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Among the Bobcats

Mark Ford, 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 Bob Dylan’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 itself seem utterly extraordinary ...

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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... Bob Dylan’s​ first album, recorded in New York in late 1961, was simply called Bob Dylan. The creation of ‘Bob Dylan’ – 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 ...

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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... to the threat posed by a sinister and nebulous enemy from the other side of the world. It could be Bob Dylan 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’ (‘Cuba’s our enemy, unless we need a prison ...


Philip Horne and Danny Karlin: Million Dollar Bashers, 22 June 1989

... Only Looks Expensive’), Paul Williams recalls an unrewarding encounter with Bob Dylan: ‘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 people who did see him backstage later on in the ...

It ain’t him, babe

Danny Karlin, 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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... often seem designed for target practice, require the sitters to be sitting ducks as well. But Bob Dylan 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 time.’ (Dave Van Ronk said that.) That must be how ...

Time Longer than Rope

Greil Marcus, 16 November 1995

... the chase is caught and let loose for the pleasure of chasing it down again. With every chorus Bob Dylan 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, shuddering effect, the pleasure cut like a heater in a ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Bob Dylan’s Tall Tales, 21 October 2004

... 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 Boss is doing more than merely refusing Republicans: he’s ...

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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... the spirit of the place, inebriates without aftermath), then entertains the Ladakhi youth with a Bob Dylan 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 liked the German woman who carries in her luggage eight ...

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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... 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 rock groups going solo, to explore musical ‘concepts’ and ...

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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... of political science, for example, must be a very weird cat. As with (almost) everything else, Bob Dylan 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 professor’s tongue Too serious to fool. Writing about ...

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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... there was a similar touch of self-conscious experimentalism in Shepard’s space cowboy persona. Bob Dylan, 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 point isn’t to figure ...


Ian Sansom: I was a teenage evangelist, 8 July 2004

... of a Christian community called the Vineyard Fellowship, and I’d heard that this was where Bob Dylan had been converted, so I was intrigued. If it was good enough for Dylan, I reasoned, it was good enough for me: I had recently bought, at a jumble sale, a tape of Dylan’s ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Blurbs and puffs, 20 July 2006

... is a novel based on the life of the Egyptian singer Om Kalthoum. It carries a plug from Bob Dylan: ‘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 those ads for ...

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Thomas Jones: The Size of Wales, 23 May 2002

... of writers – a hundred or so well-known authors from 54 countries, not including Isabel Allende, Bob Dylan 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; smashing Mark Lawson (69) into a measly second place. ‘I ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Godot on a bike, 5 February 2004

... c’est lui. Writers must get tired of answering crass questions – and not only writers. Bob Dylan, 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.’ Bernard’s book is organised ...

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