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Chronicles, Vol. 1

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  25,105 ratings  ·  1,022 reviews
"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...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 13th 2005 by Simon & Schuster
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Please Kill Me by Legs McNeilChronicles, Vol. 1 by Bob DylanLove is a Mix Tape by Rob SheffieldOur Band Could Be Your Life by Michael AzerradPsychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs
Best Non Fiction About Music
2nd out of 770 books — 621 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Geoff
I’m going to do something I try not to do here, since I consider this to be a site about other people’s words- I’m going to ramble on autobiographically for a bit.

I bought this first volume of Dylan’s Chronicles the day it came out in 2004, was anticipating the hell out of it. Back then I was managing a used record store in College Park, Maryland. I studied poetry and creative writing at UMD, big waste of my time, could’ve learned all that on my own, learn more now on my own than I did then anyw...more
Ian Paganus de Fish
Positively Fraud Street?

I see you on the street
I always act surprised
I say, “How does it feel?”
But I don’t mean it.

"I can't taste your words,"
You said, "Your songs are just lies."
So I cried that you were deaf,
You'd lost the sight in your eyes.

And I said that you were wrong
When you accused me of theft
But all I really wanted to know was
What else have you got left?

No, I never wasted any time,
And I never took much.
I never asked for your crutch,
Now don't ask me for mine.

Well you got up to leave
And y...more
Paul
Conscience impels me to remove one star from my original 5. I'm bewitched, bothered and bewildered.

When this gorgeously written, completely eccentric and endearing memoir came out in 2004 I loved it, and my original review is included below. In the years since then, Dylan fans and commentators have been finding out stuff, and it opens a big can of worms, the worms of

PLAGIARISM

Because, it seems, if the rabid batgooglers and archive monkeys are to be believed, large parts - maybe all - of Chronicl...more
Tosh
Mark my words, this book is going to be considered as an American classic piece of literature. Students in the year 2035 will study it, and young men wearing plastic rain coats will be holding this book as a fashionable prop in the most elegant nightclubs.

As for me, this was such a surprise remarkable read. I didn't expect it to be so great. What makes it so great is Dylan personal observations on the world around him. The way he goes through his frirends' library was one of my favorite parts o...more
Lee
What a wonderful weird book about the influence of cities and sounds, knowing what you want and going for it and getting it thanks to talent, luck, attitude, and meeting the right people. Funny how it emphasizes what no one really wants to know -- "New Morning" and "Oh Mercy" era stuff instead of everything from "Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" to "Visions of Johanna" to "Shelter From the Storm" to "Isis." Those songs are hardly mentioned at all -- maybe one or two mentions of "Hard Rain." Otherwise, th...more
Dustin
Oct 02, 2008 Dustin rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: already disillusioned Bob Dylan fans
Bob Dylan has given us a meandering, often boring and only occasionally interesting account of some of the formative moments of his career. Two thirds of the book is taken up by the story of how he came to record "New Morning" and "Oh Mercy." Yowzah! He gives only glancing, arrogant mention to the days of his most prolific and brilliant songwriting--which is fine, it doesn't shatter my perception of Dylan to find him arrogant and evasive, but I do take umbrage with the boring minutia of the reco...more
Velvetink
Apr 13, 2011 Velvetink marked it as to-read
Shelves: wishlist
*********WANT BADLY**********
Mother's Day is coming up! or for Birthday then, Xmas in July, Aussie Friend Day, Happy Person who does your laundry day, Day for people who will beg for books. Well any excuse will do - have loved Bob a long time....will even be embarrassing & pimp my photo here - of a time when I played his records over and over..
Bob and me.
Jenn(ifer)
I'm really not a big Dylan fan per se, but that he is an amazing poet cannot be denied. Once upon a time I played a mediocre rendition of "like a rolling stone," mostly because I fell in love with this lyric:

You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain't it hard when you discover that
He really wasn't where it's at
After he took from you everything he could steal.

No idea where he comes up with this shit, but it's brilliant. Actually, in "chron...more
Tracy Reilly

When I was maybe six or seven, and already beginning my lifelong devotion to music, and rock in particular, I remember standing in the Record Department at Arlan's looking at the 45s, since my mother said I could get 5, if my brother and I could agree. We already knew some we liked: Herman's Hermits, the Monkees, The Dave Clark Five, Tommy James and the Shondells, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs:

"What about this one?" My brother said, pointing to a sleeve with a guy with crazy curly hair; "Bobby...more
Brian
Apr 09, 2008 Brian rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: True Bob Dylan fans & fans of any artists in general
Know this, readers. Bob Dylan has ALWAYS and will forever continue (probably even at his death) to do things HIS OWN WAY!

I read some of the reviews for this book. First off, ignore all those who are not even fans of Bob Dylan or are the ones that wish he would sing "Like a Rolling Stone" or "Tangled up in Blue." Get over it.

