The Official Clinton Heylin
Clinton Heylin - Bob Dylan
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Clinton Heylin Interviewed by Andy Muir, for Isis magazine
ANDY MUIR: Well Mr Heylin thank you for joining us here at “ISIS”. Can I take your memory back to when you first got into Bob Dylan? When and what was it?
CLINTON HEYLIN: I bought my first Dylan album when I was 13, I bought “Greatest Hits” and then I bought “More Greatest Hits” and then I bought “Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues”.
ANDY MUIR: You're kidding?
CLINTON HEYLIN: Absolutely true, and ashamed as I am to admit this for many years I happily credited ‘the great Tony White’ as the man who got me into Dylan. Of course, many years later I discovered to my absolute chagrin that Tony White was a pseudonym for Michael Gray. The first article I read on Dylan was Tony White's 'to live outside the law you must be honest' which was in the second issue of 'Let it Rock' in 1972 and he talked about bootlegs, he talked about Dylan as well; so the two always went together for me. As I didn't know how to get bootlegs at the time I went out and bought one of the ‘greatest hits’ instead, but shortly after that I found a place selling bootlegs, so I wandered in there and asked to buy Royal Albert Hall ’66 and they had sold out so I bought something else instead which was 'Talking Bear Mountain' which to this day I still love as an album, I mean as an album not as a bunch of “Freewheelin’” outtakes; if you go back and actually listen to that as a sequence it really is the missing album that could have come between “Bob Dylan” and “Freewheelin’”. And so virtually my first experience of Dylan was hearing him sing ‘Quit Your Low Don Ways’.
ANDY MUIR: It’s a peculiar introduction: “Greatest Hits” and “Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues”. However, that was you early into bootlegs obviously, surprisingly enough…
CLINTON HEYLIN: Yes, yes.
ANDY MUIR: One small step into Dylan fandom, then. “ISIS” I would imagine is nowadays subscribed to by many who hear references to early times of Dylan fandom, but who don't really know the history of the “Telegraph” and previous magazines....
CLINTON That came a long time later. The first chance I had to see Dylan was in 1978 by that time I was a serious Dylan fan I was collecting the bootlegs; but of course at the same time I was heavily into punk rock so there was a lot of other influences at the time. In fact the person that I went to the Earls Court gig with in 1978 is still a friend of mine and we were discussing going to see Magazine’s reformation last week, so we are still both going to the same kind of weird gigs. That was the first time I saw him and the guy who was sitting next to me, on the other side from my friend, at Earl’s Court in 1978 was taping the show and so needless to say I asked if I could get a copy off him. It turned out that that guy was Richard Goodall who of course ended up setting up the first two Dylan conventions in 1979 and 1980. He had my name and address and so I went down to the convention. I was living in Manchester at the time, when I wasn’t at college, and so I had already met Dave Dingle through tape trading and he introduced me to John Bauldie and at the 1980 convention we first started talking about putting together 'Wanted Man' or what became 'Wanted Man'.
The only thing I really remember about that convention was either Michael Krosgaard or one of the other European guys had a tape, I think it was Krosgaard, had a tape of the Goldmine Acetates which no one had heard and which had the piano ‘She’s Your Lover Now’, and the alternate ‘Visions of Johanna’ and I remember he allowed us to listen to it on headphones, we didn't get a copy. I remember listening to that and that was the most exciting that happened at the convention but I think that we were already talking about setting up a magazine. And then that really came together after the Earls Court 1981 show by which point Dave Dingle, myself, John Bauldie and John Lindley, decided to do this organisation. It wasn't a magazine, the “Telegraph” was meant to be part of Wanted Man not the other way round. We were going to have a bookshelf; we already knew we were going to sell Dylan books, we were going to have Dylan monograms, that it would be a repository for information and research. And the “Telegraph”, as it was originally set up, was just a little newssheet really that circulated the ‘Wicked Messenger’ which Ian Woodward was already doing and had no real distribution for, except privately and we answered questions and had a letterbox. It was very fan like, obviously only much later did the “Telegraph” morph into this kind of literary periodical or whatever.
ANDY MUIR: Yeah, it is difficult to remember now how scarce information was back then.
CLINTON HEYLIN: Well that's exactly why we set it up and to give John credit, it was absolutely him that said "look we’re going out and buying ‘NME’, ‘Melody Maker’ every week, and there is nothing in there, here is a guy that can sell out 6 nights at Earls Court, that has been treated with complete disdain by the so called music media" which was the case in 1981.
ANDY MUIR: I remember it, I remember the whole build up, you couldn't help but compare it to 1978.
CLINTON HEYLIN: Oh absolutely, and as you well remember, in 1978, ‘Melody Maker’ had 8 page pull outs, and not just one week, and so……
ANDY MUIR: “Dylan Zaps Japs”
CLINTON HEYLIN: Yeah, that whole thing. Anyway 1981 - people forget the whole palaver that was involved in getting hold of cassettes of concerts that were taking place 6,000 miles away. I had a contact, nothing to do with Dylan, who had a contact, who had a contact, who taped the shows at the Warfield in 1980 and he sent me the ‘Caribbean Wind’ show 2 weeks after the gig. Well nobody managed to get any of those tapes at that point in time. Pete Vincent would tell you, because he was the first person to hear it with me in my Hall of Residence at University, we sat and we didn't even know what the hell it was, we were going "what is this?" trying to make out the words. That level of kind of having to dig and dig and dig and misinformation and gossip and so forth. The first thing I wrote on Dylan was a rumourography, literally a book that collected together all the rumoured recordings which is a ridiculous thing to do but actually was a great thing because it allowed me to really sort the wheat from the chaff which is what I have been doing ever since.
