Outtakes On Bob Dylan

NEW TITLE: Outtakes On Bob Dylan: Selected Writings 1967-2021 by Michael Gray

Michael Gray wrote his first article on Bob Dylan for the counterculture magazine OZ in 1967 when its editor asked him to  ‘Do an F.R. Leavis on Bob Dylan’s songs.’ He’s been writing about those songs ever since. Alongside his groundbreaking Song & Dance Man trilogy and the massive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, Gray has been bringing his acuity to Dylan’s career for newspapers, magazines and journals from the 1960s to the present day.

Here we have eye-witness accounts of concerts: from a mercurial 1966 show in Liverpool through to bulletins from glorious, and not so glorious, shows on the Never-Ending Tour. Dylan’s blues roots are explored in train rides through Mississippi. On a trip to Hibbing, Gray gets to play the same piano in the same school hall where Dylan hammered out Little Richard numbers in the 1950s. Throughout, Gray turns his critical attention to Dylan’s work as it appears, from his immediate perceptive take on 1975’s Blood On The Tracks up to a new, extended essay on 2020’s Rough And Rowdy Ways.

Ever since the pioneering Song & Dance Man in 1972, Michael Gray has been the go-to critic for Dylan fans in search of serious analysis of this most elusive artist’s work. In Outtakes On Bob Dylan, we get Gray the man as well as a unique measure of Dylan’s long career as it unfolds, not in retrospect but in real time.

‘Gray’s passionate subjectivity mirrors his subject’s wholly idiosyncratic journey through life, as well as the complexities and contradictions that make Dylan who he is.’ Times Literary Supplement

‘Gray has read everything remotely related to the subject; he has also listened to everything, and with great care… alert to the fluidity of ideas and associations in Dylan’s art and microscopically attentive to his choice and delivery of words.’ The Guardian

‘I have always admired Gray’s reach, tone, and acuity.’ Greil Marcus

NUMBERED EDITION: All pre-orders taken before 30th April 2021 will receive an exclusive numbered first-edition hardback. Pre-orders will begin shipping in the first week of May 2021, in advance of official publication. Click here to pre-order your advance numbered copy.

The Chameleon Poet Manuscript History

Bill Allison and John Bauldie, 1980s

The Chameleon Poet manuscript came to us via John Bauldie’s lifelong friend, Bill Allison. During the process of preparing the manuscript for publication, we spent many hours with Bill who regaled us with countless stories about John, providing invaluable context. The book is objectively a critical study of Bob Dylan’s work, and as such is thoroughly conceived, but such accounts are never free of personal responses to the work so it was important for us to understand the man in order to fully understand his text. Some of the stories Bill told us about John’s life are recounted in the introduction he wrote to the book, but there was nothing in there on the provenance of the manuscript, and where it had been resting for the past 40 years, so we invited Bill to write a little about that for us. Here’s the story he sent.


I would like write about how the manuscript for The Chameleon Poet was found hidden in a terracotta jar in a cave near a desert, stuffed behind some rather large canvases in a Bloomsbury attic, in a bunker of looted war treasure or in an old dusty university library. I can’t. The manuscript for The Chameleon Poet has sat in a steel trunk in my attic for twenty-five years. The most exotic its storage gets is that the trunk was commissioned by my grandad on his return from India in 1932. It’s emblazoned with an inscription on the lock which tells that it was made in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, the home of the best locks in the world. Nevertheless, the manuscript’s preservation has been just as important to the world of Dylan Studies as any of the above have been respective to theirs.

People who recognise the name of John Bauldie will perhaps be aware of something of his biography, his life and his death, which I describe in my extended introduction to The Chameleon Poet. In there I have deliberately avoided telling the story of where the manuscript has been. But for those who want to know, here it is.

Film directors are known to issue the command ‘Cut on action’. This is all well and good but there will obviously be footage that spills off the reel and falls on the cutting room floor. Rather cliché ridden I know. However, when a person’s life is cut on action, especially before its rightful time, the very same happens. Very few are ready for death, certainly when death occurs to the young, nothing is in order, nothing is finished, nothing is closed.

When John died in October 1996, Penny, his partner of over twenty-five years, asked me to take everything away, take care of it and look to any unfinished business. So, after his funeral, boxes and boxes of newspaper cuttings, magazines, posters, books and tapes filled my car and made its way from Richmond upon Thames to my home in Lancashire. All of it went into my attic, that Aladdin’s cave of a lifetime’s junk.

Rather tragically Penny, who was John’s literary executor, died in 2004. Penny and I had been close friends since 1975 and knew the intimacies of each other’s lives. We were always in touch until her death. The literary estate then passed to Penny’s sister, Margaret, who felt the same as Penny about John’s work and suggested I carry on with what Penny had asked me to do.

