Liz has published a number of books, beginning in 1980 with Conclusions on the Wall: New Essays on Bob Dylan which, despite some youthful indiscretions, is not entirely without merit. Three widely praised anthologies – on John Lennon, Bob Dylan and David Bowie – co-edited with the critic David Gutman have been published in a number of editions and have secured a place on university reading lists. In 2012-13, she spent six months chronicling a season in the life of Chickenshed, the inclusive theatre company. And Liz spent 2019-20 writing a biography of Joan Baez, in the process attending concerts in Britain, the US and Spain, where Baez took her final bow.
Joan Baez: The Last Leaf
Since she appeared unannounced at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival, Joan Baez has occupied a singular place in popular music. Within three years, she had recorded three best-selling albums and her voice had been described “as lustrous and rich as old gold”. She has mentored generations of singer-songwriters, including Dar Williams, Josh Ritter, Grace Stumberg and, most famously, Bob Dylan.
But Joan Baez has always been much more than simply a singer. Even before she joined Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. on the podium at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963, she had used her gift to bring solace and hope to people who had little of either. In words and deeds, Baez has consistently championed social justice, nonviolence the guiding principle of her life, and the causes for which she has campaigned are legion. Whether playing to integrated audiences in the American south during the years of segregation, in Latin America during the years of brutal dictatorships, or Sarajevo under siege, Baez offered “an act of love, sharing, witness and music”. Approaching 80, she has stepped down from the stage following a worldwide farewell tour and a final, Grammy-nominated album. She is now embarked on a new chapter of life—painting.
Drawing on interviews with long-time friends and musical associates, and on conversations across four decades with Baez herself, Joan Baez: The Last Leaf is a celebration of a timeless figure whose music and influence will endure long after her voice is silenced.
“With decades of access [Thomson] has written the definitive biography” – Michael Simmons, Mojo*****
“I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that this is a book destined to become the definitive word on the life and times of Joan Baez; put it on your list of this year’s essential reads” – Americana UK
“She writes beautifully and covers a cram-filled, spectacular life in a very knowledgeable way… a very well sourced and a very thoughtful book” – Will Swift, author of The Kennedys Amidst the Gathering Storm
Joan Baez: The Last Leaf was awarded the Certificate of Merit in the Blues, Folk, and World Music category of the 2021 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research.
Watch Author Elizabeth Thomson talk fondly about how happening upon Joan Baez Vol. 2 in her sister’s record collection, age twelve, led to her discovery of a woman who not only had a truly magnificent voice but who also became “a sort of Venn diagram” through which to explore music and American social history.
Bob Dylan: No Direction Home
By Robert Shelton
Edited with a New Foreword & Afterword by Elizabeth Thomson
Published to mark Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday, a revised and illustrated edition of Robert Shelton’s celebrated biography, originally published in 1986 and, in 2011, as “a director’s cut”. Shelton was the New York Times journalist whose 1961 review launched Dylan’s career and his book is the only eyewitness account of his formative years in Greenwich Village.
As Dylan’s contemporary Judy Collins put it: “Bob Shelton was so important, such a wonderful writer… He embraced this movement in such a real way, such an impressive way, because he got it and he wrote about it brilliantly. [He] was such a support and that was very very important to Dylan.”
Liz Thomson, for whom Shelton was both friend and mentor, knew the journalist for the last 15 years of his life in Britain. She was responsible for the 2011 edition which restored Shelton’s original manuscript and reshaped the book so it honoured the author’s original intentions. This new illustrated edition abridges that text, making it accessible to a wider readership.
