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on 13 November 2016
I'm enjoying this book, it feels sure footed, with opinions supported by the facts, debunks some of the standardised myths of Robert Shelton's Dylan, revealing a more interesting chaotic myth - Dylan as an angry showoff, priapic boy stumbling accidentally into the man, as the hot metal of his soul aligns with the cultural hunger for authenticity combined with a daring flair for the fusion of artistic forms.
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on 15 November 2016
This is an excellent, wide ranging account of Dylan's career to date. Heylin clearly think his is by far the best biography as he often knocks his rivals but that being said this seems pretty comprehensive.

A good read, very balanced and not overtly hero worshipping which is welcome.
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on 24 September 2014
This is an amazing book,but I couldn't wait to finish it. It contains a lot of musicians type detail which I could not understand and did not like. In between it was great detail about the man himself, and how he approaches his music and life in the limelight
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on 10 February 2017
Great product
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on 3 April 2017
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 8 May 2013
Clinton Heylin probably knows more about Bob Dylan than Bob Dylan knows about Bob Dylan. Reading 'Behind the Shades', there's a strong sense that Helyin could very happily expand any of the book's 45 chapters into a (readable, interesting) book-length volume in its own right. For now, though, and until Heylin paints his masterpiece, the single-volume 'Behind the Shades' is by far the most balanced, astute and readable Dylan biography currently available. Despite its collossal length (902 pages including the index and references), it never loses narrative pace or critical focus. If anything, it feels too short.

One of the strongest aspects of 'Behind the Shades' (and where it differs hugely from Sounes and Shelton, for example) it that it treats Dylan's artistic career as an unfolding fifty-year process of development and discovery, rather than a mid-sixties blaze of glory with a 45-year postscript tacked onto the end. Fully 600 pages of text follow the 1966 motorbike crash. This long and measured pespective - the accumulative sense of a life lived - gives us a more rounded and truthful view of Dylan than any previous biography. There's also a liberal and extensive use of quotation, with direct and sometimes lengthy quotes from some 250 individuals who've known or worked with Dylan, plus liberal extracts from Dylan's own words. These are all expertly orchestrated into Heylin's narrative.

Heylin is neither hagiographer nor hatchet-man. He doesn't shy away from Dylan's many personal and artistic failings, but he never chronicles these in a prurient way. He knows too much to argue or to judge. Likewise, he never lapses into breathless fanboy prose when reviewing the peaks of Dylan's creativity and achievement. Through the highs and the lows, what interests Heylin more than anything is what it must have been like to have been Bob Dylan at a particular point in time, and how this all-too-human man has dealt with the pressures, the expectations, the frustrations and the disappointments of his long and chequered career.

All in all, this is an excellent book. My only word of caution is that it's properly huge: weighing in at 1.2kgs, it's a Dylan primer and a personal workout all in one. Faber have done a lovely job of the printing, but this is one book that even an old Luddite like me could almost be persuaded to read on Kindle!
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on 20 October 2013
I'm a big fan of Clinton Heylin, not the biggest as that distinction is reserved for Mr. Heylin himself, but massive ego aside, there is no denying him his place as the foremost Dylan biographer on the planet. This, the second update of this work was published in 2011 to coincide with Dylan's seventieth birthday (the original and the first rewrite were published on Dylan's fiftieth & sixtieth respectively), and I bought this as soon as it came out. It sat on my bookshelf for two years before I had to bite the bullet and buy the Kindle version because I had to finally admit to myself that I could never plough through this mammoth volume in its unwieldy print version, which runs to almost 1,000 pages. Having now read and thoroughly enjoyed the book, I feel qualified to comment on it.

Heylin of course has history with Bob Dylan, apart from the two previous versions of "Behind the Shades" he has written the somewhat obsessive "Bob Dylan - A Life in Stolen Moments", the fascinating "Dylan - Behind Closed Doors" and two volumes of work examining in detail every song that Dylan has ever written up to 2006. So he is eminently qualified to bring his considerable knowledge of his subject to the market place, and bring it he does, with a staggering amount of information on every facet of Dylan's life and career.

What I like about "Behind the Shades" is Heylin's ability to treat his subject with objectivity and judge each of Dylan's projects on their own merit. He is fair in his appraisals, and his criticisms are well judged. He draws on a wealth of published material to back up his opinions (and does Mr. Heylin have opinions!), and uses personal quotes from the vast array of characters that have worked with Dylan over his extensive career. Time is spent explaining how the albums came to be, and each is treated with a fair degree of attention, as we learn a lot about Dylan's approach to his art - his periods of writers block, his short attention span and his boredom threshold, his inability to convey to fellow musicians what he hears in his head, his own frustration with inadequate preparation for recording sessions and tours and his general lack of cooperation with the media.

That Dylan is a genius there can be little doubt, but Heylin, who by his own admission has never met the man, is able to portray a more prosaic picture. A result of which is that his approach falls somewhere between the denseness of Scaduto and Shelton, and the tabloid sleaziness of Sounes - a man whom Heylin spends a whole chapter discrediting!

All of Dylan's side projects are given the same equitable treatment, including the ill-fated "Tarantula" - Dylan's first attempt at non-musical prose, his films, his first volume of memoirs and his surprisingly successful venture into the world of art. Some more successful than others, but all showing that, as Heylin says his "...ability constantly to reinvent who Bob Dylan was, and is, remains the primary characteristic of his art."

What I like a little less about "Behind the Shades" is Heylin's attempts at humour and his constant striving to weave quotes from Dylan's songs into his narrative. Both come off as a little forced and detract from the seriousness of the work - at least I assume it is meant to be serious. But that aside, this book is to me, the finest Dylan biography currently available, no mean feat when one considers the amount of competition out there. Dylan remains a fascinating enigma, and Clinton Heylin has got closer to the essence of the man than anyone that I have ever read, and that is just about every biography I have been able to lay my hands on.

With now over half a century in the public arena, Dylan shows no signs of slowing down "My music wasn't made to take me from one place to another so I can retire early." He said in 2009 according to one of Heylin's many quotes from the man himself, so he intends to be around a while longer yet. If this is the case, we may see a third update of this engrossing work in 2021. In the meantime I urge you to buy this current version, preferably on Kindle, to tide you over.

Highly recommended, and expect to see an almost mint condition copy of the print version on e-bay very soon!
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on 7 February 2014
Very good, an amazing wealth of information, detail and references to explore. The chapters divide up by album/period/tour/etc in a sensible chronological way, except the last few chapters on the more recent years which divide up into Dylan's non music works (films, art, etc.). My only problem with this book is the authors arrogance. He feels the need to berate other authors who have dared attempt to cover his chosen subject, dedicating almost the entire preface of the book to this and frequently doing so throughout the book. It's classless and becomes irritating.
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on 27 July 2014
Clinton Heylin's "Behind the Shades" is surely the best book about Bob Dylan we're ever likely to get. What set's it apart from the rest is the amount of contact and quotes garnered from people close to Dylan ("close" meaning musicians, producers, etc), at various times in his career.

It's very well structured and, considering the oft times complexity of the subject matter, well written. Each stage of Dylan's career is portrayed with clarity. So whether, like me, you're a life time fan, or only just getting into the subject, this is the one to buy. Hopefully one day we'll see Chronicles 2 and 3 from Dylan himself, but great though they may be, they're less likely to be as informative and detailed as this.
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on 8 September 2014
You either love or hate Heylin. I love him.
Dont expect a white wash but dont expect a hatchet job either. He tells it like it is (according to him)
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