Everyone’s first concerns were the tapes. What was in John’s fabled Dylan tape collection? Would we find acetates of ‘Church with No Upstairs’ or ‘Snow on the Interstate’? Would there be music that collectors would drool over?

Well actually, no. John was generous to a fault and always gave copies of whatever he had to close friends who would pass copies on to their close friends until everyone who wanted it had it and had already drooled over it. And actually, don’t hold your breath, as far as we know the two tracks listed above don’t exist. Myth becomes fable becomes history but they were just figments of tape hungry, scoop needy journalists’ imagination.

John’s collection contained recordings in every format available from 1965 onward. So there were stacks and stacks of open reel tapes, box after box of cassettes and the beginnings of a CD-R stash.

His CD-Rs weren’t as extensive as they might have been since John felt that DATs offered a better quality sound and he was in the process of transferring some of his collection to DAT.

For fifteen years this hoard rested in our house above our heads, piled in amongst the Christmas decorations, outgrown children’s toys and old lamp shades that had gone out of fashion as I continued to work as a senior leader in secondary school. I retired in 2010. My daughters who were massive Dr Who fans at the time suggested that I hadn’t retired, an awful concept, but that I had regenerated and indeed such was the case.

Upon regenerating there were certain things that I felt that I had to do. John always said that there were people and there was stuff, and that people were more important than stuff. However to do right by John, I felt that I had to sort his stuff out. This was top of my ‘to do’ list. So I began to trawl and this took some considerable time. Months running to years.

The boxes of tapes got in the way of everything. I constantly fell over them whenever I went up into the attic. They hindered getting the Christmas decorations out, climbing over them for fifteen years or so. I toyed with the idea of listing them, playing them all to check what was there and if indeed there were any surprises. Collectors and I were in touch. The quest was always to try and find better quality recordings that were closer to the source tape. Indeed over the years I had played my own part in the world of ‘Dylan Collecting’. Like John, I was a grown man from the North of England who had started collecting Dylan tapes as a seemingly little boy and swapping them as if I was a bright-eyed schoolboy swapping stamps to put in my album. Still, I quite quickly came to the conclusion that the tapes of Dylan’s music held nothing to reveal that we didn’t already know about.

Next up was the paperwork, and there was lots of it. Original newspaper cuttings about the 1966 havoc-wreaking world tour, reviews of the comeback tour in 1974, and photographs of the 1975 Rolling Thunder Tour amongst much, much more. Then The Telegraphs. Cut and paste starting-point copies of many issues, culminating in all published fifty-six editions, most with beautiful colour photographs on the front.

Amongst the material were also ring-binder folders of various sizes. Some contained handwritten material and some had what was in them typed up. I actually found it emotionally quite difficult to look into these and put it off for some time as I tried to make sense of my feelings. These days we are told that it is good thing for men to articulate their emotions and even cry if necessary. But this didn’t seem to be the case then. as recently as 2010. It was Margaret who attempted to articulate for me what I was feeling. She suggested that even now I was still grieving for John, someone who had played a massive part in my life. Our lives had been as tangled as spaghetti. For a quarter of a century we had seen each other’s ups and downs, highs and lows and blues.

Eventually I began to look at what was inside the files. Quite quickly it became clear that they all contained the same material, albeit with different working titles, written by hand or typed. They were versions of what John had called The Chameleon Poet: Bob Dylan’s Search for Self 1962-1980. Clearly I knew of the manuscript. I had read a version long ago when he was working on it. I had discussed with him the ideas he explored in it. He had often referred to it, albeit tongue in cheek, in The Telegraph, had published one chapter in a Dylan fanzine and later another in The Telegraph. So, although it sounds rather dramatic, I had in my hand what I would consider to be John Bauldie’s unpublished magnum opus. Not quite The Dead Sea Scrolls but, nevertheless, as important to the world of Dylan Studies in understanding and appreciatingDylan’s work as The Scrolls were to understanding and appreciating First Century BCE Judaism.

Somehow, out of deep seated loyalty to John and my appreciation of what the work offered, I became determined to have The Chameleon Poet published. In the period since John’s death, his name and what he did vis-à-vis The Telegraph and his involvement in the The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 were continually mentioned, so it seemed to me that the world needed to see his major work and then John Bauldie would perhaps receive his rightful place at what I have called the high table of Dylan Studies. John’s quest, his challenge, had been to bring to the world the notion that Dylan’s work could be written about in the same way that Shakespeare’s, Keats, Dickens or any other major writer you care to mention could be. In fact as early as 1990 he had led the idea that Dylan’s name should be forwarded to the Nobel Prize Committee to be recognised as someune who should be awarded their Prize for Literature.

