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

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Monday, March 01, 2010


Song & Dance Man III was published in North America ten years ago today. UK publication had been on December 13, 1999. (This was discussed in more detail in the entry now stored in Archives for December 2009.)

As I've said many times - mostly at the end of talks when people have asked me when it's coming - there'll never be a Song & Dance Man IV.

But - I am assembling and editing a collection of my work on Dylan and a few others for a new book. The working title is Outtakes. This draws on material from right back in the 1960s through to now, and includes previously unpublished essays - some short, some not so short - and pieces only previously printed in long-since defunct magazines or unobtainable back issues of other papers, as well as rare and previously unpublished photos and other illustrations.

I'd be glad to hear from as many of you as possible whether you'd consider buying a hardback, for the sake of solidity and gravitas etc., or a paperback first edition of decent quality for the sake of portability and budget. As much feedback as possible would be appreciated - and if you'd rather not have your comment published, please just say so and I'll keep it to myself.


Anonymous HP Bushoff said...

I'm old school when it comes to books: hardcover with dust jacket!

HP Bushoff

3:44 pm  
Anonymous Kieran said...

I'm also old school, but practicality would force me to get the paperback: I simply have no room on my shelves for more big books.

Either way, the substance won't change, but I'd be better suited to the soft cover version.

And good luck with it, Michael, I'm sure it'll be a great success with a lot of very interesting articles. Will it contain any reviews of post-TOOM work?


8:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My inclination is toward a hardcover whenever a book has a good index.
If a book is something that is useful for reference it's one I'll be looking at again as long as it's functional. Pat Ford

9:54 pm  
Anonymous Peter said...

Hardback certainly - it would depend on size though, the bigger the book the more resilient hardback would be. Whatever format you choose, good luck with it!

9:58 am  
Blogger Mark said...

I don't care how it's published AS LONG AS IT'S PUBLISHED! Great work on the encyclopedia too.

12:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't read all the critical works on Dylan, but I think I have read all the major ones, and yours is the only one I really enjoyed; it's also the one I learned the most things from (the only thing that probably taught me more about Dylan is The Telegraph, but then that was a magazine published over a number of years). I wonder how many new Dylan albums we have left to enjoy? It would be a shame not to do one more update, but it's your baby.

2:05 pm  
Blogger jc said...

Hi Michael. Great news, very much look forward to 'Outtakes'.

I would vote for a hardback edition, definitely. Would it be too much to ask for a PDF as well, like we got with the hb of the Encyclopedia? I can't tell you how useful that PDF was, and how it led so easily to browsing from link to link.

2:06 pm  
Blogger Kevin said...

Though I have all of your books, I've pretty much stopped buying books on Dylan. (There doesn't seem to be much more to learn for me) BUT, when I do buy a book, I only buy hardcover. A dustjacket is much preferred, which I protect with a library-style mylar sleeve. Paperbacks are like newspapers and magazines, and get damaged on first reading.

2:51 pm  
Blogger Frank E said...

Gravitas. Oh, yes please. Would it be too presumptuous of me,... or could I perhaps,... how should I put this,... just think of it this way,... is there an edition with extra, added gravitas.

That´s the one for me.

Danke, Michael.

5:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would prefer a hardback. In relation to rare photographs,I recently came across a slide show ( Covent Woman live 1980 )on You Tube with a photograph of Dylan singing on the porch of a black family home circa Greenwood Mississippi Rally which I have never seen before and would I feel enhance your book.


5:55 pm  
Anonymous Bev said...

I'm a soft-cover man generally.

Looking forward to it.

8:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm more inclined to the hardback with d/j myself, and preferably signed, too, but anything will do: it's the contents that matter. Good luck with this and all best! Antonio J. Iriarte

8:45 pm  
Anonymous Carl Finlay said...

Hi Michael. Great to hear that we have another book to look forward to. Ideally I would prefer a hardback copy. But it would depend on whether there was a significant difference in price between the two. My copy of "Song and dance man" is a paperback and it got so much use and travel that it no longer has a front or back cover as well as some of the index pages and opening pages. I was lucky enough to but a hardback copy of the encyclopedia which was on sale in a shop at an extreme bargain price and it is holding up perfectly.
Either way you have a guaranteed customer in me. Best of luck with it.

