Outtakes On Bob Dylan Reviewed By Seth Rogovoy

Michael Gray’s Outtakes On Bob Dylan reviewed in ISIS magazine by Seth Rogovoy.

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Outtakes On Bob Dylan by Michael Gray Now on General Release

Outtakes On Bob Dylan by Michael Gray is now on general release and is available in all major outlets, with free shipping options.

Here are some order links:

Amazon | Waterstones | Book Depository (Free international shipping) |

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

The book was initially published in a collector’s numbered edition, five months ahead of general publication. Here are a selection of early readers’ responses to the book.

‘I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Reading it is like having the world’s largest box of chocolates to dip in to (but without the coffee creme one you dislike)… I read and read and read until I ran out of pages! It has deepened my appreciation of Bob Dylan. It is wonderful to experience that.’

‘An absorbing and characteristically provocative read. Staggering attention to textual and performance detail throughout.’

‘If you buy one book on Bob this year, buy this. It’s wonderful. Follow Michael Gray’s obsession (in the best sense of the word) from his student days to Rough And Rowdy Ways.’

‘Just finished reading Outtakes On Bob Dylan about two hours ago. I’ve enjoyed the book immensely. So many interesting articles and so well written. The writing really is a cut above the others. I particularly loved the article on Christmas In The Heart and the pieces on the 1978 concerts. And the final chapter is monumental: by far the best piece of writing yet on Rough And Rowdy Ways.’

‘A really cracking miscellany – honest, forthright and compelling. I enjoyed this immensely!’

‘I thought it was great. Best fun I’ve had reading a BD book for years. Many great pieces but I loved the Blood on the Tracks, 16 Years and Chelsea Hotel sections especially and the R&R Ways essay was terrific. Lots of acute observations, all of them anchored by MG’s various, sometimes hilarious, always well-described misgivings, distastes and scepticisms as to the whole Bob industry. I didn’t agree with everything (the Xmas album for one) but, in the end, it amounts to the best argued case for our ongoing pleasure, awe and respect. A huge boost to the author’s authority.’

‘Relaxing in the summerhouse with [Michael Gray’s Outtakes] and a few hours of blissful solitude dipping in and out of his great great tome of essays appreciating detail, honesty & knowledge. His love of Dylan’s artistry shines through but it’s real, raw and not sugar-coated.’

‘The book was a great pleasure. The writing was consistently fine and the various articles, in addition to being endlessly interesting and often very funny (the Stockholm account is hilarious), were always illuminating. I especially enjoyed the Isle of Wight, Chelsea Hotel, Minnesota footsteps pieces. The Rough and Rowdy Ways section is excellently done and full of interesting insights and information.’

‘I started with Chapter 1, then about Rough And Rowdy Ways and now reading chronologically. Ah, the bootlegs and what we knew about them – and always searching the real gems. There’s so much I’d like to talk about.’

[Re the R&RW essay: ‘The] measured and tempered enthusiasm is far more valuable than the ecstatic response the album seems to have had more generally. I enjoyed it so much. An astonishing compendium of fact and opinion, all managed with stylish flair, discriminating intelligence, and some wit and good humour. I’m grateful to have had the chance to think about this in response to [the] very fine piece. [Gray is], par excellence, the no bullshit Dylan critic.’

‘It’s so great (and so rare) to read serious writing about Dylan that isn’t academic or pedantic or obscurantist, or vapid and tabloidian, but writing that actually deals with and elucidates Dylan’s art. But that’s always been [Gray’s] m.o. and I have always appreciated [his] approach.’

‘After 11 months of people trying to talk about, write about, make sense of and capture the essence of Rough And Rowdy Ways, it unsurprisingly turns out that we’ve all just been waiting for Michael Gray’s book.’

‘Most critics get lost in the foothills and briars of Bob Dylan studies, entangled in the abrasive personality. Michael Gray is one of the only authors who have ascended the Everest of Dylan and written beautifully about the Shanghai La beyond. Brill to get an early copy of Outtakes.’

‘It’s very nice to be reacquainted with [Gray’s] way of approaching Dylan, particularly with regard to some of the more recent years.’

‘[Gray’s] long and astute appreciation of Rough and Rowdy Ways is worth the price of admission all on its own and is easily the most perceptive reading I’ve yet seen of this flawed yet fascinating album. What a pleasure still to be enjoying [his] ideas on new Dylan records in 2021!’

‘An essential addition to the Bob Dylan bookshelf and Michael Gray collection.’

‘Always a good day when a new Bob Dylan book from Michael Gray arrives. Respected, informed, writing.’

