Clinton Heylin

Thurston Moore relives the early days of Sonic Youth

There are a surprising number of books on or by Sonic Youth, the most important of the East Coast bands to emerge in the wake of the first wave of US punk (1974-78). An excellent Spanish biography and an Italian potted history precede the three English language bios to date, while Thurston Moore’s ex-wife Kim

Bob Dylan’s idea of modern song is nothing of the sort

Between 2007-9, Bob Dylan compiled no fewer than 100 Theme Time Radio Hour broadcasts of songs he rated, prefaced by seemingly off-the-cuff verbal riffs on their meaning, history and importance. He was no natural DJ, but his love for the form shone through, as did a well-honed gruff ol’ man persona. The series was produced

Folk music is still very much alive and kicking

As a writer who obsesses over the right title to grab a target audience, seeing a book subtitled ‘Song Collectors and the Life and Death of Folk Tradition’ I say, count me in. It’s a challenging subject, not often trodden with aplomb. I wasn’t even dissuaded when the first line on the inner jacket —

Happy 80th birthday, Bob Dylan

40 min listen

In this week’s Book Club podcast, we’re celebrating the 80th birthday of Bob Dylan. My guests are the former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, and Clinton Heylin, the Dylanologist’s Dylanologist and author most recently of The Double Life of Bob Dylan: A Restless Hungry Feeling 1941-66. I ask what makes Dylan special, whether what he does

A combustible combo

Once upon a time there was the arche-typal Manchester band — half of which came from Macclesfield, in leafy Cheshire, and a quarter of which grew up in Salford, a city in its own right, full of fans of a famous football club equally confused about its true home. This combustible combo was Joy Division

Wells of silence

Someone has gone to a lot of trouble choosing the jacket cover of Robert Hilburn’s authorised biography of Paul Simon (reproduced right). It is both flattering and enigmatic, which is entirely appropriate, given its contents. Half of Simon’s features are lost in a shadow cast across his face — again, entirely appropriate, as Simon wrestled

Hey nonny nonny

After hundreds of densely packed pages on folk song in England — a subject for which I share Steve Roud’s passion — I am none the wiser as to why folk song collectors assumed that a man singing in a pub for free drinks in, say, 1890 or 1920 was de facto a folk singer?

Pretentious rock on a grand scale

There is many a book that has been cooked up over a liquid lunch, but rarely has one been so obviously ill-conceived as The Show That Never Ends, which comes complete with hyperbolic blurb from the esteemed novelist Michael Chabon. Yet what David Weigel provides is a masterclass in how not to write non-fiction. To

The Band’s Barnacle Man

The recent spate of rock memoirs has proved one of the less rewarding sub- genres in the post-digital Gutenberg galaxy. Obeying few rules of a good read, they usually suggest a variant on Frank Zappa’s biting assessment of rock journalists: ‘People who can’t write, ghosting for people who can’t talk, targeting people who can’t read.’