What I saw in this book was his inspiration. You will NEVER get this in any biography about any artist. Or at least rarely. Biographies and even autobiographies are a way fo...more
Salma
Aug 20, 2013 Salma rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone! Even if they don't like Bob.
Shelves: music, favorites


I really want to talk with Dylan

And it happened. That's what it feels like when you get under the bed covers with this book, no sound but a cricket buzz outside the window. His words come out at you like his music. Unpretentious, romantic. Funny like a Woody Allen movie. It feels like any minute that gravel voice will start whispering out of the pages to you.

A genius talking about his inspiration. What more could you want?

So, what inspired him? Better yet, what didn't? Everything's flowed in...more
James
Wow! A dense, extraordinary approach to an auto-biography. Dylan was never going to write a conventional biography, and readers who want one should keep on walking. This isn't for them.

Instead Dylan has constructed a mythology as autobiography. While I think it's fair to assume that everything in this book is true, I think we should probably accept that it's not necessarily literal. He's obviously missed large chunks out for a start - the book really only covers a couple of periods in his life....more
Louise
Dylan starts with the wide range of influences and images of his early life and career. While you expect to hear about Dave Van Ronk, you are surprised to know that Dylan backed up Bobby Vee and ate burgers with Tiny Tim as a colleague. His lodestar, Woody Guthrie, is here at the beginning and follows throughout. The book which progresses in a non-linear (poetic license) fashion ends with more specifics on his early career. I did not know of the influence of one of my favorites, Spider John Koer...more
Ben Winch
In some ways a beautiful book. Glowing, inspirational. Unique too, in that it makes us privy to the deep love of a legend for his influences. On the most glowing pages, we see Brecht, Robert Johnson, Mike Seeger, Woodie Guthrie (of course) through Dylan’s eyes, and it’s revelatory. Here he is on the eight extant seconds of Johnson on film:
He’s playing with huge, spiderlike hands and they magically move over the strings of his guitar. There’s a harp rack with a harmonica around his neck. He looks
...more
Greg
This was a birthday present from my eldest son. I listened to Chronicles, Volume One, which is read by Sean Penn, who does a great job narrating. Such a class actor, he doesn't try to imitate Dylan's voice, but gets the vibe across of what Bob Dylan is, well, chronicling. Dylan, the old chameleon, doesn't give much away about himself, but all the same, being one of the greatest writers of the Twentieth Century, albeit a songwriter and poet, he describes the people and times of Greenwich Village....more
David Hallman
Mar 05, 2012 David Hallman rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hardcore Dylan Fans
Chronicles Vol. 1 has a few moments of insight concerning Dylan's musical influences and non-linear remembrances from his past, small vignettes that are often unrevealing in regards to the overall scope of the enigmatic artist's life. This is not an autobiography, and those wishing for a tell-all of the life of one of the most celebrated singer/songwriters in history won't find much to work with here.

Dylan does ramble at length about the difficulties of fame, his stalkers, and his unwillingness...more
Evan
"There was a missing person inside of myself and I needed to find him."

God, this is incredible. Completely wonderful. A fucking masterpiece autobiography. Wondrous observation. Surprising self effacement. The wisdom of years. A delicious and well-honed sense of irony. Every sentence a joy. More references in one graph than in whole books. A complete world brought to life. Ruminations and the joy of learning and discovery: Dylan's own and his conveyance of it to us. Dylan's highlights aren't the...more
Christian
Oct 11, 2007 Christian rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who don't believe in Zimmerman
Let me start off by saying is that I'm not a Dylan music fan; it's not that I dislike Dylan, but I've just never really listened to him. I think I own just two of his songs (Rainy Day Women and All Along the Watchtower, thanks BSG finale). So I'm not what you'd call a fan.

As a result I was kinda surprised by what this book is. It's not a biography per se, it's more of a summation of the inspirations and their effects on his life. There's enough other names thrown around in this book that one cou...more
jeremy
the song & dance man is clearly the finest songwriter in the history of american music, thus, not surprisingly, the first volume of his autobiography is written quite well. though many of his fans, upon learning that dylan was penning his memoirs, were hoping for a linear account of his days from alienated minnesota youth to worldwide phenomenon, this book is anything but (as if bobby d would ever do what others were expecting of him). all told, however, this is an intimate and forthright gl...more
Jack Gattanella
A solid memoir that is written without too much ballyhoo in the prose, Dylan seems to dig just being a straight storyteller (how true it ALL is who can say) but at least he comes off as Frank about what he saw in his time in Greenwich villave musician and which was what seems an exciting and inspiring time. maybe less so the section on Oh Mercy -cmon Bob, you did not find a new way to produce singing with those fuckin chordes -

But that too works for spurts if only in how little things get to he...more
Jason
Jul 22, 2009 Jason rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Dylan fans, beatniks, those with restless-hearts
Shelves: read-in-2009
Anyone going into this book thinking that Dylan has FINALLY pulled back the curtain and "told all" will be very disappointed.