‘Very pleased to have the book. A scan through the contents was enough to move all other books to the back burner.’

‘I’m delighted by it. I immediately read the lovely preface and then jumped straight to the essay about Rough And Rowdy Ways. As always [Gray’s] writing is excellent and a very rich learning experience for me.’

‘I read the RARW chapter first. It’s the definitive word on that album. I look forward to reading it again.’

‘I’ve been snacking away at random bits of the book since it arrived and finding it deliciously interesting and fun.’

‘[I’m] halfway through and am glad to report that it’s a fascinating read, throwing out Dylan connections in all directions.’

‘Not the least of the pleasures that comes from having a substantial new album from Bob for the first time in so long is that it has prompted a wonderfully alert and sympathetic reading from [Gray]: I’m getting so much off of every page in the Rough And Rowdy Ways chapter in Outttakes.’

‘It’s been a while since the book hit my door, but since tonight it has been on my bedside table, facing me and whispering : read me, I’m yours. Never opened it until tonight, for too many reasons, but… I want to share this. I started from the introduction, but then I jumped to the last chapter on Rough And Rowdy Ways. That is really something… You must have this book.’

‘Enjoyed the book very much. The early parts of the book brought back memories of my own Dylan journey… Well worth the price, the postage, the wait and the Swedish VAT. Glad to see a serious in-depth review of the current album. I say current because there’s still so much to discover and digest.’

‘It’s a great book, not only because of Michael’s observations and critical analyses but especially because of being written in a wonderful, meticulous and witty language. (Which sets it apart from too many other books on Bob.)’

‘Well that’s my weekend reading sorted. Always a good day when a new Bob Dyaln book from Michael Gray arrives. Respected, informed writing.’

‘This is worth getting for Michael’s 60-page essay on Rough And Rowdy Ways alone – wonderful piece of writing which made me go back to the album and listen to it all over again. Lots of other gems too – highly recommended.’

‘Just got my copy and it’s a lovely looking book and what makes it intriguing is that these are Michael’s contemporary takes on Bob.’

‘Highly recommended! Even Michael’s asides are very much worth reading.’

Click here for more details on Outtakes On Bob Dylan.

Click here to see Route’s full list of Bob Dylan titles.

A Route To Bob Dylan

Route’s Bob Dylan titles come from the pens of three pre-eminent Dylan writers: Michael Gray, John Bauldie and Clinton Heylin. All born and raised in North West England – The Wirral, Bolton and Manchester respectively – each have not only been key figures in furthering our understanding and appreciation of Dylan as an artist, but have been active participants in how Bob Dylan’s work has been presented to the world. As such, their paths are tightly interconnected.

Michael Gray studied English Literature at York University in the mid-sixties, where he was trained to pay close-to-the-text attention to literary works that were firmly in the canon, and felt Dylan’s work could bear the weight of the same order of critical scrutiny. Fresh from graduating, he was invited by OZ magazine editor Richard Neville to ‘Do an F.R. Leavis on Bob Dylan’s songs.’ ‘Marvellous – right up my street’ he wrote in his diary at the time. He spent the next few years writing about Dylan’s work at length ‘to achieve something on a different level from mere album reviewing’. The subsequent book, Song & Dance Man: The Art of Bob Dylan, published in 1972, was the first such work to take Dylan seriously as an artist. It gave birth to what we now know as Dylan Studies, and positioned Michael as his most prominent critic. It also marked the beginning of a lifetime’s work, with updated editions of Song & Dance Man appearing in 1972 and 1999, and the massive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia in 2006. Throughout he has been writing on Dylan for newspapers, magazines and journals, and giving talks around the world on the art of Bob Dylan. It is these works, plus a significant new essay on Rough And Rowdy Ways, that are collected in his latest book, Outtakes On Bob Dylan: Selected Writings 1967-2021.

