Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Lulu

Chronicles: v1

Recommended Posts

"I'd come from a long ways off and had started a long ways down. But now destiny was about to manifest itself. I felt like it was looking right at me and nobody else."

 

 

So writes Bob Dylan in Chronicles: Volume One, his remarkable book exploring critical junctures in his life and career. Through Dylan's eyes and open mind, we see Greenwich Village, circa 1961, when he first arrives in Manhattan. Dylan's New York is a magical city of possibilities -- smoky, nightlong parties; literary awakenings; transient loves and unbreakable friendships. Elegiac observations are punctuated by jabs of memories, penetrating and tough. With the book's side trips to New Orleans, Woodstock, Minnesota and points west, Chronicles: Volume One is an intimate and intensely personal recollection of extraordinary times.

 

By turns revealing, poetical, passionate and witty, Chronicles: Volume One is a mesmerizing window on Bob Dylan's thoughts and influences. Dylan's voice is distinctively American: generous of spirit, engaged, fanciful and rhythmic. Utilizing his unparalleled gifts of storytelling and the exquisite expressiveness that are the hallmarks of his music, Bob Dylan turns Chronicles: Volume One into a poignant reflection on life, and the people and places that helped shape the man and the art.

 

<iframe width="120" height="268" scrolling="no" frameborder=0 src="http://rcm-uk.amazon.co.uk/e/cm?t=bookgrouponli-21&l=st1&search=bob%20dylan%20chronicles%20vol1&mode=books-uk&p=8&o=2&f=ifr&bg1=C6EFF7&lc1=082984&lt1=_blank"> <table border='0' cellpadding='0' cellspacing='0' width='120' height='268'><tr><td><A HREF='http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/redirect-home/bookgrouponli-21' target=_blank><img src="http://images-eu.amazon.com/images/G/02/associates/recommends/default_120x268.gif" width=120 height=268 border="0" access=regular></a></td></tr></table></iframe>

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At long, long last arrives the word from the Man himself. The book that fans and critics having been waiting years for hits the shelves and the question is, was it worth the wait? For those hoping for a blow-by-blow account of the construction of some of the greatest songs in the canon of popular music, a full revelation of the meaning of his lyrics or even a detailed account of Dylan’s everyday life for forty-five years will be disappointed, for this is no warts and all autobiography. Rather Bob offers up his reflections on what he considers key periods of his life and those people who have been decisive influences on his long and varied career. What emerges is a fascinating sketch, rather than a full portrait, of a searingly intense artist at crucial junctions of his life when he found himself either in tune with the times or bewilderingly out of step.

 

Eschewing the traditional biographical format “Chronicles” begins and ends with Dylan’s arrival in New York City at the start of the 1960’s as he embarked on his career as a folk musician. Encounters with the characters who comprised the folk scene at the time, as well as other acquaintances, are recalled in surprisingly vivid detail, given the length of time that has elapsed since those formative years. In interviews Dylan admitted that he prompted his memory by identifying the people he knew at particular times and then reconstructed events based on his recollections of the time he spent with them. So what we are given is not necessarily a diary account but rather an evocation of a time when the fresh-faced troubadour, still untroubled by the trappings of global fame and mythologizing, began to make his mark on the music world. We also glimpse the true, and touchingly sensitive, nature of the person behind the “Dylan” public persona.

 

The second part of the book leaps forward several years to the end of the Sixties when the burden of being the “spokesman for a generation” had clearly taken its toll on Dylan. Reeling from the loss of his father and under pressure from his peers as well as his huge fan-base, he was finding it increasingly difficult to reconcile the public image with the private man. As he puts it, he could cope with being dubbed “Legend. Icon. Enigma (Buddha in European clothes)..harmless…Prophet, Messiah, Savior – those are the tough ones.” He recounts tales of his rural home being besieged by fanatical admirers – break-ins being a regular occurrence – and his not being able to lead the “normal” life he so craved at the time. The fact that he had a young family whom he wanted to shield from so much unwelcome attention simply served to deepen the disillusionment he was feeling with his place in the entertainment business. Feeling at a personal and professional nadir he embarks upon a new album, “New Morning”, hoping that this will bring some sort of spiritual redemption. One sees that this was a man no longer comfortable with the expectations being heaped upon him as some sort of revolutionary leader, particularly at a time when America, and much of the World, was embroiled in social and political upheaval. Indeed, it is clear that Dylan always saw himself as simply a singer of songs rather than any sort of spokesman or leader and the new, softer style of this record – taking him away from the coruscating polemics of his earlier work – marked a new direction to take him into the 1970s. He himself admits, it was the first of many ‘comeback’ albums.

