Obituary: John Bauldie

Bill Prince
Sunday 23 October 2011 00:16

For those still prepared to consider Bob Dylan a god, John Bauldie sat at his right-hand side. For if Bauldie's wasn't the word of god, then the Telegraph - the quarterly journal he edited from its inception in his Romford living-room in 1981 until he died in the same helicopter crash that killed his friend Matthew Harding and three others - was, for many of us, the next best thing.

If the Telegraph begat few imitators in the notoriously lacklustre world of music fan magazines, then a casual perusal of its perfect-bound, immaculately designed pages reveals why: sumptuously upholstered with colour shots often snapped from the first few rows of Dylan's shows (seats that Bauldie would often secure on behalf of his subscribers), the Telegraph was a masterly concoction of hard fact, inspired hypothesis and the frequently fascinating anecdotal chaff that accredited the wonderings and wanderings of its self-styled "Bobcats".

A fan since 1964, when he was first alerted to The Freewheelin' Boy Dylan (his second album) by a schoolyard chum, the Telegraph was as much a tribute to John Bauldie's skills as an editor and occasional agitator (he was, for example, no fan of Dylan's increasingly incessant touring), as it was its quarry. Bauldie's was a reputation not lauded by a scant few "Dylanheads" either - the Telegraph boasted a world-wide subscriber's list of 20,000. And such was John Bauldie's authority, the artist's own office approached him to write the liner notes to the 1993 Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series Volume 1-3, for which he received a Grammy Award nomination.

A friend and fellow author of books about Dylan, the American journalist Paul Williams, rates Bauldie's efforts as "Scholarship in the best possible sense. He amassed an extraordinary trove of responsible information. It was of such a high level of intellectual quality, information naturally gravitated to it." (Dylan, too, confessed a sneaking admiration, telling his "Boswell" at their solitary meeting in 1986: "Yeah, I've seen that. It's pretty interesting.")

My own introduction to John Bauldie was via a note I found waiting for me on my first day as Production Editor at Q in 1993. The handwritten welcome from Bauldie, the magazine's first and only sub since its launch in 1987, proved to be the perfect introduction to a man who prized erudition, concision and, where appropriate, a dry Lancastrian humour above all else (excepting, perhaps, a glass of gratis Veuve Cliquot).

Of course, his reputation went before him (he was, after all, the co- compiler of two anthologies of the Telegraph and Oh No, Not Another Bob Dylan Book, and had also published accounts of Dylan's 1966 tour, "The Ghost of Electricity", and, later, his own on-the-road musings, Diary of a Bobcat).

As a Dylan fan anxious to turn an enjoyment of the music into an appreciation of his artistry, John Bauldie was swiftly cast in the role of my patient teacher, the weary grace with which he bore my routinely banal inquiries doubtless perfected during the years he had spent in his native Bolton as an English lecturer.

I once asked Bauldie - during one of the many longueurs happily necessitated by the production of a monthly magazine like Q - which, if he were forced to choose, would he give up: Bob Dylan or his beloved Bolton Wanderers. With what I considered at the time to be indecent haste, he answered simply "Dylan". It was while returning from watching his team beat Chelsea 2-1 that John Bauldie's irreplaceable life was so cruelly taken.

Bill Prince

John Bauldie, journalist and writer: born Bolton, Lancashire 23 August 1949; died 22 October 1996.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments