ‘in terms of collage construction or jazz improvisation’; and there was a similar touch of self-conscious experimentalism in Shepard’s space cowboy persona. BobDylan, he admiringly observed, ‘has invented himself. He’s made himself up from scratch. That is, from the things he had around him and inside him. Dylan is an invention of his own mind. The ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: The Size of Wales

23 May 2002
... the size of Wales. Nonetheless, Cervantes’s romance has been voted the best book ever by a bunch of writers – a hundred or so well-known authors from 54 countries, not including Isabel Allende, BobDylan or Gabriel García Márquez, who admirably declined to vote. The Guardian did a vox pop. New Puritan about town Nicholas Blincoe rather proudly let slip that he’s read 81 of the top 100 ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Godot on a bike

5 February 2004
... Flaubert couldn’t be more right: what makes his heroine Emma Bovary rather than Delphine Delamare, c’est lui. Writers must get tired of answering crass questions – and not only writers. BobDylan, when asked by a journalist what his songs were ‘about’, said: ‘Some of my songs are about four minutes, some are about five minutes and some, believe it or not, are about eleven or twelve ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Blurbs and puffs

20 July 2006
... your face, join the circus of publicity and sales. I Loved You for Your Voice by Sélim Nassib (Europa, £8.99) is a novel based on the life of the Egyptian singer Om Kalthoum. It carries a plug from BobDylan: ‘Om Kalthoum is great. She really is.’ This is unenlightening for three reasons: first, Om Kalthoum’s greatness isn’t in dispute; second, Dylan will plug anything these days (remember ...

Judas’ Gift

Adam Phillips: In Praise of Betrayal

5 January 2012
... In 1965-66 the erstwhile folk singer BobDylan released a great trilogy of albums, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, and set off on a world tour that would change popular music. At a now famous concert at the ...

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