The Telegraph Bob Dylan fanzine, from the Robert Shelton Collection

Val Capewell 

Published June 2024


Making a list… how hard could it be?

The first step to organising a collection is listing its contents; to safekeep and sort it, we have to know what’s actually there first. This is, in principle, a simple process – or so I thought, as I began working with the Institute of Popular Music Archive as a Student Partner based in the Special Collections & Archives team.

Listing is the process of recording initial information about items in a collection. In the case of periodicals (magazines etc.), this includes details such as publishing information, condition, the ordering of the item both physically (in case it had been sorted a specific way by the previous owner) and sequentially in relation to the rest of its series, inserts within the item, an initial condition assessment, and extra notes about the item or its history. While this is a lot of information for each item, it’s theoretically simple to record, unless you happen to be dealing with periodicals which were not published through traditional channels. The Shelton collection’s periodicals primarily consist of fanzines and indie publications. You may perhaps see where this is going.


Crime-board complexity: researching the publication history

The Telegraph is a fanzine (not to be confused with the newspaper!) for Bob Dylan fans. Starting from humble origins in November 1983 of a few sheets stapled together by hand, it grew over the course of nearly 20 years to a glossy, brick-like tome of rare photographs and exclusive interviews that would not look out of place in a car showroom. It also was responsible for me having to create a crime-board complete with red string to keep track of who published which bit when.

To give you a brief summary, The Telegraph was written and published by John Bauldie, except when it wasn’t, on behalf of Wanted Man, who were formerly known as The Bob Dylan Information Office, who were officially sanctioned but not officially licenced; except for My Back Pages, a bookend for sales and trading Bob Dylan items and organising meet-ups, which was published by someone else and inserted into the back of issues of The Telegraph, until later issues when it wasn’t; and also except for The Wicked Messenger, which was written independently but published together for the first few issues until it moved to RTS, the Rolling Telegraph Supplement (which was called that for the first seven issues until its name officially changed to just RTS, and also it ceased being a supplement towards issue 20), which was written by Clinton Heylin (renowned Bob Dylan author) but was published under Wanted Man, which, crucially, was just an organisation that Bauldie was involved in and was not actually responsible for publishing The Telegraph. With me so far?

At issue 17 of RTS (which did not have its own cover design and frequently used covers from other magazines, making establishing issue number particularly awkward), Wicked Messenger moved to ISIS, an entirely unaffiliated Dylan fanzine. All of this is complicated yet further by the fact that the authors used their PO Boxes, their personal addresses, and the addresses of Wanted Man (all of which changed seemingly every other issue) effectively interchangeably, making establishing publication addresses a challenge even before considering data protection (GDPR). I pieced all of this information together from Q&As, Editor’s notes, and web pages later created by those involved with Wanted Man.
You might think this would be frustrating, but fortunately issues of The Telegraph were so well written and engaging from the snippets I read during my detective work that it was difficult to be anything but overjoyed at the opportunity to read them. As a fun final note, John Bauldie, the main writer and publisher, claimed that Bob Dylan himself not only knew about the fanzine, but his representatives had multiple subscriptions, and that he had read at least several issues.


The journalism of Robert Shelton

Shelton helped launch Dylan’s career (and crucially his contract with Columbia) through a glowing review of a live performance in 1961 in the New York Times, of which Shelton was a writer and editor. However, Shelton also wrote extensively about the wider world of both folk and rock music as well as film. Shortly before Dylan went electric (July 25, 1965), An Open Letter to Bob Dylan was published in Sing Out!, a folk music magazine, and shortly after, Shelton wrote a rebuttal in the New York Times. The issue of Sing Out! containing the notorious letter is indeed in the Shelton collection, but Shelton kept collecting issues for years after.


Sing Out!

Around 1971, Sing Out! went through somewhat of a rebranding. Until that point, the magazine appears to have been largely apolitical, focusing on discourse within the folk scene and promoting folk music equipment, but throughout the early 70s and onwards there became a distinct shift in the content. There became an increasing focus on analysing socio-political issues through a folk-music lens, and the songs that were included within each issue started to match, moving from folk music standards to musical notation and lyrics for protest songs and the folk songs of marginalised groups. The issues also started to focus on keeping the tradition alive through including flexi-discs so people could listen to the music being discussed, as well as beginners’ lessons and advice for various instruments so readers could learn to play along.



It struck me, skimming through these issues to list them, that the authors of the magazine had realised the existence of a niche they could fill and a potential for a positive impact on issues they cared about, and their passion could very much be felt. This was solidified all the further in Volume 24/Number 6: Black Music In America, which contained the article Jazz: Sounds of Survival. As a jazz musician and listener myself, this article spoke to me deeply, and I was shocked that it managed to so succinctly and adeptly tackle the history and political nature of jazz while making sophisticated parallels between jazz and folk music. For a genre that has changed significantly over the course of the last 50 years, the discussion within the article remains surprisingly relevant and accurate today. 


Val Capewell is a 3rd Year Maths student, specialising in Theoretical Physics, at the University of Liverpool. As part of the Libraries, Museums & Galleries (LMG) Student Partner programme, during the 2023-2024 academic year she has worked part-time in the Special Collections & Archives (SCA) team, which cares for the Institute of Popular Music Archive (IPMA). Val has worked on one of the IPMA's key collections, the papers of music journalist Robert Shelton. As a first step towards producing a full catalogue of the collection, she created listings for periodicals, photographs and vinyl. She also participated in a conservation survey of vulnerable formats and assisted in the preparation of the Greatest Hits exhibition. Val's contribution displays the in-depth knowledge she has gained during her work on the Shelton collection.

Outside of working and studying, Val is a drummer and bassist with a love of everything jazz and funk, and a collector of unusual instruments.


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Please refer to the copyright information given on the Greatest Hits Exhibition main page. The Telegraph, Issue 50 is reproduced here for purposes of illustration in support of exhibition for non-commercial public benefit and education. Use of images seeks to remain proportional, insubstantial and fair. Limited quotation is provided for the purposes of criticism and review, as permitted by Section 30 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988). If you are a rights holder and feel copyright has been infringed, please refer to our Takedown Statement and Procedure.