5:18 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll wait for a cheap edition.

10:17 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck with the book-I look forward to reading it in either format.


12:22 pm  
Anonymous wee tommy said...

Surely the gravitas comes from what's inside rather than what's outside? Generally, I prefer a hard cover on a reference book and a soft cover on a book I'm going to read all the way through. Sounds like this one could go either way!

2:24 pm  
Blogger Judas Priest said...


I'd certainly go the harback route if there was a decent quota of stuff covering the "modern" era (which I tend to classify as from the moment his voice went lower by a few notches, in other words from Oh Mercy onwards). Seeing as you have a fondness (or even more) for L&T and Christmas in the Heart, it would be very nice indeed to read previously unpublished pieces on those albums. That alone would justify a hardback purchase in my book...

Good luck with the project. Any idea of a ballpark release date/year?



11:07 am  
Blogger daveo said...

Mr.Grey I have four of your books and I value them. However we do not need another Bob Dylan book.
Bob is great but I feel its time for us all to move on a bit.

3:52 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Well Daveo, may I say, in a kindly way, that I'm sorry to learn that you have four of my books and still haven't noticed how I spell my name. And if we don't need another Dylan book, and we should all be moving on, er, why are you reading this blog?

Meanwhile thank you to all those readers who have taken the trouble to comment. It's been most useful.

11:13 pm  
Anonymous Carl Finlay said...

Hi again
I appreciate that you were not asking what you should include within the hard or soft covers, but i just wanted to second the comment made by judas priest. I too would be delighted if there was a significant amount of the book dedicated to bobs later years...particularly from Love and Theft onward. I would assume that most people who hope for another edition of "Song and Dance Man", do so because they would love to read your analysis of his work in this period.
Im sure you'll do a great job whatever the book contains and however it's held together :)

2:15 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Comparing my paperback 'Song & Dance Man III' to my hardback 'Bob Dylan Encyclopedia', both of which I've read cover to cover, I notice that it's the hardback that's suffered the damage (creases to spine etc.) The paperback holds up perfectly. Just saying. Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading this new collection, whatever format it's published in.

10:05 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Gray, I would buy the book whether it's hardback or paperback. I refer to Song and Dance Man III and the Encyclopedia often, and would welcome a new addition. I'd prefer hardback, but it's not that important to me. I would like some in depth analysis of his newer work (two albums of which you really dismissed). I would like to read about where Dylan went wrong in your opinion and what Dylan was trying to accomplish (or if he is just riding on his reputation). I think the albums (MT and TTL) deserve some decent critical analysis, even if they disappointed you.

7:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael, you might want to leave off publishing this post, as it's a bit rambling. Anyway...
My wife and I have agreed NO MORE BOOKS. My shelves are overflowing with them. So I've sort of made it a rule to only trade books (usually through bookmooch, which is a book swap site). The last Dylan book I bought was your Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. That really was a lovely hardback, very nicely produced; I just love the feel of the thing. So basically I shouldn't buy your next one, when it comes out, in any format, and certainly can't promise that I will. But if I see it on the bookshop shelf, and touch it, and the hardback is as nicely produced as the Encyclopedia, I might weaken. There are few Dylanologists left that could tempt me to buy a book, given the new no more books rule. Bauldie is gone, and we never did get to read his Chameleon Poet (as I dimly remember he was going to call it). Heylin, to be honest, is too interested in Heylin, despite his knowledge. Ricks I find more entertaining in person than on the page. You are one of the only ones whose work on Dylan I find worth buying, since I'm not a completist; in fact you are probably THE finest commentator on his work. But it would have to be a very nicely produced book to get me to break that rule.

9:24 pm  
Blogger Frank said...

I agree with many of the comments asking for a concentration in the new book on Dylan's more recent work.

I'd like to see proper exegeses and fully argued critiques of 'Modern Times' and 'Together Through Life' rather than the summary dismissals of the albums that you have offered so far, Michael.

Soft or hard cover? It doesn't matter, especially if the hardback will have a perfect binding (what a misnomer!) as S&DM3 did.

Gravitas? Maybe. But I'd be equally happy to see you lighten up with a little levity!

3:50 pm  

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