Dylan’s Gospel Years: A Night With Clinton Heylin

With the release of new book Trouble In Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years – What Really Happened, leading Dylan biographer Clinton Heylin came to new venue Edward’s on Glossop Road to share his thoughts on Dylan’s ‘Gospel years’ (1979-81) this week. The Dylan expert talks about the period in relation to the recently released album Trouble No More – The Bootleg Series vol. 13.

Tuesday evening saw the first event inside Edward’s’ intimate theatre room, which exuded comfortable class with vintage sofas and armchairs scattered around in the darkened venue.

Once everyone had sat down at candlelit tables, the varied audience was eager to begin what was a night filled with high expectations (it certainly lived up to them). Illuminated by an old-fashioned, tall tasseled lamp sat Clinton, who opened the set with a tape recording of Bob Dylan speaking at a 1979 concert: ‘You know we’re living in the end times?’ A few subdued chuckles came from the audience here, sensing some irony…

His book focusses on the music Dylan wrote during his highly religious Christian years – 1979-81 – years which Heylin believes to be the best in his musical career. Three albums: Slow Train Coming (1979), Saved (1980) and Shot of Love (1981) stand out in particular.

We were treated to previously never-heard or released tapes of live speeches and songs from the lyrical genius, including the song ‘Caribbean Wind’, which only true Dylan worshippers will have heard before (and there were a fair few present!) Heylin calls this period ‘peak Dylan’, saying that we can’t understand Dylan’s true vision and spirituality until we have heard the rare, one-off 1980 tape version of ‘Caribbean Wind’ – which he played, much to the audiences’ delight.

Overall, the CAT Club night was a great success, and bodes well for future events in the confines of Edwards’ theatre room. The Gospel Years was a period where Dylan’s music screams the intensity of his religion, and may have alienated some, yet Clinton makes clear that you don’t have to take these views on-board to enjoy and appreciate the music. Closing the show, Heylin perfectly summarised Dylan in eight words: ‘This man has so many sides he’s round’. Perfect.

To see more upcoming events at Edward’s see their website for more details

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