ANDY MUIR: And how we needed it then, I remember reading Cable and getting very excited about the rumours he talked about……
CLINTON HEYLIN: Cable, wonderful book that it is, is full of mis-information as it is. The entire 1974 discography was a hoax and he didn't know it. It was a hoax from that barmy Jock who did ‘Hot Wax’, the magazine not the bootleg discography.
ANDY MUIR: So then from Dylan fandom we move into you writing books but not just on Dylan; you have written lots of books on a whole range of music. You mentioned punk and Dylan at the same time. Was it difficult being simultaneously a punk and a Dylan fan in Manchester…….?
CLINTON HEYLIN: It was only difficult when I was in the company of John. John seemed to think it was incredibly humorous that I liked the Sex Pistols. John was a bit of a stick in the mud musically, ironic that he should end up at Q, which at least when he first joined was still writing about modern music, because John's musical taste, no reflection on him, really did end in 1975 and he really didn't get it at all. My interests obviously were always wide ranging, but Dylan was still an obsession because it seemed to me that there just weren't enough people out there who realised just how important he was. Again, at the time, people didn't. People ironically have come around to this point of view at a time when the work that Dylan is doing is not so important. Since “Time Out Of Mind”, it seems that a whole slew of so called names have decided Bob Dylan is hugely important at a time when what he is doing really is a kind of, you know...
ANDY MUIR: Yes, it often happens that way. I remember my University lecturers scorning my efforts to point out his relative worth.
CLINTON HEYLIN: Yeah, although in fairness, in literally in one year at school, Manchester Grammar School, my Maths teacher, my History teacher and my English teacher not only were into Dylan but I traded bootleg tapes of Dylan with my Maths teacher and I remember vividly talking to my English teacher about “Blood on the Tracks” when it came out. He couldn't believe how great it was. I, of course, didn't know it was not meant to be that great, because I had no perspective at that time, to me “Blood on the Tracks” was the first Dylan album that I bought new, when it came out, the day it came out, actually I got it a week before it came out, but that's another story.
ANDY MUIR: It's not exactly a bad one to start with! But before we get back to Dylan, if we could move on to your other music interests and other books because you have written on Orson Wells and some chap from Stratford, Shakspeare, I believe he probably should be called. But first other music books – there’s been lots now, from punk to the Beatles.
CLINTON HEYLIN: Well the bizarre thing is that when I did “Behind the Shades”, the Dylan biography, the original version in 1991, I was already writing what was subsequently published as “From the Velvets to the Voidoids” which was my history of New York punk. Because at certain points around about 1988 I decided I had had enough of doing what I was doing - which was working for my father's insurance brokerage and decided to make a living as a writer. Which was rather a stupid thing to do but anyway - back to the point – bizarrely enough considering what I had been doing prior to that in terms of self published things and things in the “Telegraph”, my first thought wasn't ‘lets do a book on Dylan’, my first thought was actually to do a book on Public Image Limited which Omnibus published. It is a complete cut and paste book but that was my first proper book, published in 1988, I think, called “Rise-Fall”. And after that, even having done that, the next thing I started work on was the History of New York Punk (what became “From The Velvets to the Voidoids”) and I had already started doing interviews, I'm trying to get the timeline right but what made me write “Behind the Shades” was, one, the feeling that I thought the “Telegraph” was getting damn close to having fulfilled its brief. I mean, I don't know whether John thought of it going on and on and on, but I certainly didn't. To me, first of all the times had changed, people were now writing about Dylan again and I thought we were running out of things to write about and also I though it was all getting a bit too po-faced anyway. So I didn't really have a sense that the “Telegraph” was going to on and on. I don't know about John, because he changed his mind all the time …..I mean you know he literally resigned as editor of the “Telegraph” at one point.
ANDY MUIR: I remember the editorial…..
CLINTON HEYLIN: Yeah, and Dave was going to take over and then he changed his mind. He went off to Greece for his annual holiday and came back having not written ‘Another Side of Bob Dylan’ and decided that he would carry on so but what really I think made me write “Behind the Shades” was Bob Spitz. The Bob Spitz biography came out, I can't remember when it came out, it must have been 1988 or 1989 and it made me so angry, I mean really angry that someone could write it like that.….and Shelton before that had more or less stopped in ’66.
So, if I remember correctly, the whole point of the original “Behind The Shades” was that I divided it into three sections, the first section dealt with up to 1966, the second section up to 1978, and the third section was up to 1991, just that. It may not sound an attractive idea these days but just to actually do that, to say each of these periods deserves equal merit and in fact got equal merit. Each of those periods got the same number of words, same number of pages approximately, each was treated in the same serious manner whereas everything that had come before if it went up to any period after 1966 it went up to 1978 and continued…”and then Bob started reading the Bible, the end.” And so it was an important thing to do that.