The book covers Dylan's influences--books he read and music he listened to.

The book talks about arriving in New York (prior to world-fame) and it talks about the post-60's icon years (especially the 1980s before he took his career "back").

If you're like most people, and you want to know about Dylan as a child, or how Dylan learned how to play, or the intricacies of his...more
Laura
I read Down The Highway (a biography about Dylan) about seven years ago. It was interesting enough, but it made me like Dylan as a person less. This book completely turned all that on its head. It was brilliant, meandering, and just an amazing read. It's great because he writes like he's talking and he's talking a little like he sings. He jumps around and gets caught up in little details and skips over huge events in his life.

You wouldn't expect him to divulge personal information about his pri...more
Kokeshi
This is a remarkable book.

Chronicles: Volume One is Bob Dylan's exploration of meaningful moments and happenings within his early life and career. Dylan writes in a beautiful poetic style that astounds you more and more as you read each page. His structure is in a non-linear format that keeps his story interesting and lively through out. Dylan makes incredibly interesting observations about time, people, places, things, music, and events - some of which are quite humourous. This is an autobiogr...more
Matthew
Even though I got about three thousand Bob Dylan songs and have even listened to 'Saved' and 'Knocked Out Loaded' repeatedly, I never considered reading this, because memoirs of celebrities are boring. But I started reading a friend's copy and got swept up in it and couldn't stop. The trick is that it's not really much about the man Bob Dylan, it's a colorful, free-wheeling, often funny selection of his thoughts on a wide variety of topics (the American Civil War, the Iron Range, Christmas, Mach...more
Brent
Dylan is a better songwriter than he is an author. That said, I found his book to be fascinating in parts, amusing in others, and a bit unfocused at times. The story isn't linear, but Dylan manages to cover his life from the summer after finishing high school in Minnesota, to recording the album Oh Mercy! in the 1980s. The Greenwich Village parts of the book were particularly interesting and bring to life an era I'll never experience. As someone who is passionate about music, I was intrigued to...more
nzoz
The better half of this book is about Dylan and folk records. It takes place before Dylan’s first album. To him folk music is a lost art. It has old heroes. Hardly anyone cares about it, but he knows it has power. Dylan is Luke Skywalker and folk music is the force. He’s going to change things with it. His guitar is his lightsaber, he carries it everywhere. he seeks out records and singers to learn their secrets, and we go on this journey with him. the best way to read this would be with youtube...more
Patrick
I must admit that I wasn't expecting a whole lot from this book... In the interviews I've seen of Dylan over the last fifteen to twenty years, he has seemed so incredibly wrapped up in how his place in history will be seen. This autobiography is considerably more gracious to those that came before him.

I've never been one to be all that concerned with the dissection of his songs (Michael Gray's Song & Dance Man is — for the most part — a load of crap!), appreciating much more the Paul Willia...more
Skylar Burris
If you are looking for an organized, coherent account of the events of Bob Dylan's life from his own perspective, then this isn't it. Chronicles touches on Dylan's life events only randomly, and skips over many major events altogether, such as his marriage, divorce, and conversion to Christianity (though perhaps these will be subjects for Volume Two). He has scattered comments to make about his songs--some quite enlightening, others mundane. There are, it seems, hundreds of names scattered throu...more
Jeff March
I was about halfway through Bob Dylan's 2004 autobiographical book "Chronicles, Volume One" when I realized that he had either intentionally or inadvertently composed it as he would songs for an album. Rather than presenting one contiguous saga, the book consists of a collection of personal vignettes. I struggled at first to figure out the chronology of the book, until I discerned that the narrative consists of memories about various episodes in his life -- some of them connected, some disconnec...more
Becca
Aug 21, 2011 Becca rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
Whatever I was expecting, this was only partially it. As an amateur appreciator of Dylan's music, I had expected something extraordinary--or, at least, something which touched on more than the autobiographical. In some ways this first volume was like that--there are passages here which are illuminating, interesting, surprising. But most of the book was full of tedious descriptions of the recording process and weird tangents which went on for many pages without coming to much of a point. The firs...more
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Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman) is an American singer-songwriter, author, musician, poet, and, of late, disc jockey who has been a major figure in popular music for five decades. Much of Dylan's most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when he became an informal chronicler and a reluctant figurehead of American unrest. A number of his songs, such as "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times T...more
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“Some people seem to fade away but then when they are truly gone, it's like they didn't fade away at all.” 248 likes
“Even if you don't have all the things you want, be grateful for the things you don't have that you don't want (Bob Dylan's dad)” 147 likes
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