Like Michael, John Bauldie studied English Literature at a Yorkshire university (Leeds) in the 1960s. He too saw Dylan beyond his framing as a pop star; instead he saw him as a significant poet of the age. Already an avid collector of Dylan recordings, when he walked into WH Smith in Bolton in 1972 and picked up a copy of Song & Dance Man, new possibilities for critical study opened up to him. Throughout the 1970s, John became part of an important cog in a worldwide network of Dylan collectors. Buoyed by renewed interest in Dylan following the 1978 world tour, he embarked on writing his own critical study of Dylan’s work, The Chameleon Poet. The manuscript pulled together his own thoughts and personal response to the work, while drawing on the few serious writers addressing Dylan at the time, most prominent amongst these was Michael Gray. Shortly after completing his manuscript, John, along with four like-minded friends (including Clinton Heylin) formed Wanted Man, the Bob Dylan Information Office, which built on his network of collectors to bring together a school of Bob Dylan Studies. Central to this was the The Telegraph, which John envisioned as a critical journal to examine and explore Dylan’s work. Alongside his Wanted Man colleagues, John steered The Telegraph for 15 years, until his untimely death in 1996, inviting contributions from the leading writers in the field, including Christopher Ricks and, of course, Michael Gray. He also founded the Wanted Man Study Series to produce books that looked in-depth at particular aspects of Dylan’s work. His growing prominence in the field led to him being invited to write the liner notes, and contribute to the compilation of, Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3. As his role as facilitator for others grew, his own manuscript, The Chameleon Poet, which was in some ways his blueprint for all that followed, was put on the back burner. When John’s lifelong friend Bill Allison brought the manuscript to our attention recently, we found it to be not only one of the most inspiring Dylan books we’d seen, but an essential part of the wider Bob Dylan story.

Clinton Heylin first got in to Dylan after reading an article on bootlegs written by Michael Gray for Let It Rock in 1972 (featured in Outtakes On Bob Dylan). This drove an adolescent Clinton to a record shop on Tibb Street, Manchester, to buy the mistitled Bob Dylan at the Royal Albert Hall bootleg (it was Clinton who later discovered that the show was actually from Manchester’s Free Trade Hall). Unlike Michael and John, Clinton came of age not in the swinging sixties but in the spit and sweat of the punk-rock seventies. He was too young to see Dylan at the Free Trade Hall in 1966, but he did witness the cultural explosion that took place in the same building ten years later when the Sex Pistols played his home town. It wasn’t English Literature that Clinton studied either, but History. Although the three men share an equal passion for the work of Dylan, the half-a-generation gap between them led to a different approach. When he got together with John Bauldie and the other Wanted Men in 1980, Clinton was already experienced in publishing fanzines (Joy Division was his first subject) and his encyclopaedic knowledge of Dylan and general music history came to the fore. Clinton has since gone on to be recognised as the foremost biographer of Dylan, and the leading music biographer of his generation – a rock’n’roll biographer with a rock’n’roll attitude formed in the flames of punk. Alongside his books on Fairport Convention and the birth of English punk, we have published Clinton’s in-depth accounts of three golden periods in Dylan’s cannon: the electric tour of 1965-66, including the recording of Highway 61 Revisted and Blonde On Blonde (JUDAS!); the recording of his mid-seventies masterpiece Blood On The Tracks (No One Else Could Play That Tune), and the gospel years of 1979-1981 (Trouble In Mind).

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Outtakes On Bob Dylan: Selected Writings 1967-2021

A compendium of over five decades of writing on Dylan for newspapers, magazines and journals, plus a new extended essay on Rough And Rowdy Ways from the go-to critic for Dylan fans in search of serious analysis. 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.

ORDER THIS BOOK BEFORE 30th APRIL TO GET AN EXCLUSIVE STAMPED AND NUMBERED FIRST EDITION HARDBACK. CLICK HERE TO ORDER.

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The Chameleon Poet: Bob Dylan’s Search For Self

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.

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JUDAS! From Forest Hills To The Free Trade Hall

In 1966 there was… the sell-out tour to end all tours. Bob Dylan and The Hawks found themselves at the epicentre of a storm of controversy. Their response? To unleash a cavalcade of ferocity from Melbourne to Manchester, from Forest Hills to the Free Trade Hall. The full story is told from eye-witnesses galore; from timely reports, both mile wide and spot on; and from the participants themselves.

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Trouble In Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years – What Really Happened

In 1979 there was… trouble in mind, and trouble in store for the ever-iconoclastic Dylan. But unlike in 1965-66, the artifactal afterglow – three albums in three years, Slow Train Coming, Saved and Shot of Love – barely reflected the explosion of faith and inspiration. By drawing on a wealth of new information, newly-found recordings and new interviews. Clinton makes the case for a wholesale re-evaluation of the music Bob Dylan produced in these inspiring times.

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No One Else Could Play That Tune: The Making and Unmaking of Bob Dylan’s 1974 Masterpiece

The full tale of the making of Blood On The Tracks, as well as providing a detailed examination of the thought processes that went into the unmaking of it. Includes interviews with just about every eye-witness still standing, including the only musician – Dylan excepted – to play at all the New York sessions and a new interview with Ellen Bernstein, Dylan’s CBS A&R girlfriend at the time.

Click here for our full list of music books

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.