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Chronicles, Vol. 1

3.98  ·  Rating Details  ·  33,400 Ratings  ·  1,160 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
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Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 13th 2005 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2004)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Geoff
Aug 04, 2014 Geoff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biophilia
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
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Ian Not His Real Name
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
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Paul Bryant
Oct 27, 2011 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
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
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Jonfaith
Feb 19, 2016 Jonfaith rated it really liked it
Each phrase comes at you from a ten-foot drop, scuttles across the road and then another one comes like a punch on the chin.

So goes Dylan on the marvel of Pirate Jenny, the haunting number by Brecht/Weill in their Three Penny Opera. Apparently seeing this performed life indelibly changed Dylan's approach to songwriting. I bought myself G.W. Pabst's film version of TPO for this recent Christmas and I was absolutely riveted by Lotte Lenya's performance of the song, she's so cold , so decisive, muc
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Tosh
Mar 19, 2008 Tosh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Lee
Sep 14, 2012 Lee rated it really liked it
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
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
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Salma
Aug 20, 2013 Salma rated it it was amazing
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
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.
Dustin
Oct 02, 2008 Dustin rated it liked it
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
Brian
Apr 09, 2008 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  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
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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.
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Tracy Reilly
Apr 21, 2014 Tracy Reilly rated it really liked it
Shelves: rock-music

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
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Louise
Jul 03, 2014 Louise rated it really liked it
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
Nov 30, 2013 Ben Winch rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
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
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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
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Lemar
Dec 03, 2013 Lemar rated it really liked it
Shelves: autobiography
With the breathing room that time brings I can see why Dylan came off as the arrogant smarty pants he did as caught in Eat The Document and other interviews of the time. When watching these interviews the ignorance of the questions and questioners is staggering, almost magnificent. They seem to be saying "fuck with us!" and he almost reluctantly complies. To his credit he chose this path rather than wearing the ego trip mantle "Spokesman For A Generation" that they were trying to fit him for.

It
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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
Matt
Apr 22, 2016 Matt rated it liked it
This is exactly the type of "rock memoir" I'd expect Dylan to write.

The usual formula for these books is: 1 Here's what I was up to as a little kid. 2 Let me tell you how it all started, back before I was famous. 3 This is how I got my "big break" 4 Things got all crazy, and I did too much [fill in the substance] but now I've settled down (but I'm wild and crazy so...you never know!).

Dylan starts off long after childhood with "before I was famous," but right away it's different than what you wo
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David Hallman
Mar 05, 2012 David Hallman rated it it was ok  ·  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
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Brent
Dec 16, 2011 Brent rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 22, 2011 nzoz rated it really liked it
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
Jenna
In this autobiography, the poet from Minnesota arrives in New York City as a young man, ready to launch his career. A saxifrage bursting into bloom. What qualities did Dylan have, aside from his knack for words and music, that account for his success? His self-assurance. His faith in his own methods. His strange sense of kinship with all great visionaries and revolutionaries in history (generals, philosophers, men of faith, men of science, you name it; he says, "It was like they were living in m ...more
Christian
Oct 11, 2007 Christian rated it really liked it
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
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jeremy
Feb 17, 2008 jeremy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music, memoir-bio
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
Ryan
Feb 28, 2016 Ryan rated it it was amazing
Man, what a whirlwind of a book! Four days from start to finish — I never wanted to put it down. If you're a fan of Dylan, of his music, of his words, of whatever you think or thought he was or is about, "Chronicles, Vol. 1" is pure electricity. Breezy and rhythmic, you can (or I could, anyway) hear Dylan's voice telling you the story as plain as day. (I've never listened to an audio book, but it had to be like that, only better, as nothing can sound as good as the voice you imagine in your head ...more
Julius
Jun 06, 2015 Julius rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. I picked it up, half-interested, and was immediately hooked, never looked back until it was over, and want to read Chronicles Volume Two. Now. Glad I didn't read Volume One when it came out or I would have had to wait at least 11 years. Maybe I'll get lucky and he'll publish Volume Two soon.