 

A further jump forward to 1987 and the recording of another album, “Oh Mercy”. As ever, this was hailed as a rebirth at the time, although to those who followed his career closely Bob was always capable of producing an average album months after a masterpiece. What fascinates about this particular section is the deep well of emptiness that Dylan was drawing on at the time. Surprisingly, given what had gone before, he was finding it impossible to write any songs and the routine of live performance no longer provided the adrenaline buzz that had been the cornerstone of his career, resulting in a series of lacklustre performances that tarnished his reputation in the eyes of many fans. Even the great songs he had produced over the previous twenty-five years meant nothing to him - he calls them “strangers”. To his credit, Dylan recognized the need to find a new approach to his work in an attempt to galvanize his creative juices and to reconcile him to the continuing round of live shows. The alternative was a genteel retirement with his dogs and his garden. With a new producer, Daniel Lanois, on board he struggles with his inner demons to record the album and we learn that there are different influences now guiding Dylan’s life. His second wife, although unnamed, emerges as a key figure at this time and together they embark on a road trip from New Orleans that helps Bob to come to terms with the new direction his career must take, enabling him to produce his best work in over a decade.

 

So, is this the tome that puts to rest the Dylan myth industry? Well, not quite since there are large sections of his life that are barely mentioned in this volume or are not covered at all: the explosive impact of his “going electric”; his masterpiece, “Blood on the Tracks” or his conversion to Christianity to name but three and dedicated Dylanologists will argue into eternity about the significance of his lyrics. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to read the account of the central character in his own words and without the spin and interpretation that so many previous authors sought to attach to the man and his work. Perhaps it is not an entirely unvarnished flick through his back pages but Dylan should be applauded for his candour and the vibrant style with which he writes. Perhaps a book more for Dylan fans than the uninitiated but, nevertheless, a fascinating account from one of the great cultural icons of the Twentieth Century. It is to be hoped that there are many more volumes to come.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the book, although whether non Dylan fans would I'm not so sure....

It is not at all a standard biography - but if you love the music and the man and know something of his life and his attitudes it adds extra detail to the picture and you certainly come to the end feeling you know just a little bit more (or at least as much as Dylan wants to let you know....).

So stick Highway 61 or Blonde on Blonde on the CD player and immerse yourself - I'd agree that Vol2+ will be eagerly awaited, assuming they do actually ever appear !

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Am I really the first BGOer to pick this book up in more than 2 years? I suppose the thread might have been another victim of the Great Crash. Anyway, I made sa start on this over the weekend - thoroughly enjoying it, but I'm only about 20 pages in.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It rather looks as though you are, MFJ.

 

Hope you're still enjoying it; maybe you'd let us know how you find it.

 

I like biographies and that particular vintage music - although I have a bio of Leonard Cohen staring at me from the nearest bookcase as well :dunno:

 

Hoping to hear ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Finished it over the weekend. I always enjoy an autobiography when it's told in the writer's own speaking style, so you can actually hear the words as you read them (probably why I rarely enjoy footballers' books which are usually narrated in the ghost-writer's anonymous style!) Anyway, if you've heard Dylan's radio shows, you'll know what I mean when I say that he writes very much as he speaks. I can forgive the occasional grammatical lapse (or maybe he's just using Americanisms) because he makes the story so interesting. I'm not sure that you need to know much about Dylan or his music to enjoy the book, as he doesn't actually talk about his own songs - most of the time he his making references to what he was absorbing and how it was influencing his approach to songwriting - indeed, for most of the period covered by the book, he had not even started to write his own songs.

 

An excellent book.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read this when it first came out and absolutely loved it. I like the way it is intensely personal without actually going into many personal details. I don't enjoy the voyeurism of the tabloid press, so I'd rather have this insight into his thought processes and musical influences than a blow-by-blow account of his private life.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's a lovely book. For me, it was just great to see him writing 'straight-forwardly', rather than the cryptic way he sometimes writes. I found all of it fascinating - especially the description of his early years in Greenwich Village. But most of all, I loved his enthusiasm & passion for music - he is almost obsessed with it (in a good way), which is delightful to read.

 

I'm a huge Bob Dylan fan, but I don't feel that the book would only appeal to fans - he has an infectious way of writing, which would appeal to a wider audience, I'm sure.

 

So where's the next volume then ......?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...