Bob Dylan has been a man of many comebacks, but his Eighties resurrection may prove to be his most successful, as he bullets back into the Top Forty with Biograph, a five-record boxed set that features greatest hits, live and unreleased tracks and some revealing commentary on a career spanning more than two decades.
Biograph is only the second collection of its kind ever to crack the Top Forty. The Elvis Aron Presley eight-record set charted at Number Twenty-seven in 1981, and Biograph has the potential to do just as well. Released at the height of the Christmas season, traditionally the record industry’s strongest selling period, it has sold about 150,000 units so far. “It made a good gift, and the price was right,” says Bob Geistman of Turtle’s Records in Atlanta.
Dylan’s label, Columbia Records, didn’t expect the collection to sell so fast and had difficulty keeping retailers in stock. Even at Tower Records in downtown New York, where manager Steve Harman reports that Biograph sold 2000 copies in five weeks, supply didn’t meet demand.
“We were dealing with a five-record set that retails for between twenty-five and thirty dollars,” explains Arma Andon, a vice-president at Columbia. “I guess the price sensitivity wasn’t as great as we anticipated.”
Biograph‘s success is a testament to Dylan’s lasting importance. And many who bought it passed it on to younger listeners, according to John Corley of Tower Records in Berkeley, California: “The younger generation that wasn’t around when Dylan was big are learning about him. And they like him.”
This story is from the February 27th, 1986 issue of Rolling Stone.