ANDY MUIR: We’ll be moving on to your new Dylan book soon, but just before we do you have another book coming out and, as I alluded to earlier on another bard. Why did that come about, your book on Shakespeare?
CLINTON HEYLIN: The book on Shakespeare came about because I wrote a book in the mid-1990's originally called "Great White Wonders", now subsequently republished as “Bootleg” which is about bootlegging, the history of bootlegging and the very first chapter is about the bootlegging of Shakespeare and that has always fascinated me as a subject. The idea that the greatest poetry the world has ever known probably only came down to us because some dodgy publisher and some dodgy transcriber were in cahoots at a time when Shakespeare was still alive and could do nothing about it. I just thought it was a fantastic idea for a book and it occurred to me fairly recently that the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare's Sonnets, what I think most people would consider the most famous love poems in the world, was about to fall. Which it does at the end of May this year and to look at the publishing history, to see how this happened and when I started looking, it was a fantastic story and, yes, it was the bootlegging of William Shakespeare.
ANDY MUIR: And you've got Dylan in there which I think might upset a few academics.
CLINTON HEYLIN: Possibly deliberately! I put Dylan in on page one and on the last page but he doesn’t get mentioned at all in the rest of the text but I did do that somewhat deliberately and because I am making a parallel. Dylan doesn't write plays, Shakespeare didn't write songs as far we know, but the similarities and the parallels between the two artistes in so many ways just seem to elude a lot of people. The way that Dylan's material has circulated and the collecting circles and the whole idea of works being passed under the counter, parallel very closely what happened, I believe, with the “Sonnets” and with other literary manuscripts in Elizabethan times. So that was the impetus for the project and that’s why I mention it. I mention the parallel between the “Sonnets” and the “Basement Tapes” on page one and then I make the parallel between the “Sonnets” and the fabled “Blood on the Tracks” notebook on the last page.
ANDY MUIR: And it is good they are both coming out at the same time.
CLINTON HEYLIN: Well it means I’ll get shot down from two completely different directions simultaneously.
ANDY MUIR: In the middle of a UK Dylan tour
CLINTON HEYLIN: In the middle of Dylan tour, that's got to be fun for people…
ANDY MUIR: Moving on to the other one, Revolution In The Air, or “RITA” as I call it. It sounds like an allusion to Ian Macdonald's famous Beatles' book “Revolution In The Head”?
CLINTON HEYLIN: Yes, yes.
ANDY MUIR: But because you like that book, not because it is similar?
CLINTON HEYLIN: Yes. I like it but at the same time I wanted to do a completely different book, which always happens. This is no reflection on Ian, God rest his soul; a very fine writer. And his book, ““Revolution In The Head”, on the Beatles, is a terrific book. But he wrote it from a completely different vantage point to the one that I am writing from. First of all, Ian was a very good musician and his fascination with the Beatles was both sociological - because he was there at the time, because to him it was all intertwined with everything that had gone on in the 1960's - and secondly he was interested in them as being melodically and musically innovative and that wasn't my interest. My first interest was to create the canon. In other words, we all know Dylan had written all these songs but no one's actually sat down and said "okay, which songs has he written and in what order has he written them in”. And when you are talking about the Beatles, I'm being unkind to them but I don’t think it really matters whether they wrote ‘Rain’ before or after ‘Got to Get You Into My Life’. They are two good songs from the same period that they were writing at the same time that they were taking large quantities of acid - the end. Whereas with Dylan it's hugely important to know the order the songs were written, to use as an example - and think about this, for 40 years you probably wouldn’t have known for a fact which came first - what happens if Dylan wrote “Chimes of Freedom” after “Mr. Tambourine Man” instead of before? Well, everything has to be in reverse, you cannot understand his development as an artist unless you realise that he writes ‘Chimes of Freedom’ and literally 11 days later, he starts work on ‘Tambourine Man’. That is an amazing thing, that he did it that close together and that you can construct the sequence for those things he has written. And so the thing with “RITA” (laughs) is that I wanted to see if it could be done, I wanted to see if you could actually construct the sequence and make it work and be 85-90% accurate. Because you are not going to be 100% accurate like any work where you are happy to do the work first, you are going to make mistakes. You know the difference between myself and certain other people, is that I don't think that it is clever to claim that I don't make mistakes. Of course I have got things wrong over the years but I am constantly trying to readdress the things that I know: ‘oh okay what I thought then I don't think now, you know”.
ANDY MUIR: I was impressed when reading the book at just how much written and recorded material we have by Dylan when you put it all together. We’ll come to recordings later, but the manuscripts and…
CLINTON HEYLIN: The thing about the manuscripts is that when I did the update of the Dylan biography, “Behind the Shades: Take Two”, I knew some of that material but it didn't fit the biography. I mean obviously I allude to it and I used some of the material in the biography but it is not central to the story. If there is something specific like Dylan clearly writing about the break up with Suze in some of the “Another Side” material then that it is alluded to in the biography but it was not really central to the story of the biography. But of course when you are talking about Dylan the songwriter, it is absolutely central. It is central to that process and I knew where all of the Peter Mackenzie material was from 1961, I knew where to get access to it and thankfully I had access to the “Another Side” material and the “Blood On The Tracks” material anyway because I knew who had those original papers before they passed back to the Morgan Library, which is where I believe they are now. So I knew I could get access to that material, I mean that was part of the point of doing the book, but, yeah, you obviously turn things up as you are going along.
