Bob Dylan is one of music’s most prolific songwriters in music history — in fact, he’s put so much ink to paper that there’s even a full-length album containing lyrics he never made use of. Now, every single lyric Dylan ever recorded — that includes official LPs and offerings from the Bootleg Series — have been collected in an upcoming book (via The New York Times).
Due out in November, The Lyrics: Since 1962 spans 960 (!) pages and weighs in at just under 14 pounds (!!). With a total retail cost of $200 (or $5,000 for a signed edition), Simon & Schuster president Jonathan Karp is calling the tome “the biggest, and most expensive book we’ve ever published.” I’d like to think after offering that quote, he added something like, “Suck on that, Ulysses!”
The Lyrics was organized by British literary scholar Christopher Ricks, who also penned 2003’s Dylan’s Visions of Sin. Ricks, who wrote what’s been described as a “lengthy, philosophical introduction,” was aided by sisters Lisa and Julie Nemrow, who created a rather unique design for the book. As Rolling Stone points out, the layout is “unique in the way it offsets refrains, choruses, and bridges and allows Dylan’s lyrics to run, occasionally, as a 13-inch line the way he had intended.” The book is rounded out with re-produced album art.
As Ricks explained, this specific layout is meant “to help the eye see what the ear hears.” He added, “If you print the songs flush left, it doesn’t represent, visually, the audible experience. (This book) is, in a way, a work of scholarship. But it is also a book for people who love these songs, and who would be grateful to be reminded that these songs are always in a state of extraordinary flux. They’re amazing, shape-changing things.”
Because Dylan often changed lyrics on a whim, the book features every revised lyric that affected the song’s overall meaning. For instance, the Highway 61 Revisited standout “Tombstone Blues” begins with “Well John the Baptist, after torturing a thief”; the version found on The Bootleg Series, Vol. 7 instead features “Ah, John the blacksmith, he’s torturing a thief.”
Ricks and the Nemrow sisters worked directly from Dylan’s own notebooks and manuscripts. However, when asked as to the specifics of Dylan’s involvement, Schuster’s Karp told the Times, “I think the right thing for us is not to go into the question of the particular kinds of help and assistance and advice that we were in a position to receive.”
It’s worth noting a similar compilation of lyrics was released back in 2004. However, as the publishers were quick to point out, Lyrics: 1962-2001 isn’t nearly as comprehensive or detailed of a collection.
The Lyrics: Since 1962 is limited to 3,500 copies: 3,000 for the US and 500 for the UK. The signed, $5,000 version is limited to just 50 copies, complete with a slipcase and gilded pages, and is available here.
Below, check out “Idiot Wind”, which features perhaps Dylan’s finest lyric in “Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth/ You’re an idiot, babe/ It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.”