The book is filled with so much life, burns with the power of destiny, whatever the hell that is. Here's one bit of wisdom that jumped out at me:

"Jon [Pankake] was one of the classic traditional folk sn
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Valerie
Jul 16, 2015 Valerie rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Though I'm a big fan of Dylan's music, I always appreciated that he wasn't interested in being a celebrity or being a public character. I never really had any interest in learning the details of his personal life from biographies or movies, but I read a preview of this book some time back, and the fanciful descriptions of New York's folk scene in the 1960s really struck me. I could see the snow falling past the icy gray skyscrapers, and the ill-lit basement taverns retrofitted with a small stage ...more
Scarlett Sims
I'm not like the world's biggest Dylan fan or anything, but I thought it would be interesting to read this book and it was. There are five sections, and each one details a specific point in time. It doesn't really read chronologically; it starts when he has just moved to New York and is trying to break through as a musician, then a later section goes back to before he left the midwest. The section about the making of an album was a little bit "inside baseball," but it also took place in New Orle ...more
Finbarr
May 22, 2016 Finbarr rated it really liked it
I was reading a few interviews with Bob Dylan while I was also reading his book. There seems to be a lot of stuff he made up for journalists, either to throw them off his trail, or out of sheer boredom. Anyway, the general advice is that: the worst source of information about Bob Dylan is Bob Dylan.

Even that point considered, this is a really enjoyable read, fictional or not. Dylan comes across as a fairly normal and unassuming youth, a trait he carries into fatherhood and his post-wilderness r
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Madison Mega-Mara...: # 42 Chronicles, Vol. 1 by Bob Dylan 1 1 May 21, 2014 02:02PM  
What is the best Dylan biography? 11 377 Apr 26, 2014 08:03AM  
Because of you 2 36 Feb 16, 2011 03:02PM  
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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.” 282 likes
“The first thing you notice about New Orleans are the burying grounds - the cemeteries - and they're a cold proposition, one of the best things there are here. Going by, you try to be as quiet as possible, better to let them sleep. Greek, Roman, sepulchres- palatial mausoleums made to order, phantomesque, signs and symbols of hidden decay - ghosts of women and men who have sinned and who've died and are now living in tombs. The past doesn't pass away so quickly here. You could be dead for a long time.

The ghosts race towards the light, you can almost hear the heavy breathing spirits, all determined to get somewhere. New Orleans, unlike a lot of those places you go back to and that don't have the magic anymore, still has got it. Night can swallow you up, yet none of it touches you. Around any corner, there's a promise of something daring and ideal and things are just getting going. There's something obscenely joyful behind every door, either that or somebody crying with their head in their hands. A lazy rhythm looms in the dreamy air and the atmosphere pulsates with bygone duels, past-life romance, comrades requesting comrades to aid them in some way. You can't see it, but you know it's here. Somebody is always sinking. Everyone seems to be from some very old Southern families. Either that or a foreigner. I like the way it is.

There are a lot of places I like, but I like New Orleans better. There's a thousand different angles at any moment. At any time you could run into a ritual honoring some vaguely known queen. Bluebloods, titled persons like crazy drunks, lean weakly against the walls and drag themselves through the gutter. Even they seem to have insights you might want to listen to. No action seems inappropriate here. The city is one very long poem. Gardens full of pansies, pink petunias, opiates. Flower-bedecked shrines, white myrtles, bougainvillea and purple oleander stimulate your senses, make you feel cool and clear inside.

Everything in New Orleans is a good idea. Bijou temple-type cottages and lyric cathedrals side by side. Houses and mansions, structures of wild grace. Italianate, Gothic, Romanesque, Greek Revival standing in a long line in the rain. Roman Catholic art. Sweeping front porches, turrets, cast-iron balconies, colonnades- 30-foot columns, gloriously beautiful- double pitched roofs, all the architecture of the whole wide world and it doesn't move. All that and a town square where public executions took place. In New Orleans you could almost see other dimensions. There's only one day at a time here, then it's tonight and then tomorrow will be today again. Chronic melancholia hanging from the trees. You never get tired of it. After a while you start to feel like a ghost from one of the tombs, like you're in a wax museum below crimson clouds. Spirit empire. Wealthy empire. One of Napoleon's generals, Lallemaud, was said to have come here to check it out, looking for a place for his commander to seek refuge after Waterloo. He scouted around and left, said that here the devil is damned, just like everybody else, only worse. The devil comes here and sighs. New Orleans. Exquisite, old-fashioned. A great place to live vicariously. Nothing makes any difference and you never feel hurt, a great place to really hit on things. Somebody puts something in front of you here and you might as well drink it. Great place to be intimate or do nothing. A place to come and hope you'll get smart - to feed pigeons looking for handouts”
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