I think I allude in the introduction to the fact that I actually discovered three of four missing songs from the Mackenzie papers right at the end of the process! I had almost finished the first volume and it was only when I was checking one version against another version at the New York archives and I went: ‘hang on a second, this isn't the same as that’ and suddenly realised that there were some things that had slipped through the net, and I had to go back and reintegrate all that material; which is all part of the fun, all part of why you get up in the morning, that sort of thing.
ANDY MUIR: It must have been difficult to decide what to include and what not to in trying to define, as you say, the canon for the first time.
CLINTON HEYLIN: Yeah….
ANDY MUIR: So obviously some times you will have to make, what you refer to, I think, as ‘intelligent speculation’ - but there must also be times when rumours are just rumours, so when do you decide….
CLINTON HEYLIN: Funnily enough, at the moment I am more than halfway through the second volume, and the second volume is much more problematic with what you are talking about because in a lot of cases, certainly once you get into the 1980's, most of rumoured songs we know definitely exist because they are on studio tapes but we haven't heard them. So you really do have to speculate because you are basing an enormous amount on a song title. I will give you an example - I know it's nothing to do with volume one but just to give a preview of volume two and it may change by the time it is finished but, anyway - one is a song that Dylan recorded for “Shot of Love”. It is listed as ‘I Wish it Would Rain’ now I am sure you know the Whitfield-Strong song ‘I Wish it Would Rain’ by Marvin Gaye and of course when you see it listed on the track listing the first thing you think is that's the song it must be. We know he was doing covers at the time and although that's not the type of cover you would expect him to do, it is perfectly possible, perfectly likely that it is the Whitfield-Strong song. But when I started looking into the logs, cross referencing and taking into account some of the information that Krosgaard overlooked, I became convinced, possibly erroneously, that it’s probably a Dylan original. There are various reasons why that is but the most telling of which is that it was pulled to what is called an Early Roughs reel and that means a song that is short-listed for the album. You don't pull a cover that you just did in the middle of a session to pass time to an Early Roughs reel, you wouldn't normally. The normal reason you would do that is that you intended to use it. Until we hear the song I don't know, I could easily be wrong but at the moment it’s in there, it’s in Volume Two because I believe it is a Dylan original. So, that gives you an idea of the kind of problems you can have. I mean, my American editor for the first volume, belaboured his opinion that ‘The Big Flood’ from “The Basement Tapes” should have been in there as a Dylan original. I didn’t think so, because to my mind it’s not a song, it’s just Dylan having a rant. It isn’t a song, he has taken an idea from a John Lee Hooker song and he decided just to go off on a rant. For me it would be like using one of the Tempe rants from 1979 and saying that’s a song. It’s just Bob extemporising after a few puffs too many.
ANDY MUIR: So those ones miss the cut, as do instrumentals because, as you say, you are dealing with songs not tunes. But the very opening song is a song none of us have heard, yourself included…
CLINTON HEYLIN: ..and almost certainly doesn’t exist.
ANDY MUIR: So why did you start with that, just to tease us?
CLINTON HEYLIN: Yeah! I mean it’s there because Dylan has told us repeatedly that the first song he wrote was about Brigitte Bardot and he has spoken about it at length. He talked about it in 1961, he talked about it in 1964, he talked about it in 1978 and we should give him the benefit of the doubt, you know any songwriter would remember their first song. Of course it is also a convenient starting point, because the first real song in the book is ‘Song to Woody’, and to me the line in the book is ‘Song to Brigit’, which is obviously not the title, but ‘Song to Brigit’ to ‘Song to Woody’ and the last song in the book, ‘Wedding Song’. So to me it completes a circle, so it is just meant as a humorous thing, the book really starts with ‘Song to Woody’ the stuff that comes before that is just a prelude really.
ANDY MUIR: But there is good fun in the juvenilia, there are a couple of lines that I will never forget.
CLINTON HEYLIN: Oh yes, but that’s the frustrating thing - you are talking about the poems. The problem is that one of the manuscripts that has come into very recent circulation is a collection of poems from 1960 which are fascinating but the point is that they don’t fit (a book of songs – ed.) but what they do show is at that point in time Dylan still thought he was going to be a poet not a songwriter. And it is frustrating that we don't have more original material prior to New York but there are definitely some things that we know about, that exist which we haven’t heard yet and maybe they'll reveal more.
ANDY MUIR: Something to look forward to. You mentioned ending at ‘Wedding Song’ and as we stand in March of this year there is a perfect balance in Dylan's career between your two volumes…..
CLINTON HEYLIN: Which he has now ruined…..(by bringing out a new album – ed.)
ANDY MUIR: …Just to spite you. Did you know that before you started or was it just……?
CLINTON HEYLIN: Did I know it was perfect before Bob loused it up?