Despite all his achievements, John had never published anything of his own about Dylan’s work in mainstream publishing. He had written more than sixty-five articles for The Telegraph. He had co-edited a book of articles of his own and others from The Telegraph and followed this up with a second collection from its pages of interviews with those who had worked creatively with Dylan. Finally, just before his death, he published a book he worked on with journalist Patrick Humphries.

I discussed the idea of publication with Margaret who felt it was an important idea and suggested I go ahead. I asked close friends and some of the original Wanted Men to read the manuscript and offer thoughts. At the same time I read and reread the book until I was more than familiar with it, never doubting its importance.

So then I turned my attention to its publication and this proved to be illuminating. For someone who had been very successful in his own world to then dip his toes into another where he had no experience was not easy. Where do you begin?

I approached firms that had published the books John had co-edited with little response. I approached companies it was suggested to me might be interested. I approached those that specialised in publishing books about rock music. All to little or no avail.

It was pointed out time and time again that the book had little or no potential to make money. Somebody actually said to me in a phone call that the problem would be that John wasn’t alive to do interviews about the book. So that should see the end of republications of books by C.S. Lewis and Professor Tolkien amongst a multitude of other inklings shouldn’t it?

Despite the setbacks, I never gave up on the idea because I had faith in the book, but I did perhaps start to lack faith in my own ability to open the door. Still, one often reads about major works that had been rejected by publisher after publisher so I was still a believer.

Then a kind of coincidental symbiosis took over. In May 2017 I was in Pontefract with Clinton Heylin who had invited me to a talk he was giving at The CAT Club there. Before the talk he took me to the house of Ian Daley and Isabel Galán where, rather embarrassingly, I hadn’t realised that Ian and Isabel were owners and publishers of Route Books. I still blame that on Clinton for not telling me that Route published some of his material about Dylan. I blame Clinton for a lot of things.

The conversation turned to Dylan. Clinton told Ian I had been a friend of John Bauldie. He asked about John. It turned out that he was a fan of John’s too so to speak, that he’d been a subscriber to The Telegraph, and waxed lyrical about how he had once stood next to John at a Dylan concert in 1987.

I dropped into conversation that I had the manuscript of John’s The Chameleon Poet that I was looking to get published. Ian asked to look at it and quite quickly realised its importance and wanted to publish it. The rest, as they say, is history…

Bill Allison
January 2021.

Chameleon Poet

Click here for more on The Chameleon Poet: Bob Dylan’s Search For Self.

New Title: The Chameleon Poet – Bob Dylan’s Search For Self

John Bauldie’s previously-unpublished work of forensic insight into Bob Dylan’s unique artistic journey.

On his untimely death at 47 years old in October 1996, not only did John Bauldie sit at the what could be called the high table of Dylan Studies, but from the early nineties, when he was invited by Dylan’s management to write the liner notes that accompanied the Bootleg Series Volume 1-3, many would attest that he was chairman of the board.

In his lifetime, John Bauldie was a giant amongst Bob Dylan fans and collectors. As the editor of The Telegraph, he was a voracious advocate for Dylan to be afforded the respect of a major artist and an early lobbyist for him to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Yet, despite creating the Wanted Man Study Series to encourage analysis of Dylan’s work, Bauldie never published his own full critical study, though regular subscribers to The Telegraph knew he had completed one. A few teasing extracts and a handful of mysterious mentions revealed the existence of this fabled manuscript, The Chameleon Poet, which has remained unpublished until now.

Covering the formative span of Dylan’s career from his emergence in the early sixties to his conversion to Christianity in the late seventies, The Chameleon Poet traces each step in the development of the artist and man from youth to maturity. With scholarly precision and vivid clarity, Bauldie’s analysis of Dylan’s work reveals a continuous journey.

Forty years on, as a Nobel Laureate, Bob Dylan’s position as one of the great artists of the age is secure, fulfilling Bauldie’s vision. Now it is time to read the only full-length critical study by the foremost champion of Dylan’s art. The Chameleon Poet is a book of its time, but such is its focus on the inner journey of everyman, it’s as relevant today as it was yesterday, and will be tomorrow.

Bill Allison’s introduction sketches a portrait of Bauldie’s life and his ascendancy in the world of Dylan Studies.

