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ROBERT SHELTON - Bob Dylan: No Direction Home (Revised Illustrated Edition) 

ROBERT SHELTON - Bob Dylan: No Direction Home (Revised Illustrated Edition) 
Palazzo ISBN: 9781786750907 

While many books have been written about Bob Dylan, none has captured first-hand an eyewitness account of Dylan’s formative and most critically-acclaimed early years as No Direction Home. First published in 1986, the book was hailed as the definitive biography of Dylan and it is the only biography that has been written with his active cooperation. The biography took 20 years to complete and is now seen as a classic. The author, Robert Shelton, met Bob Dylan when the young singer arrived in New York in 1961. Shelton, who became Dylan’s close friend, champion and critic, was on the staff of the New York Times for two decades and best known as the man who ‘discovered’ Bob Dylan. He was the principal chronicler of the 1960s US folk revival and his books include the Woody Guthrie collection Born To Win, The Face Of Folk Music, The Country Music Story and The Electric Muse. He died in 1995.

This new edition abridges the text of that 1980s biography, making it accessible to a wider readership. It includes a new Foreword and Afterword by Elizabeth Thomson, and it is this addition which opens the book up to readers with a less forensic knowledge of Dylan, yet who have an interest and appreciation of his impact on folk music on this side of the Atlantic. Elizabeth Thomson knew Robert Shelton for the last 15 years of his life and was responsible for the 2011 edition of No Direction Home, which restored Shelton’s original manuscript and reshaped the book so it honoured his original intentions. Thomson’s credentials are impeccable for this task. She is a widely published journalist and has been a Visiting Fellow of the Open University Sixties Research Group. Her books include Conclusions On the Wall: New Essays On Bob Dylan, The Dylan Companion, and most recently Joan Baez: The Last Leaf.

This is a book which you will want to own. It oozes quality and is lavishly illustrated with more than 150 images. Photographs are central to this book. You can enjoy it visually and also dig deep when you want to. The publisher, Palazzo, is a young and flourishing independent publishing company based in Barnes, London, specialising in creating beautifully designed and illustrated books in the areas of popular culture, music, film, art, design and architecture, history and biography, and children's books. They currently have a relatively small catalogue of books relating to music, focussing mainly on major names associated with rock music. Palazzo recently published The Last Leaf, a book which will be recognised as the definitive biography of Joan Baez, written by the aforementioned Elizabeth Thomson, who tops and tails this update of No Direction Home. No Direction Home was published to coincide with Dylan’s 80th birthday in May 2021 and the Baez book was also published to coincide with an 80th birthday, that of Joan Baez, in January 2021. There is some overlap in the stories, although the Baez biography covers her whole career, whereas No Direction Home only covers the period up to the 1980s.

This book will have wide appeal, which justifies the lavish production values and the care which Palazzo has invested in this publication. It is an important window into a performer who directly and indirectly had an impact on the folk music history of Britain.

Pete Heywood


This review appeared in Issue 139 of The Living Tradition magazine