ANDY MUIR: No, before you started writing the books and decided to split it into two volumes, against the publisher's wishes no doubt, did you know it had this astonishing symmetry?
CLINTON HEYLIN: Well the answer is: I sat down and wrote out the list having done what I had spoken to you earlier about, the whole thing about working out the chronology, and worked out a list and all of that. And all of the research for the two volumes was done before I started the first volume because you cannot do it the other way around; you cannot do half the research and then start again. So, all of that was done in advance and it came to 586 songs, that original list whenever that was. I knew all along it would have to be two volumes because I knew how long it would be and I knew how big it would be; I knew it was going to be 300,000 words and I knew enough about publishing at this point, I had been doing it for 20 years, to know that to go to a publisher and expect them to do a 300,000 word book – well, they'd kick me out of the room. As it happens I had almost as much difficulty persuading publishers to do 2 volumes but that's a slightly separate issue. I knew that there had to be 2 volumes and then once I starting counting back and started to refine the list and so forth it came to 600 songs and, I kid you not, the 300th song was ‘Wedding Song’, the last song that he wrote for “Planet Waves”. I thought: ‘perfect!’ It was a complete fluke and now it has been ruined by Bob. Actually, not ruined by Bob because whatever I end up writing about the new album will be an appendix to the second volume, it will not be part of the second volume.
ANDY MUIR: So it still works. Okay, I mentioned earlier about all the new material you’ve got. For someone like myself, and I suspect many of the readers of “ISIS”, the most exciting thing is reading little bits of Dylan lyrics. I don't want to give any away because obviously it’d be spoiling the book; but, ‘Mama, You've Been On My Mind’ for example, that verse you quote that I didn't know even existed, it kind of changes my view of the song.
CLINTON HEYLIN: I am not trying to pick out things because nobody else has got them or because they are super-super-rare or something. I only picked something because it is relevant.
ANDY MUIR: Oh, I thought you were quoting things we didn’t know to tease us (laughing)…
CLINTON HEYLIN: There is a certain degree of teasing going on, but if I don't think it is relevant or interesting just because it happens to be something that somebody may not know about.
ANDY MUIR: Sure, but this was relevant, the one I am alluding to……
CLINTON HEYLIN: Of course, and as I say in the introduction the “Another Side” material was probably the toughest thing to write simply because there was no way with that mass of material, with the manuscripts of almost the entire album to work with…. I had to get much more forensic with the way that I talked about the song writing. And because of that I had to assume a certain degree of knowledge from the reader, which is difficult. It is difficult because even a knowledgeable fan wouldn’t necessarily know the ins and outs, off the top of their heads, of the relevant versions of such and such a song. So that became a problem with the “Another Side” material and because of that it got re-written more than anything else in the first volume. I suspect I will probably have to do the same for the “Blood On The Tracks” material when I start re-writing the second volume for exactly the same reason. The problem you have is that if you are going to start talking about a line and how he has changed it, you are assuming that the person that is reading it knows the original line or knows the line in the recording. So there is a thing in the introduction where I say it would be useful to have a copy of “Lyrics” alongside you
ANDY MUIR: That's true, I didn't all the way, because some things in “Lyrics” are so frustrating, which is a…
CLINTON HEYLIN: …whole other issue, yes. But realistically it would be useful to have some kind of version to refer to. And obviously in ‘It Ain’t Me, Babe” there was another song from “Another Side” where there was an extra verse, that wasn’t used. And unlike the “Mama You've Been On My Mind” there is a decent prospect that there was a recording of that version because, of course, he performed it at the Royal Festival Hall within two or three days of writing that song. And it was recorded and they have it. I think there is a pretty good chance that extra verse will be on that version which would be…
ANDY MUIR: Fantastic!
CLINTON HEYLIN: Yes, exactly.
ANDY MUIR: A more serious question than my “teasing” one about what you do and do not quote would be: ‘were there any constraints on you on what you could quote and how much you could quote’?
CLINTON HEYLIN: [The constraints, there were constraints but they weren't……delete] the lyrics have been cleared with Dylan’s office, but I did the book and then went and okayed it with the office - not the other way around. I quoted what felt appropriate. I didn't want it to turn into Michael Gray’s Song & Dance Man 3. There is almost a sense that he is just showing off how much he can quote because he quotes entire songs which is just stupid. You know I get it, I get it, okay this is a version of Caribbean Wind which isn't the one in “Lyrics” but it has no relevance to what he is trying to do in that book, it is merely showboating…
ANDY MUIR: Moving away from that, as it is unlike you to take a swipe at somebody. Though there are a few people who get a swipe in the book, actually. Mr Krosgaard takes a little bit of a bashing in the beginning of the book.
CLINTON HEYLIN: Oh, does he? Oh right, OK.
ANDY MUIR: Any particular history behind that you wish to expand upon to us?