‘I read The Chameleon Poet in 1981, and spent most of the rest of the decade trying to persuade John to publish it. Well, it only took forty years, but now you can read it, too.’ – Clinton Heylin

John Bauldie was raised in the northern English town of Bolton. Throughout the seventies, alongside his work as a lecturer in English literature, he was an avid collector of rare and unreleased Bob Dylan recordings. In the eighties, he established The Telegraph, a popular quarterly journal of Dylan studies, which he edited from 1981 until his tragic death in 1996. He was a staff writer at Q magazine and Mojo, edited several books, and wrote the liner notes for Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 box set, for which he received a Grammy nomination.

Bill Allison was a close friend of John Bauldie. They had a shared love of Bolton Wanderers and Bob Dylan, in that order. John often said that their lives were as intertwined as spaghetti. Bill wrote extensively for The Telegraph, and later for The Bridge. Bill lives near Blackpool with his wife, Julia, and their daughters, Lucy and Helen.

ADVANCE COPIES: We will be shipping advance copies of the First Edition Hardback of The Chameleon Poet in mid-January 2021. (The book won’t go on general release until May 2021). To be amongst the first to read it, click here to pre-order your copy.

Clinton Heylin on the Paul Leslie Hour

Clinton Heylin interviewed on the Paul Leslie Hour. Clinton talks about his response to Bob Dylan’s Rough and Rowdy Ways (the podcast was recorded a matter of days after its release) and his new two volume Dylan biography, the first of which – The Man in Me – is set for release in Spring 2021.

Clinton Heylin Books on Route
JUDAS! From Forest Hills to The Free Trade Hall, A Historical View of The Big Boo
No One Else Could Play That Tune: The Making and Unmaking of Bob Dylan’s 1974 Masterpiece
Trouble In Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years – What Really Happened
What We Did Instead of Holidays: A History of Fairport Convention and Its Extended Folk-Rock Family
Anarchy In The Year Zero: The Sex Pistols, The Clash and the Class of ’76

EXTRACT | Recording Blood on the Tracks – First Takes

To mark the 45th anniversary since the first day of the recording sessions for Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, and the Kindle release of Clinton Heylin’s account of those sessions, No One Else Could Play That Tune, here’s a new extract from Clinton’s book. This is set on 16th September 1974, Dylan has booked himself into the old Columbia studio in New York, the same room where he made all of his early to mid-sixties recordings, and he feels himself into the session with a handful of solo-acoustic performances of the songs in his notebook. Bob’s then partner Ellen Bernstein starts the tale.

Ellen Bernstein: [Dylan] knew these songs. He knew his vision for these songs [which] was very pure and very unadorned, and you don’t need a producer if your vision is that personal on something. I think he had a lot of belief in the integrity of the material.

Perhaps Dylan was already aware of the rep Ramone had started to acquire. According to Blood On The Tracks musician Charlie Brown III, Phil was someone who liked to take ‘a lot of credit for stuff that I don’t think he did. Producing all these people and having his name on it as producer is bullshit, because he didn’t do anything, y’know.’

What Ramone certainly was, though, was a consummate engineer; as good at mastering the nuances of analogue sound as Halee, minus the attitude. And his brief was the same one Dylan shared with his original Columbia producer, John Hammond Snr., the very afternoon they both returned to A & R: ‘I want to lay down a whole bunch of tracks. I don’t want to overdub. I want it easy and natural.’

Ellen recalls how the veteran A&R man ‘had asked to come into the studio that first night since it was historic in so many ways for him and for Bob, [who] was very welcoming … It was a lovely moment.’ Yet Hammond was slightly baffled by Dylan’s choice of recording date, pointing out to his former protégé, ‘This is a strange day to start recording … It is Rosh Hashanah and it is hard to get musicians.’ Looking for his own new beginning, Dylan snapped back, ‘Why not today? It’s the new year, isn’t it?’

Although A & R had a state-of-the-art sixteen-track desk, Dylan made it clear he intended to begin by recording a few songs acoustically, and that four tracks – the number he had used on every Studio A recording in the first half of the sixties – would suffice. Ramone suggested two guitar mikes and a single Sennheiser 421, a popular stage mike at the time, for the vocals:

Phil Ramone: I used the technique at the time … of using two guitar mikes, for reasons of sound and to give him freedom of movement, because he’s not prone to stand in one place without moving around … We had pretty good isolation. You hear his voice in his guitar mike, as you would anyone’s, but leakage is important, and the leakage in the guitar mike was quite good … I didn’t use anything but a dynamic mike on his vocals. It helped with the isolation, too … How do you keep the vocal out of the guitar mike, or vice versa? … The Sennheiser 421 … had an interesting top end, a warmth, if you kept reasonably close to it.