“A landmark account of Dylan’s genesis and ascension” – David Fricke, Mojo****
“Shelton’s book is such an essential read amongst the crowded market of Dylan biographies… As a Dylan primer, it’s in a class of its own… Simply put this is a lavishly illustrated book” – Americana UK
“Biggest, and the best in terms of its design and illustrations and closeness of its author to its subject, is Liz Thomson’s fine editing job on the classic Robert Shelton bio, No Direction Home, here published as a coffee table slab packed with fantastic photos and ephemera – posters, tickets, all that” – The Arts Desk
Chickenshed: An Awfully Big Adventure
Chickenshed charts the remarkable 40-year history of the theatre company founded by Jo Collins and Mary Ward – in an abandoned Hertfordshire chicken shed. With faith, hope, charity and hard work, and the support of Princess Diana, Dame Judi Dench and many others, it now sets worldwide standards for inclusive theatre – performers of all ages, not all of them conventionally able, working side by side to create thought-provoking music and drama.
The Stage thought it “a heart-warming and informative celebration”.
(UK, Elliott & Thompson, 2013)
Conclusions on the Wall: New Essays on Bob Dylan
Conclusions On the Wall: New Essays on Bob Dylan was published to coincide with Dylan Revisited 1980, which took place in Manchester. Now something of a collector’s item, it falls firmly into the category of juvenilia but is not without interest. The essays include contributions from Wilfrid Mellers and Christopher Ricks, Michael Gray, Robert Shelton and Steve Turner, as well as the editor’s own essay subjecting Dylan’s song-writing to musical analysis.
Edited by Elizabeth M Thomson
(UK, Thin Man, 1980)
The Dylan Companion
The Dylan Companion examines Bob Dylan as musical, literary, political, religious and cinematic icon, rescuing Dylan from the weight of tabloid journalism which, until that point (the book was first published in 1990), had tended to swamp perceptive discussion. From Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg and John Peel to Stephen Spender, Pauline Kael and Frank Kermode, there’s history, sociology, musicology, literary criticism and much besides. Poet Michael Horowitz praised its “subtle balance of themes and chronology… a must for Dylanologists and highly commended.”
Edited by Elizabeth Thomson and David Gutman
(UK, Macmillan, 1990; London, Papermac, 1991; US, Delta, 1991; revised edition, US, Da Capo, 2001)
The Bowie Companion
The Bowie Companion chronicles the Starman’s ch-ch-changes, rescuing him from the brand of tabloid journalism which “puts you there where things are hollow”. A look at one of rock’s most elusive figures through almost three decades of popular cultural commentary, it gives weight to Bowie’s stage and screen work as well as his music. Contributors include Gordon Burn, Lindsay Kemp, David Buckley, Simon Frith, Patti Smith and John Savage.
“A sort of musical portrait: an excellent set of articles and essays” said Mojo.
Edited by Elizabeth Thomson and David Gutman
(UK, Macmillan, 1993; London, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1995; US, Da Capo, 1996)
The Lennon Companion
The Lennon Companion, originally published in 1987 and updated in 2004, is a collection of specially commissioned essays and long-forgotten but distinguished articles that draw on a variety of critical languages to present an intelligent and accessible form of popular cultural commentary about John Lennon and the Beatles. It features work by writers as diverse as Martin Amis and Gloria Steinem, Tom Wolfe and Philip Larkin, Kenneth Tynan and Joshua Rifkin, as well as William Mann, Adrian Henri and Pauline Sutcliffe. Former Beatles press officer Derek Taylor described it as “the companion to John Lennon, kicking all other books out of the game, bringing to the ‘working class hero’ an unusually broad and affectionate attention”.
Edited by Elizabeth Thomson and David Gutman
(UK, Macmillan Press, 1987; Papermac, 1988; US, Schirmer, 1988; Japan, CBS-Sony, 1989; revised edition, US, Da Capo 2004)
Finally, three books put together during a two-year tenure as Music Editor for Music Sales/Omnibus Press.
New Women in Rock
A celebration of some seventy women who rode to fame, sometimes shortlived, on the coat-tails of punk and new wave. Contributors included some of the big names of 1970s music journalism, among them Jill Furmanovsky, Vivien Goldman and Penny Valentine. The cutting-edge design has made it a collector’s item – as well as a historical curio with three five-star reviews on Amazon! Some of the women play on…
Edited by Liz Thomson
(UK, Omnibus Press 1982)