CLINTON HEYLIN: I think it’s a pretty balanced explanation that I give in the introduction. It’s important that people understand the difference between myself and Michael. I know a few people have been amused at my little dig about the ‘Danish dentist’ and I probably am being a bit spiteful there, but the truth of the matter is I do this for a living and Michael doesn't and boy does it show. I mean his sessionography which I have been working on, on the train as I was coming up to see you, is so exasperating. There are just so many things he doesn't tell us, there are so many holes in what he's done. And I don't blame him for not finding all the paperwork or all the studio reels. Christ, I was there before him, I know half that stuff isn't there but he should be telling us where holes are; he should be telling us what he does know and what he doesn't know. It is important that we know what he doesn't know and that’s what I try to do in the new edition. To say: ‘okay these things I take at face value from that particular sessionography and these things I don't and I have good reason’. And as I explained in the introduction I have still got good access to Sony so I am able to cross reference this stuff and, unlike Michael, if I think that he is wrong I tell you why I think he is wrong. I mean the 'Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window’ thing has been annoying me for years. The very first time I went to Sony I found those tracking sheets from the November session where supposedly he recorded 18 versions of 'Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window’ which amazingly enough was released 20 days later. Now if you know anything about record production, you would know that was impossible. It is impossible to get a record out 20 days after you have done [it]. That is not the recording date, that is a mix date and we have plenty of evidence that it was recorded in October, not least of which is the Levon Helm telling us it was recorded in October in his own autobiography. Since he played on the damn thing I think he would be entitled to be taken at least some kind of face value.
ANDY MUIR: Yes, though often people “remember” wrongly….
CLINTON HEYLIN: …often wrongly. Al Kooper was repeatedly wrong but at least give him the decency of considering the possibility. As it happens, Michael's wrong. 'Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window’ was recorded in October. I haven’t really, fully satisfied myself how the mistake came about but I do offer a theory in the book, which is that the seven takes ‘Jet Pilot’, think about this, are in fact mislabelled and that is, in fact, 'Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window’. That's just a theory, I haven't heard the reel, but seven takes of ‘Jet Pilot’? Come on….
ANDY MUIR: What would you say is the most surprising thing you came across in writing it? In volume 1, I mean, unless you want to give us another preview of volume 2.
CLINTON HEYLIN: Funnily enough I said this to somebody at that New York Dylan class the one time I went along. This sounds like a really minor thing and I don't expect anyone else to jump up and down at the excitement of the idea of it, but for me the most exciting thing was the realisation that the 'I Shall Be Free' that is in “Writings and Drawings” - which bears no resemblance to the recorded version - is not a 1972 re-write. It was the exact version that was in his 1962 notebook. That shocked me and the reason it shocked me is that it showed me just now much attention and care and detail Dylan went through to produce “Writings and Drawings” because he actually went back to his own notebook and said ‘that's the version I'm going to use’ and that was a real revelation, because it just wouldn’t have occurred to me.
ANDY MUIR: Well, given some of the seeming mis-transcriptions or whatever they are…
CLINTON HEYLIN: Exactly! It sets the whole series of thoughts going and one of the things that I tried I guess, as a sort of sub-text in both volumes, is this idea of not accepting the version that is in “Lyrics” as the final word and try to understand why things are in there in the way they are, where it is Dylan who has changed it and where it is badly transcribed. And it varies, of course….
ANDY MUIR: And it varies from volume to volume, it drives me mad. What we really need is a proper, official, annotated edition of ‘Lyrics’, don’t we?
CLINTON HEYLIN: Well I have already suggested it. Seriously, not that recently but certainly in the 1990's, I did suggest to Dylan's office that this needed to be done, and it may well happen at some point down the line. Like all of these things it takes a while to achieve a certain impetus but if they can finally publish the Barry Fenstein Dylan 1964 manuscript, a work of negligible importance; (of interest to me, I was hugely interested in it when it came out, but really very sideline importance), I think it is inevitable that there will be an annotated ‘Lyrics’. And with the way with the copyright situation with the internet situation and so forth going on, realistically the Dylan office need to do that before somebody else.
I am perfectly serious about that, I'm talking about on a commercial basis and I am talking about in terms of retaining control of how it’s done. But if they are going to do that they need to make sure that they employ the right people, and, no, I'm not saying that there is only one person that could do it. Obviously to me there are only three or four people you really want to get involved in that type of project, but I think I could figure out who those people are.
ANDY MUIR: I hadn't even thought about a commercial aspect; I was just thinking that we need it. I mentioned the state of his official lyrics to my father and he looked as though he just couldn’t believe it; how something so basic was not in existence and in a proper form.
CLINTON HEYLIN: That will happen and if it doesn't happen officially then it will happen unofficially. Obviously, there is “Words Fill My Head”, which is now a website, when I first came across “Words Fill My Head” it was a mimeograph bootleg secretly distributed. I still use my 1990 copy.
ANDY MUIR: That’s still how I still think of it, every time I see it mentioned in your book…….
CLINTON HEYLIN: Exactly.
ANDY MUIR: It comes in for some praise…..
CLINTON HEYLIN: Well whatever its faults are, the fact that somebody did it and kept doing it is to be praised and lets give Dylan's people credit - the fact they have not shut it down is good. We don't need another Van Morrison getting all pissy about what is or isn't circulating on the web. They’re not going to shut it down anyway so it’s a pointless exercise. The entire Van Morrison trading circle, circulate everything on-line, they just do it secretly, because he shut down access to Dime-a-Dozen. Whoopee doo, well done Van. It made no difference….what an idiot!
