My Photo

the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

Follow 1michaelgray1 on Twitter

Monday, June 26, 2006

First day of Wimbledon fortnight. Naturally the opening match, featuring reigning champion Roger Federer, was rained off after just 35 minutes of play. Meanwhile good reviews for the book lately in the Village Voice and Publishers Weekly; no stinkers yet. Three enthusiastic punter-reviews on, though I preferred it when there were only two. The third, though well-intended, suggests that the book assumes much pre-knowledge of Dylan's work, which I don't think is true, and also picks out, with some relish, what is taken to be an attack on one of the other 'Dylan writers' - and I don't think it is an attack. The entry in question pays strong tribute to that writer's achievements in Dylan studies.

It isn't the first time that "controversial" opinions expressed in the Encyclopedia have been highlighted (highlit?) - and while I can't deny that not everyone is held up for indiscriminate approbation, on the whole this is definitely a book full of enthusiasms, and as other authors before me have often noted, the only way to avoid offending people with your "controversial" arguments is to be sure you don't say anything. That's just not me. I hope.

Update: a 4th punter-review appeared on within five minutes of publishing this morning's blog.

Strange fact: On his 8th XM Radio show, on Marriage, Bob got one of the artists' names wrong. 'The Man Who Wrote Home Sweet Home Never Was A Married Man', as played towards the end of the show, is not by the great Charlie Poole but by Charlie Parker & Mark Woolbright, recorded in Atlanta in November 1927. This is the only pre-war recording known to exist. And it's Woolbright on that banjo.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Today's photograph is neither in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia nor among those that nearly got used... It's just a photo of our family dog, the splendid Digby, a wire-haired fox terrier who has been with us for 12 years now.

Unlike me, he is admirably non-judgmental about Bob Dylan's work. Also unlike me, he threw up his lunch all over the stairs about an hour ago. Charming...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


A quick recap: The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia (including searchable CD-ROM) is out and it looks like this -

and the first signing in the UK is a week tomorrow, Wednesday 28th June, 2-4pm at Nunnington Hall, Nunnington, near Helmsley, North Yorkshire (for anyone who, like me, can't make it to Dylan's Bournemouth concert 250 miles to the south that same evening).

And a new request: if, browsing the Encyclopedia, you encounter any error, please do write in to this blog and report it; we intend to build corrections into future printings, so it would be most valuable to hear of them. Thank you.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Monday 19th June. English summer elusive as ever. Old friend e-mailed, saying this: "Wonderful weather yesterday - blue sky, warmth, sun, windows and doors open, shorts, gins and tonics, heavy scents of philadelphus, roses, night scented stock. Today? Gray, cloudy, jeans, cups of tea and the ironing. Two consecutive days of bliss clearly too much to ask."

New Dylan album in August: first new studio album, of course, since "Love and Theft". This one is called Modern Times. But since quotation marks were part of the title in the case of "Love and Theft", because it was taken directly from another work's title - Eric Lott's scholarly book of 1993, Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class - you'd expect the new album to include quotation marks too, since Modern Times is the title of a landmark film by Charlie Chaplin from 1936 - a last cling to silent film (yet utilising sound very slyly) and the last film to feature Chaplin's nameless persona The Tramp.

Also features Paulette Goddard as his companion The Gamin, a homeless young woman ("when you ain't got nothin' you got nothin' to lose"?). A comic film with a serious point, the film deals with the struggle of the misfit in an increasingly bewildering, dehumanised modern world. All very Dylan in its themes and preoccupations. And 45 years after Bob was first dubbed "Chaplinesque", he draws upon a Chaplin title: a film from 70 years ago.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Yes, at last - the official North American publication date! And by serendipitous coincidence, it's also the day I finished writing the text of Song & Dance Man III: The Art of Bob Dylan in 1999.

Which set me finding a couple of other anniversaries around now... coming up on Monday the 26th it'll be exactly 25 years since the publication date of the second edition of my Dylan book - the one with the title reversed, ie The Art of Bob Dylan: Song & Dance Man. And the 28th, on which Dylan is performing in Bournemouth UK (and I'm doing a signing at Nunnington Hall, North Yorkshire), is the 80th anniversary of Robert Shelton's birth.

This is the photo of him from the Encyclopedia. It was taken on Great Malvern railway station in 1974, when he came to visit me. He'd been the first Dylan-connected person to phone me out of the blue with encouragement when the first edition of Song & Dance Man came out: the first person I think I'd ever met who knew Bob Dylan.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

ONE day till publication of The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. Glad to see that its first review in a national US publication, the Library Journal, was a very positive one (

In London, where the book's official publication is next month, there's a launch event at the London Review Bookshop in Bloomsbury at 7pm on Tuesday 18th July, with tickets on sale from the bookshop soon. I'm told I'm giving a short talk on "The A-Z of Bob Dylan", and playing a couple of recordings. If you're able to come, and you do, please come and say hello.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Three days till publication... and here's the CD-ROM that's included at the back of the book, which gives a searchable version of the complete text:

Monday, June 05, 2006

Friday night. Went to the preview of the Official Bob Dylan Photographs Exhibition at Nunnington Hall, an old pile that is now a National Trust property only about five miles from my own rather smaller old pile. Nunnington Hall is the first place outside London to mount this exhibition, which has an extremely generous array of limited-edition photographs, mostly black 'n' white and mostly 1960s, of Bob in all his glory. One of the things that strikes you is the range of pictures by Don Hunstein. He's mostly known for that LP cover picture of Bob and Suze Rotolo walking down snowy Cornelia Street (Hunstein's own pinpointing there), but he took photos of Dylan all the way through from 62 to 65. You don't think of him as capturing the thin-as-thin besuited hipster Bob of electric 1965, but he did. (Hunstein, as the Encyclopedia notes, was born in late 1928, so he's now 77 and, in his own words, "somewhat more than semi-retired".)

The Exhbition itself opens at Nunnington Hall tomorrow (Tuesday June 6) and runs till July 9. An author signing for The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia will be held there on the afternoon of Wednesday June 28. If you're not en route to Bournemouth to see Bob, you could always drop in on the Exhibition and say hello.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

June 1st . . . two weeks till publication day for The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, and my own first copies arrived in the post this morning. Such a weird feeling to see it as an object, to pick it up and open it, hold it, browse this book, after a year of seeing it only as Word Documents on the screen. And now it's a hardback: heavy and beautiful.