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Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited Paperback – April 29, 2003

3.8 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Because he was denied access to Dylan for this unauthorized biography, Heylin (Bob Dylan: The Recording Sessions, 1960A1994) was driven to dig particularly deep. In this update to his 1991 tome, based on unpublished manuscripts such as the diaries from Dylan's 1974 tour and the Blood on the Tracks recording sessions, which were unavailable 10 years ago, along with new, original interviews, Heylin documents "a constant, unresolvable conflict between man and artist." This makes for a morbid, albeit fascinating, 40-year epic with a 260-person chorus that boasts childhood friends, George Harrison, Robbie Robertson, Joan Baez and Dylan's various and sundry "unworthy muses." Everyone, it seems, is singing Dylan's praises and cursing him at the same time, but Heylin is able to make out his subject's voice: the former Robert Zimmerman is a prisoner to his 1960s persona, he says, and in the musician's attempts to protect his artistic and human right to change, he had to slowly withdraw from his overdemanding public. Although this biography should be touted for not fixating on Dylan's golden Blonde on Blonde era (it briefly covers the 1990s), between the lines, Heylin is nostalgicAnot for the pre-motorcycle accident, amphetamine-wired Dylan, but for a younger, less tired one who writes almost as much as he tours. With a subtitle that says "revisited," only die-hard fans will be among the few willing to crack this tome. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Heylin has put together the first complete biography of this most knotty of rock 'n' roll icons since Anthony Scaduto's Bob Dylan ( LJ 4/15/72). Other recent biographies, such as Robert Shelton's No Direction Home ( LJ 9/1/86) and Bob Spitz's Dylan: A Biography ( LJ 11/15/88), focus on Dylan's career until his motorcycle accident in 1966. These gloss over the subsequent years of his career, a period that includes some of his best work. Heylin attempts to rectify their omission with this impressive chronological look at Dylan's life from his beginnings in Hibbing, Minnesota through his many roles. Heylin's thesis is that Dylan is constantly reinventing himself, not necessarily to good effect (e.g., his poor albums of the early 1980s). The source material is mostly second-hand interviews, though Heylin conducted some of them himself for the British magazine Telegraph . This biography is neither fannish adulation nor axe-grinding screed, but a fair and sharp analysis of one of the 20th century's most important musicians. It also includes an impressive sessionography, a lengthy bibliography, and a list of people quoted and their relationships to Dylan. Highly recommended.
- Keith R.A. DeCandido, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: HarperEntertainment (April 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006052569X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060525699
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #311,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Clinton Heylin's revised edition of Behind the Shades is, at this point, the definitive Dylan biography, and is not likely to be surpassed anytime soon. In spite of it's comparative neglect in relation to Sounes' Down the Highway (published almost simultaneously, to coincide with Dylan's 60th birthday), Heylin's book is a more informative and rewarding book.
In tone, Heylin's writing is not as journalistic as Sounes', and more judgmental of Dylan as artist and musician. It draws heavily on interview material with associates and friends of Dylan's, and is significant in giving detailed attention to Dylan's career in the 80's and 90's, which is necessary for anyone seeking to understand Dylan's recent critical resurgence.
Based on his knowledge as the world's pre-eminent Dylan scholar, Heylin gives extensive commentary on Dylan's albums and their recording, a process he has given even greater attention to in his companion book Bob Dylan: The Recording Sessions (1994). This is one of the major differences between Heylin's book and Sounes'. Sounes does not focus so much on Dylan as a musician or even Dylan as a lyricist. Sounes' biography is more, well, biographical, providing tons of anecdotal accounts of Dylan's life and travels, while missing the point - Dylan matters because of his music and his lyrics above all else. His life, so cloaked in mystery and seclusion, is a mystery, and will remain so. A recording artist is ultimately most communicative through their recordings - through what they are, what they're not, and how they are presented to the artist's audience. Sounes attempts to fill in the mystery of Dylan's life, which is ultimately an impossible task, at the expense of communicating any real understanding of his music.
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Format: Paperback
In Behind the Shades Revisted, Heylin presents his findings with the astute, detached eye of a detective. Some reviewers are skeptical of an unauthorized biography, but Heylin effectively defends his approach: With authorized biographies, the subject has ultimate approval of the finished product. Consequently, the results are unavoidably subjective and incomplete. Heylin culls from a multitude diverse sources (interviews with musicians Dylan has worked with, friends, former girlfriends, ex-wives, to name just a few), presenting many different sides of his subject. Heylin has never interviewed or even met Dylan, and while this makes Behind the Shades feel somewhat detached, it offers more potential for objectivity. [Dylan is notoriously disingenous with reporters, so the value of first-hand interviews is probably negligible.]
Heylin describes Dylan's childhood and adolescence in northern Minnesota. Dylan's origins (both personal and musical) are described; Dylan has been enthusiastic about music at least since his early teens. Heylin provides detailed analysis of Dylan's early influences (mostly American pop icons like Little Richard) and follows his evolution during his early 20s, when he discovered folk and blues. He then proceeds to describe Dylan's artistic heyday during the mid-60's, his late 60s-early 70s hiatus, and his mid-70s resurgence.
One of the most impressive aspects of Heylin's writing is his willingness to discuss Dylan's largely derided work during the 80s-early 90s. While Dylan's work during this era has been understandably ridiculed (though Heylin's interpretation of much from this period is a little more positive than most other critics), his analysis provides essential insight into his subject.
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Format: Hardcover
This is, page by page, the best Dylan biography out there. If you're looking for a shocking exposition of debauchery, i.e., "National Enquirer"-style, then you should look elsewhere. However, if you are more interested in the man's art, as any true Dylan fan would be, then this is the book for you. Although he throws in a couple of questionable interjections (a complete rejection of the Grateful Dead having any importance in Dylan's career, a lack of sensitivity for when Dylan's muse is not there, and a slightly more expose-styled chapter towards the end of the book), Heylin does a generally good job throughout of keeping his personal opinions out of the book and telling us what we want to know. All of the albums are gone into in detail (as in, what was going on in Dylan's life when they were being made, inside details on the recording sessions, how and when the songs came about, etc.), and the good thing is that Heylin talks about the entire sessions (stuff that didn't make it, material that was never released), giving them as much credence as the official canon, which is very important. This gives the book a much more well-rounded scope, and shows the full wealth of Dylan's art, not just what he has chosen to release. All the tours are given full coverage as well. This is not to say that his personal life is not covered - it is. We get a fascinating glimpse into Dylan's early childhood, his teenage years when he first started playing in bands, and his subsequent moves to college and New York. All this stuff is, of course, detailed very thoroughly. We also get a look into his relationships (without stooping to voyeurism.Read more ›
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