ANDY MUIR: “Chronicles” doesn't get so much praise but that's mainly because you are dealing with history and facts and dates and “Chronicles” is…
CLINTON HEYLIN: It’s nothing to do with praise, I challenge the history and I'm just about to start, hopefully next week, on “Oh Mercy”, I mean, Jesus Christ, as far as I can tell almost everything in the “Oh Mercy” section of “Chronicles” is a work of fiction. I enjoy “Chronicles” as a work of literature but it has as much basis in reality as “Masked And Anonymous”, and why shouldn't it? He's not the first guy to write a biography that's a pack of lies; in fact Graham Chapman wrote one of the great modern autobiographies which is called “A Liar's Autobiography”. Of course, as a chronic alcoholic he couldn't actually remember anything anyway, but that's another story.
“Chronicles” is very useful in terms of the light that it shows on how seriously Dylan's takes his art and he talks about song writing and he talks about the things that have influenced him. However, anything that he says that is a so called a memory of him being in such and such a place with such a person - I wouldn't believe it if Bob showed me the photos!
ANDY MUIR: I noticed that Theme Time Hour Radio gets quite a few remarks on the way through, you don't seem to think Dylan's fully involved in it all?
CLINTON HEYLIN: You have to make the decision about how you are going to use any of the material from Theme Time Radio. Much as I have enjoyed the shows, it doesn't come across to me as Dylan baring his songwriter's soul. It is exactly what it sounds like, which is Bob Dylan as a DJ and like any DJ most of the stuff that is being done on that show is being done by the producer. Everyone talks about John Peel, John Walters was as responsible for the John Peel Show. And likewise for Theme Time Radio the man who should take most of the credit, or blame, is Eddie G. I'm not saying Bob's not enjoying himself and that he doesn't enjoy playing that material, but in terms of illuminating his song-writing art, I think you've got a problem. Where is all the stuff that we know affected Dylan as a songwriter, if he was trying to say something about what he himself does?
ANDY MUIR: Speaking of his song-writing again, you did mention volume two and although I know this is supposed to be about volume one, but how about more of a preview? And a bit of a contrast, really. You said you were more than halfway through?
CLINTON HEYLIN: More than halfway through…
ANDY MUIR: What I was thinking was that in volume 2 you've got - if this isn't too strong a word – travesties. You've got albums that are actually travesties of what they could have been. In Volume One you've got things like, ‘She's Your Lover Now’, a masterpiece not on an album but the album’s themselves are filled with other masterpieces. In Volume Two you've got “Infidels”, “Oh Mercy”, “Time Out Of Mind” and maybe most of all “Shot Of Love” all of which are travesties of what they could have been. That must be more galling to write.
CLINTON HEYLIN: No, actually it's much more fun doing that because one of the fascinating things of doing it this way round when you are writing about songs, and you are writing about songs in chronological order by composition, hopefully, is that it doesn't matter what album they ended up on. Because you write about the songs, so in a way you write about something like “Shot Of Love” which is so far the biggest section in either book because it’s fascinating. You just go: “wow, what a body of work”. The fact that that body of work was reduced down to this husk of an album is almost an irrelevance. We all know the history of “Shot Of Love”, but one of the things I didn't realise until I went back and went through these sheets is that not only did he scrap everything that he recorded for what would have been a truly seminal album, but when he stopped doing the Rundown sessions and switched to Clover, he literally went away and wrote two thirds of “Shot of Love”. And the two thirds that he went away and wrote, in 10 days or whatever it was, are almost all un-redeemingly awful and the things that he's replaced, vary from good to truly great but almost everything that he replaces those songs with is just not that good. I mean ‘Lenny Bruce’? ‘Watered Down Love’? I like ‘Dead Man’, I think that's not actually a bad song, but it is still not….
ANDY MUIR: … ‘Caribbean Wind’
CLINTON HEYLIN: ‘Dead Man’ instead of ‘Groom’s Still Waiting…”? I don’t think so. ‘Trouble’? ‘Trouble’ probably took less time than ‘Lenny Bruce’! All this stuff that he's abandoned comes first and if you do it that way round you suddenly start to get a sense of perspective, just as you realise when you are dealing with “Infidel”'s material and the “Empire Burlesque” material that [the] order that he does these things in is kind of the process in his mind of organising how he is going to use it and the things that he gives up on aren't lessened because he lets frustration get in the way. ‘Foot of Pride’ is a good example. There is some dispute as to which is the song that Dylan has worked on longest but it’s either ‘Foot of Pride’ or ‘Dignity’. Now it’s not coincidence that both of those songs were songs he spent half the bloody sessions working on and then didn't use. In both cases, he just finally didn't feel that he got where he wanted to go and rather than use something that was 95% there, he just scrapped them. So that's a fascinating process and it’s a different process. Volume Two will be quite different because the history of the songs will be different; we obviously don't have anything like the amount of personal anecdotal material that we have up to 1966. Because [back then] Dylan was still living in the village, because he was still on the scene, we have a lot of anecdotal evidence of when songs were written, where he was at the time, all that kind of material. We don't have that kind of material once you get… certainly past 1981, 1981 is the last point in which you can really say: ‘okay I have a pretty good idea when he wrote what so and so, what order it was written’, after 1981 you are scrabbling around for clues.