Assistant engineer Glenn Berger recalled, in his studio memoir, scurrying around trying to get the set-up just right, before leading ‘Dylan out to the studio and plac[ing] him in front of the mics. We used old Neumann microphones [sic], the kind he would’ve used in the early sixties. I stood inches from him … [It was] the seventies. It wasn’t the antiseptic spaceship of 2001. It was dirty and falling apart. It was all tubes, no transistors. The board would get hot … We had no idea what he was going to do, so we had to be ready for anything … As I ran around the studio tweaking mic positions, he called off a tune. “Let’s do ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ in G.” He hit his guitar, but instead of a G chord, it was an A. He was playing in a different key from the one he had called off and the lyrics were [to] “If You See Her, Say Hello”.’

The clock read just past four. If Dylan for even a moment thought about starting with ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ – in many ways the album’s trigger – no evidence remains on the studio logs or tapes, even though they were running both a mono reference tape (at either 7½ or 15 ips), plus a regular 30 ips multitrack.

When song one rolls, both reels record Ramone calling out, ‘“If You See Her, Say Hello” take one.’ No mistake. A perfect starter – even though the song was one of the last Dylan wrote for the album. Entirely absent from the two working notebooks Dylan was using prior to his summer visit to the farm – both of which are now housed at the Dylan archive in Tulsa – the lyric appears only in the ‘fair copy’ notebook that remains at the Morgan Library, New York, the seventh (of fifteen) songs therein.

It turns out ‘If You See Her, Say Hello’ had mutated from another song Dylan had been working on, only to scrap: ‘There Ain’t Gonna Be Any Next Time’. As his mood changed from autumnal brown to blue, he began to slip in lines like, ‘So kiss her nice and say hello’, ‘Though the emptiness still lingers’, and ‘I respect her … for what she did’. If this soon-discarded paean was a carpe diem to his tardy self, its replacement would find him again ruing past mistakes and wracked with remorse.

On that very first take of ‘If You See Her, Say Hello’ – a marathon effort and stellar performance – he is already striving for the voice within and immediately captures the essence of Blood On The Tracks. Five and a half minutes long, it is punctuated by no fewer than four harmonica breaks.

With nary a pause, he goes in search of that voice again, this time reining himself in harmonica-lly, searching for a tonal breath control he can set to remote for the remainder of the sessions. He doesn’t quite find it, but that second take is still ‘pulled’ to one of three master reels at the end of the second session, from which Jeff Rosen evidently accessed this version when compiling 1991’s The Bootleg Series Vols. 1-3. Already, Dylan was in the forbidden zone – and Ramone sensed it:

Phil Ramone: This was a serious night … a very quiet, deliberate letting out of the inside of him. Emotionally, he was in a state of revealing his life. And most writers don’t want to tell you they’re writing their autobiography. But it’s there in the atmosphere, as you hear the songs unfolding.

Ramone knew the stakes were high and the learning curve steep. It started with lesson one: ‘Bob doesn’t rehearse. Bob just starts creating [and] these songs start pouring out of him!’

In rapid succession, Dylan proceeds to reel off versions of ‘You’re A Big Girl Now’ and ‘Simple Twist Of Fate’ that take him to the emotional core of a collection he has barely begun recording. This time both second takes have the edge on the first, even if a six-minute take one of ‘You’re A Big Girl Now’ – with three seesaw bursts of the harmonica around his neck – prompts an impressed Ramone to correctly observe, ‘Great song.’

‘This is a really excellent read. If you’re a Dylan fan it is a must have and, even if you’re not, this is one of the finest pieces of forensic analysis of a major album that you are ever likely to read – which makes it a must have.’ Americana UK.

Clinton Heylin’s No One Else Could Play That Tune takes you up and close and personal in the studio with Bob Dylan during the New York recording sessions for Blood on the Tracks. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the Sony box set release More Blood, More Tracks as you follow the recordings unfolding track by track. It’s available in a limited edition hardback, exclusively from Route, and now also on Kindle.

Click here for more details and to order the limited edition harback.

Kindle Editions: UK | US | CA | FR | DE | NL | ES | IT | AU | JP | MX | IN | BR |

Bob Dylan’s Picnic at Blackbushe | A Story By Ian Clayton

Ian Clayton reads an extract from his best-selling music memoir Bringing It All Back Home about the time he went to see Bob Dylan at Blackbushe in 1978.

‘One of the best books about popular music ever written.’ – Record Collector

‘A music-powered helter-skelter of living and learning, as perceptive as a Bob Dylan lyric and as earthy as a Bessie Smith blues.’ -Val Wilmer


Click here for more on Bringing It All Back Home