The Dylan Tapes
Friends, Players, and Lovers Talkin’ Early Bob Dylan
by Anthony Scaduto
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Pub Date 26 Apr 2022 | Archive Date 25 Apr 2022
University of Minnesota Press, Univ Of Minnesota Press
The raw material and interviews behind Anthony Scaduto’s iconic biography of Bob Dylan draw an intimate and multifaceted portrait of the singer-songwriter who defined his era
When Anthony Scaduto’s Bob Dylan: An Intimate Biography was first published in 1971, the Nobel Prize–winning songwriter, at thirty, had already released some of the most iconic albums of the 1960s, including Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. Scaduto’s book was one of the first to take an investigative journalist’s approach to its subject and set the standard for rock music biography. The Dylan Tapes, compiled from thirty-six hours of interviews, is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Scaduto’s landmark book—and a close-up encounter with pivotal figures in Dylan’s life. These reel-to-reel tapes, found in a box in Scaduto’s basement, are a never-bootlegged trove of archival material about Dylan, drawn from conversations with those closest to him during the early years of his career.
In the era of ten-second takes, these interviews offer uncommon depth and immediacy as we listen to friends and lovers recall the Dylan they knew as he created his professional persona and perfected his craft—from folk music, protest songs, and electric rock through the traumatic impact of a motorcycle crash to his later, more self-reflecting songwriting. Echo Helstrom, Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country,” is here, as are Suze Rotolo, who graced the cover of the Freewheelin’ album, and Joan Baez, remembering her relationship “to Bobby.” We hear from Mike Porco, who gave Dylan his first gig in New York City; Sid and Bob Gleason, who introduced him to his hero Woody Guthrie; folk artists from Greenwich Village, like Phil Ochs and Ramblin’ Jack Eliot; John Hammond Sr., who gave him his first record contract; plus a host of musicians, activists, folk historians, and archivists—and, of course, Dylan himself.
From these reflections and frank conversations, many published here for the first time, a complex, finely observed picture emerges of one of the best known yet most enigmatic musicians of our time.
"Tony Scaduto was my teacher. As a young reporter I was awed by his ability to find new angles others had missed. To enlighten and move within the confines of the newspaper style. Later, I saw how he applied obsessive concern with accuracy, meticulous research, and the revelatory probings of a brief interview to fashion what remains the definitive biography. (And Dylan's favorite.) Anyone interested in journalism should read the book and the tapes together to get an insight into the methods of a master." —Heywood Gould
"Anthony Scaduto’s seminal biography on Dylan was the first one I read. I’ll never forget coming across the line, ‘He created a new identity every step of the way in order to create identity.’ For me it was a eureka moment, this idea of Dylan creating and recreating identity, and of identity itself as something mutable and ever-changing, that would lead to the concept for my film biography, I’m Not There." —Todd Haynes
"Scaduto’s Bob Dylan is considered one of the best biographies of the iconic singer/songwriter. These insightful interviews are like pieces to a puzzle that the author ably wove together. For Dylan fans, it’s like revisiting an old friend." —Kirkus Reviews