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Behind the Shades

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  1,068 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
In virtually all areas of Dylan's life - his immigrant antecedents, his business dealings, his various addictions and his romantic attachments - Heylin is able to provide a fascinating picture of a man who changed the whole course of popular music in the sixties and, over thirty years later, won three Grammys. Heylin has given full weight to Dylan's own words and those of ...more
Paperback, 20th Anniversary Edition, 928 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Faber & Faber (first published 1991)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,080)
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Paul Bryant
May 24, 2011 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
Shelves: bob-dylan

1. Song to Woody
2. Talkin' New York
3. Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues
4. Man on the Street
5. Sally Gal
6. Hard Times in New York
7. I Was Young when I Left Home

8. Ballad for a Friend
9. Poor Boy Blues
10. Standing on the Highway
11. Ramblin’ Gamblin Willie
12. Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues
13. The Death of Emmett Till
14. Ballad of Donald White
15. Let Me Die in my Footsteps
16. Blowin’ in the Wind
17. Corrina, Corrina
18. Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance
19. Rocks and Gravel
20. Qu
Paul Bryant
Apr 25, 2011 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bob-dylan
This is my original review of the first edition of Behind the Shades, which is the best Dylan bio by far. Clinton Heylin updated it in 2001 and has now done so again, in 2011. The new version is almost twice as big as this original edition, so this book is now OBSOLETE. Please get the new edition!! it's huge!!


By the time this bio was published Clinton Heylin had probably offended every hard-core Dylan fan in both hemispheres with his disgraceful sneering heavyhanded blatantly rude putdowns of
Dylan's method of recruiting female singers at times reflected his new proximity to Hollywood and its mores--preferring the casting couch to the microphone.

2.3 stars

Burton likely notes in a footnote the case of death by excess. They eat cookie dough while burning in sulfur in a famed poem. What about the greedy biographer? This is all too much, set lists stacked like cases of tinned peaches, page-long screeds against the effrontery of other biographers: oh, the audacity -- one images an empurpl
Dec 19, 2014 Tom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, artists
After this tome I'm up to here with Bob Dylan. I can hear his music twenty four hours a day on ( and sometimes do) or swim through the sludge that is much of this biography. It's all the same: too much. Heylin has found it necessary to give us practically every playlist from every show Bob's ever done, or so it seems, and every lineup change in every stage and rehearsal band he ever made. Good enough, if you don't have a life to live, but these are things the editor of a good biog ...more
Oct 07, 2013 Rodney rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are looking for the heart of Bob Dylan, this book is not going to help you get there. This book is not a typical bio, nor is it a rundown of the stories and meanings behind the Man's songs.
What it is is a thoroughly researched chronological record, in narrative form, of Dylan's studio sessions and professional relationships with others. Even though there are many splices of interviews with Dylan and his friends, acquaintances and others, little is there about his personal life (though the
Steve Redhead
May 30, 2011 Steve Redhead rated it it was amazing
Bob Dylan at 70 years old has spawned a whole series of textual tributes, including new editions of old books. This is the best of the lot. It is the third edition of Heylin's book first published twenty years ago, hence the twentieth anniversary edition subtitle. There are 60,000 additional words in this edition compared to the second edition making this version a massive tome. The last ten years have been interesting if frustrating (as usual) times for Dylan fans with "Love and Theft", Modern ...more
Feb 19, 2013 Steven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The one Bob Dylan bio to read if you're only reading one. Alone among the other authors who have chronicled the life of this seminal musician, Heylin takes advantage of the huge mass of bootleg recordings surrounding Dylan's officially sanctioned album catalog. This gives him an advantage in charting the rise and fall of Dylan's artistry over the years -- something at least as important as chats with his many girlfriends. Heylin is also admirably tough-minded in dealing with his subject's lapses ...more
Jul 07, 2013 Devin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book that gives an outsider's look in on Dylan's life. I will probably read Dylan's Chronicles to get the 1st person account too. It's important to get many perspectives on such a beguiling, transformative genius. The book gives a thorough account of the studio process for each album and acts as a great guide to some of the man's lesser-known (or forgotten works). Parts detailing the tours could drag sometimes but this book gives a good summary of Dylan's born-again years and the portion a ...more
Mandarin, collector, completist, emulator, literary troll, Clinton Heylin has also got the most useful biography of Bob Dylan, and not because he writes well, interprets insightfully, is scrupulous, or even sympathizes with his man -- he is none of this. (He's read the competition. The competition is horrid. One thing that makes them horrid is that they don't read the competition. Etc.) It's useful because Heylin thinks biography is based on documentation, and this oral history with interpretive ...more
Jan 23, 2016 moceanu rated it liked it
What I expected to find in this 800+ bio was another side to the man, beyond the music, and I did: apparently Bob Dylan, the poet-laureate of the 20th century, really likes to fuck girls, women, married women and his friends' and bandmates' wives behind their back!

