Book Review: “Bob Dylan – Mixing Up The Medicine” edited by Mark Davidson and Parker Fishel

This one was a surprise. A hugely pleasant one. As has been mentioned before, we don’t get too many books to review here which is a shame as I’m a huge reader / bibliophile and there are some great books out there about many of the acts we cover. This is by far the largest I’ve ever been sent, though!

Weighing in at 608 pages and featuring over 1000 images (not seen before) by over 90 photographers, and a collection of essays by many different authors, this is a tome. If this classes as a coffee table book, you may need to buy a stronger coffee table. A huge proportion of the book is made up of words, too. It’s an easy cheat with a book like this to fill it with pictures and slide a few words into the gaps left over, but this couldn’t be further from the truth with Mixing Up The Medicine. There is a huge amount to read in here alongside the plentiful images. As such, hands up, I’ve not read the entire thing as I’ve just not had the time!

However… that’s part of the beauty of the book. You can treat it as a biography, detailing so many aspects of Dylan’s rich life story to be read in order. Or you can treat it as a collection of stories, events, research and so on which can be dipped into as the mood takes you. It is organised chronologically from his early years through the 40s, 50s and 60s right up to 2023 and the essays are all (of the ones I’ve read) well written, incredibly well researched and fit their little pigeon holes perfectly. The writing is not as weighty as the book itself! Writers include historian and author Douglas Brinkley, Booker Prize-winning novelist Peter Carey and leading figure in the pop art movement, Ed Ruscha.

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Dylan is a hugely influential artist, though not one I’d have ever listed as one of my favourites. Until I used the excuse of reviewing this book to throw a few playlists on the stereo and realised I knew a lot more of his music than I thought I did! Reading the tales behind some of the songs, and seeing photos of the original written lyrics, only adds to the enjoyment.

Ah, the photos. The benefit of having so many sources of imagery is that the whole book comes across as a wonderful scrapbook, nicely eclectic. From posed promo shots, to behind the scenes images, to family photos and scans of setlists, liner notes and lyrics… there is so much variety here that the book just begs to be picked up and flicked through. The fact that it was created with the assistance of the Bob Dylan Center means that there are so many things within it that you simply won’t see elsewhere, making it pretty much essential for any major fan. Without visiting the center itself you can’t even come close to another collection with as much material in one place.

For the non-fan? £80 is a lot of money. But it’s actually a damn good price for what you get when you look at it from a “value for money” viewpoint. There are slimmer volumes detailing other artists that cost as much, if not more. And I doubt any of them can come close to the wealth of information and detail that has been crammed into Mixing Up The Medicine.

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Hand on heart, when I opened up the box that this book arrived in I got chills. A couple of weeks on and I still love leafing through it and I’m looking forward to showing it to my dad this weekend – he’s a lifelong fan and I know he’ll adore it.

Bob Dylan – Mixing Up The Medicine is available now

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