New Title: Trouble In Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years by Clinton Heylin released today.

I told you ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’ and they did! I said the answer was ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ and it was! And I’m telling you now, Jesus is coming back, and He is! – Bob Dylan, 1979

Years ago they used to say I was a prophet. I used to say, ‘No, I’m not a prophet.’ They say, ‘Yes you are. You’re a prophet.’ I said, ‘No it’s not me.’ … Now I come out and say Jesus Christ is the answer. They say, ‘Bob Dylan’s no prophet.’ – Bob Dylan, 1980

There is more new information in this book than there is in any book published about Bob Dylan, ever, mine included. Clinton Heylin

When Bob Dylan was baptised into the Vineyard Fellowship in 1979, accepted Jesus as the messiah and was born-again, it inspired a fertile period of creativity; Clinton Heylin suggests perhaps the most fertile of his career. Much of what Dylan produced in this time has not been generally available until now. The release of the box set Trouble No More: Bootleg Series 13 on 3rd November goes some way to addressing this. Clinton’s Trouble In Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years – What Really Happened goes even further still, filling in the gaps and joining up the dots. The whole arc of Dylan’s conversion was captured in song and on stage: from his initial epiphany, to the feeling of salvation and then a new level of questioning is delicately expressed in his creative output over this heady two year period. Clinton has skillfully chronicled this deeply personal journey in his book.

Looking back on his long career, it can be said that Bob Dylan is at his creative best when he’s in direct confrontation with his audience. This happened in 1965/66 when he plugged in an electric guitar and toured the world to a cacophony of boos at his electric band and rock’n’roll din, culminating in the infamous cry of ‘Judas’ at a concert in Manchester. The gospel years were a similarly confrontational time, with the audience this time shouting for more rock’n’roll and less Jesus. His record company were also less than impressed with this trio of gospel albums and it led to a dip in record sales which took almost two decades to recover from.

Dylan toured extensively during this period and took his gospel show on the road with one of the strongest bands he ever toured with, playing only new songs, with nothing from his extensive back catalogue. Throughout his career Bob Dylan characteristically doesn’t speak to his audience at shows, he just plays his songs and leaves. The gospel shows were an exception to this; he often peppered his shows with long sermons about the state of the world and outlining a path to personal salvation. They were extra-ordinary shows. The Bootleg Series release omits these sermons from the record, but they are covered in great depth in the book. Much of what Dylan had to say about a world on the brink has much relevance to the world today.

Clinton Heylin is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading Bob Dylan scholars and has published over a dozen books on Dylan over the years. He acted as a consultant on the compilation of the new box set. Clinton has long been an advocate of Dylan’s gospel years being amongst the best of his career, a position which has been strengthened by the research he’s put into this book, with access to a wealth of new material. He writes in the introduction: ‘Caveat emptor: I am an evangelist. That is to say, when it comes to the evangelical part of the Dylan canon – what in mediaspeak has been defined, rather misleadingly, as the gospel years – I’m a believer. Not a trace of doubt in my mind… As I have long argued, in person and in print, the consummate songwriter composed a body of work in the period 1979-81 which more than matches any commensurate era in his long and distinguished career – or, indeed, that of any other twentieth century popular artist.’

Trouble In Mind includes previously unpublished colour photographs and an extensive gospel years chronology which is an essential complement to the forthcoming box set Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series Volume 13.

A launch event on Thursday 16th November at Tap & Barrel, Pontefract, where Clinton Heylin will be in conversation with the Bishop of Leeds, Bishop Nick Baines, is now sold out.

Tickets are available for a Classic Album Tuesdays event with Clinton Heylin at Edward’s Glossop Road, Sheffield, on Tuesday 14th November. Click here for details.

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