The Chameleon Poet: Bob Dylan’s Search For Self

John Bauldie’s previously-unpublished work of forensic insight into Bob Dylan’s unique artistic journey.

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Book details

Extent: 288pp

By John Bauldie

On his untimely death at 47 years old in October 1996, not only did John Bauldie sit at the what could be called the high table of Dylan Studies, but from the early nineties, when he was invited by Dylan’s management to write the liner notes that accompanied the Bootleg Series Volume 1-3, many would attest that he was chairman of the board.

In his lifetime, John Bauldie was a giant amongst Bob Dylan fans and collectors. As the editor of The Telegraph, he was a voracious advocate for Dylan to be afforded the respect of a major artist and an early lobbyist for him to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Yet, despite creating the Wanted Man Study Series to encourage analysis of Dylan’s work, Bauldie never published his own full critical study, though regular subscribers to The Telegraph knew he had completed one. A few teasing extracts and a handful of mysterious mentions revealed the existence of this fabled manuscript, The Chameleon Poet, which has remained unpublished until now.

Covering the formative span of Dylan’s career from his emergence in the early sixties to his conversion to Christianity in the late seventies, The Chameleon Poet traces each step in the development of the artist and man from youth to maturity. With scholarly precision and vivid clarity, Bauldie’s analysis of Dylan’s work reveals a continuous journey.

Forty years on, as a Nobel Laureate, Bob Dylan’s position as one of the great artists of the age is secure, fulfilling Bauldie’s vision. Now it is time to read the only full-length critical study by the foremost champion of Dylan’s art. The Chameleon Poet is a book of its time, but such is its focus on the inner journey of everyman, it’s as relevant today as it was yesterday, and will be tomorrow.

Bill Allison’s introduction sketches a portrait of Bauldie’s life and his ascendancy in the world of Dylan Studies.

‘Bauldie’s rigour, lightly worn, shoots out of every line… identifying the ways the artist Robert Zimmerman and the personas of Bob Dylan diverge and intersect, while storms rage and spectres of Rimbaud, Brecht and King Lear circle. Bauldie’s take feels before its time, breaking down the walls between phases that even Dylan fans like to erect, and tracing Dylan’s consistent posing of a question anyone can relate to: who the hell am I, and why am I doing this?’ – Mojo

‘I read The Chameleon Poet in 1981, and spent most of the rest of the decade trying to persuade John to publish it. Well, it only took forty years, but now you can read it, too.’ – Clinton Heylin

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The Chameleon Poet Manuscript History

John Bauldie's lifelong friend, Bill Allison, reveals the provenence of the manuscript for The Chameleon Poet: Bob Dylan's Search For Self, a book published now for the first time, 40 years after it was written and 25 years after Bauldie's death.

A Route To Bob Dylan

Route’s Bob Dylan titles come from the pens of three pre-eminent Dylan writers: Michael Gray, John Bauldie and Clinton Heylin. All born and raised in North West England – The Wirral, Bolton and Manchester respectively – each have not only been key figures in furthering our understanding and appreciation of Dylan as an artist, but have been active participants in how Bob Dylan’s work has been presented to the world.

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