Book Notes: Bob Dylan, All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track

Dylan all the songsThere are lots of books about Bob Dylan. Some of them are interesting, some are simply ways to make some cash. Since Dylan has such a devoted following, books about the singer tend to sell quite well. There have been a number of new books about Dylan in the past couple of years, ranging from biographies to a book about Dylan fans; from his complete lyrics, to sketchy collections of criticism of his work.

Just in time for Christmas comes Bob Dylan: All the Songs (, Amazon UK). Written by French journalist Philippe Margotin and musician and engineer Jean-Michel Guesdon, this book follows the duo’s All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release. In this book, the authors present each Dylan album, and each song it contains, discussing how the songs were recorded, when, with which musicians, and discussing, it times, lyrics, cover versions, and trivia (in “For Dylanologists” sidebars).

Dylan all the songs

It’s a light-hearted book, designed to be skimmed rather than read. You might be listening to a Dylan album and want to read up on the songs it contains; or you might want to just flip through it and look up information about your favorite songs. There are lots of pictures, and the texts are short. It’s much more interesting than the recent Dylan: Disc by Disc (, Amazon UK), by Jon Bream, who simply transcribes interviews with mostly C-list musicians and unknown journalists about each album. And it’s a lot less dry than Clinton Heylin’s Revolution in the Air (, Amazon UK) and Still on the Road (, Amazon UK), which present similar information in a pretty boring manner.

There’s nothing earth-shattering in this book; the “stories” behind every track don’t explain what the songs are about (as if that were possible), or try to interpret Dylan’s inspiration when he was recording them. But for Dylan fans who are curious about the creative process, it does give some insight into how the songs were recorded and how, in many cases, they changed throughout recording sessions.

If you’re a hard-core Dylan fan, you’ll want to buy this book, especially at the price at the time of this writing, around $28 or £26 (, Amazon UK). It won’t change the way you listen to the music, but it will provide hours of interesting reading.