ANDY MUIR: I'll move you away from volume two now before we go too deeply into that. There are lots of things in “RITA” for the fan like me, a (once at least) never ending tour fan as well as 1960's Dylan fan. For example, you'll be talking about ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ and you'll casually mention the magnificent Manchester 1995 version. Which of course I liked, but it made me wonder about the audience the book is aiming for, it can't be aimed just at dedicated Dylan fans obviously, nor is it light reading……?
CLINTON HEYLIN: The process for a song, deciding where a song begins, as an idea I mean and where it ends as a performance piece, is an editorial decision because you can't write about every song. You can't do the complete history of every song. I remember we had the discussion about your Never Ending Tour book, “Razor’s Edge” picking a song like ‘Tambourine Man’ and actually going through the Never Ending Tour permutations of that particular song rather than the obviously chronological approach that you use in the book. The point is that you can't do that, you have limitations of space, the whole thing's going to come out at 300,000 words and it's still half of what it could be.
ANDY MUIR: Sorry, what I meant really was it reads as though every reader has heard shows that aren’t officially recorded….
CLINTON HEYLIN: Oh but really, in today's internet world that’s almost an irrelevance thankfully. If you want to hear a recording of Dylan you don't really have to hunt that hard and I have never understood that criteria about, ‘well if you can't hear it what's the point in writing about it?’ That's for somebody else to figure out, if you haven't got what it takes to track down a recording then - give up! One of the guys who is in my regular coffee shop in Taunton is a Dylan guy, he thinks Bob Dylan collecting is about finding 50 official albums and I was talking to him about the electric ‘Blind Willie McTell’ which he had never heard. So I [made sure he got a copy (laughs). I mean, how do you relate to that song without hearing that version.]
ANDY MUIR: From a writing point of view, when you sit down to write about one of the songs, lets say you did a Basement Tape song and commented on a recent-ish performance of it, do you have two different audiences in mind, the person who has got the official “Basement Tapes” and…
CLINTON HEYLIN: …No, no I don't. What I have in mind is the same person that I was in 1978 who went into Virgin Megastore in Marble Arch and bought Paul Cable’s book, walked from Marble Arch back to my college in Regent’s Park and sat on a bench in the refectory for the whole afternoon and read the book in one sitting. Although I had quite a bit of Dylan bootleg material there was lots of things I didn't have, I was only 18, and it was pre-internet days and at the end of the book I thought: ‘I guess I had better go and find all these tapes’, so I did. If you can't find those recordings, my advice is get off Facebook and get a life, go out and find the fucking stuff! It is not hard to find. If you are gonna start looking for the “Blood On The Tracks” notebook, then good luck but most of the stuff I am writing about really isn't that hard to find. If I write about a live performance, it is because it is an outstanding live performance. Yes, I've heard far too many ‘Tambourine Man’s for my own good but, trust me, if I've got one paragraph to talk about all the live versions of Tambourine Man post 1966, it’s a pretty good bet that if I mention one or two they are pretty damn good, so go and find them. That isn't elitism, that isn't snobbery, that is what I did and I would love for people to get back to that. I don't have a problem with the internet, I have a problem with people who use the internet in a particular way as a means of not discovering things for themselves. The book should be a guide [to discovering the man's work].
ANDY MUIR: I didn't mean elitist by the way, I just thought it was interesting how you visualise your audience. So what's next, promoting the book with Dylan touring again? Does Dylan always tour the UK when you bring a book out?
CLINTON HEYLIN: He does, I don’t know why; it’s very nice of him to do so. What's next is that I finish volume two. As with any writer the problem you always have is that you [end up] talking about something you finished a year ago. It sounds terrible, but I'm not that excited about “Revolution In The Air” because I've [already] done it. I'm excited about “Still On The Road”, which is the title of the second volume, because that's what I am working on now.
ANDY MUIR: But you have to promote the first one in the middle of writing the second one?
CLINTON HEYLIN: Exactly, which is kind of interesting and it will be fun because it makes a change. Most of the time when I'm promoting a book I've written another book in the interim because you cannot make a living doing this and take a year off.
ANDY MUIR: You've got the Shakespeare to promote as well.
CLINTON HEYLIN: Yes, although at the moment it is only coming out in the States and their idea of promotion is to send out as many review copies as they can and just pray. Promotional strategy does not seem to be a strong point with American publishers.
ANDY MUIR: Are you looking forward to the new Dylan album?
CLINTON HEYLIN: Yes, of course, I am always looking forward to hearing what Dylan has got to say. We know that somewhere in there he is capable of putting out something great and if he does it one more time I will be happy. Or two more times, but as you know my view of “Modern Times” is relatively positive, certainly compared with ““Love & Theft””. The one thing that to me cannot be taken away from “Modern Times” is that he wrote ‘Nettie Moore’, which is a masterpiece and in my opinion it is the only masterpiece he's written since 1997 and that's a long time ago. But, hey, it’s still one more masterpiece than I have ever written.
ANDY MUIR: Which seems a perfect line to end on, thanks very much.