The vast majority of the women fucked by Dylan are ones who were also associated with him in some professional capacity, like other singers, such as noted documentary star Joan Baez, or his own backup singers (at least two of whom also
Dec 21, 2015 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think the best word for it, when all is said and done, is "pugnacious". Clinton Heylin, a thorough and well-versed Dylanologist, capable of bringing Bob to book while praising the high points (and some more surprising unsung moments too) is a pugnacious and rather mean-spirited biographer, more intent on attacking his peers than enthralling his readership. Which is a shame, because this magnum opus, getting more and more magnum with each edition (3 since 1991 and counting), is one of the best ...more
Andrew Marr
Dec 11, 2012 Andrew Marr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music, literature
It was interesting at times to learn about Bob Dylan's life but I came away from the book concluding that his songs are a LOT more interesting than his life. The strange trajectory that catapulted Dylan to fame was of interest & the story of his conversion of Christianity quite moving to me. The long narratives of his many tours with the same kinds of dysfunctional behavior coming up time & again got quite boring for me. The most important thing for me about what this biography has to sa ...more
Apr 13, 2012 Mat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the most exhaustive biography on Dylan to date.
Before reading this book, I read Down the Highway by Sounes and Chimes of Freedom (now updated in a second edition called Wicked Messenger by Mike Marquesee) and both books were great but this book is really for the avid Bob Dylan fan (like myself) who wants to know all the details of his life - well almost. There never will be a perfect bio on Dylan because of his complexity and aloofness/mystery which I believe is deliberate as it feeds m
Mar 07, 2008 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dylan fans
Shelves: booksofthepast
I'm kind of obsessed with Bob Dylan, but it didn't occur to me until now to put this on my list. Seeing it on my bookshelf reminded me of how much I enjoyed it. It's comprehensive, despite the fact that Heylin never met Bob Dylan, and is an excellent blend of commentary, analysis, and biographical information.

"Behind the Shades Revisited" doesn't deify Dylan or demonize him, either. He's treated as a fallible, exciting subject, and it makes his music seem more powerful for that. For a Dylan fan
James Lundy
Apr 23, 2008 James Lundy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any Dylan fan
This is a well-written and thoroughly researched book that is fascinating reading for any Dylan fan. Heylin is a fan from way back and concentrates the biography on Dylan's performance art and studio process. Unlike most other biographies, this one doesn't stop at 1966 or 1974. It is the best source around for Dylan info up to 1991. If I have a complaint about "Behind the Shades" it is that Mr. Heylin finds fault in just about every studio track that ever made it to an official album compared to ...more
Heylin is a Dylanologist of some renown, having written several books on His Bobness and even started up a Dylan journal, so I had my hagiography-detectors switched to 'on' when I picked this up in a charity shop. Anywho, it is very thorough, and the charting of Dylan's life and music is straightaway chronological, with the narrative interspersed with short extracts from interviews with Bob and his contemporaries - these are more illuminating than the rather pedestrian and 'rockist' (cf. NME, 19 ...more
Seán McNamara
Dec 31, 2014 Seán McNamara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very detailed bio of 20th Century's greatest poet.
Ben Schaffer
Nov 30, 2014 Ben Schaffer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michael Greig
I suppose I read many biographies and am often left not knowing this person any better. This book does not get to the heart of Bob Dylan for me. It tells you all that he has achieved in his life and even some of what he has lost but not who he is. Not what makes him tick. So soldiered through because his songs mean a lot to me but wish I hadn't. I was left unsatisfied. Bob is the other famous musical son of Minnesota as I write this the day Prince leaves us.
Ryan Chibana
Fascinating during the interesting parts of his career, but I didn't feel the need to know virtually every setlist of every show or the itinerary of every recording session. Or much in general about his '80s career, for that matter.
Christopher Bundy
A detailed and passionate exploration of Dylan the musician. I liked the sections on each record and the recording process, though with Dylan it's pretty much the same each time - he never spent much time in the studio "perfecting" work. The author's clear love of his subject shines a bit too bright at times and this bio is certainly targeted towards the hardcore fan. Some writing tics got old after a while too.
Richard Lodge
I actually like Bob Dylan, whereas Heylin just likes complaining about him. I heard that he complained bitterly that Dylan's book Chronicles did not have one correct date in it. If you want a book with the correct dates when Dylan did stuff, then this is probably for you, but it is insufferably dull and pointless and in no way in the spirit of Dylan's freewheelin genius.
May 06, 2010 Sheila rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dear Clinton Heylin,

thank you for writing.

Heylin is the ultimate Dylanologist. His style is amazing and it's never boring. I wanted to read every word of every paragraph on every page.

Every acoustic musician, activist, poet or fan should read Heylin's book once.

You'll like it, even if you hate Dylan.

it's that good.
Aug 15, 2009 David is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I'm in a heavy Bob Dylan mood lately. I am obviously WAY too young to have been around at the time. I am really enjoying hearing about his childhood and how his songwriting and singing career took shape. It's especially neat reading this right now since I'm in Fargo and Minnesota where some of the early days took place.
Gavin Smith
An interesting, if kind of out of date Dylan biography. I like the way the author focused mainly on Dylan's recording style and the live performances rather than gossip from his personal life. I see there is a revised edition covering more recent ground in Dylan's career. I'd definitely recommend that for fans.
Jan 13, 2008 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
Pretty good bio. Nice blend of background info, interviews and analysis. I found that it dragged on a bit in the late 70s and got weird with Dylan's religious phase, but that's probably not so much the author's fault, as just my preference to Dylan's earlier work and lifestyle in the 60s.
Jul 10, 2013 Gail rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Given that Bob Dylan is not going to give anyone a chance to really understand what he's doing, Clinton Heylin seems to think he has the inside track on the quality of any of Dylan's efforts. Somewhat annoying, but the entire book gives an overview of the Dylan body of work up until about 1996.
Dec 26, 2007 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all Bob Dylan fans
Heylin covers every detail from Bob Dylan's family history to every single recording session known. This book is probably the most in depth and well researched piece of work ever done on Bob Dylan.
Jan 20, 2009 Philip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The ultimate Dylan biography for the ultimate Dylan fan. I don't think that Dylan-lite fans would enjoy this (a bit heavy on the details), so it's definitely for the hardcore fan.
Rude E
Nov 29, 2007 Rude E rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who appreciates original american music
wonderful resource for recordings of bootlegs and other releases...interviews from Dylan and those who were there to share his 40+ years in american/world culture.
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