By Karsten S. Andersen
The time when it seemed it was years between Springsteen books are long gone. The last few years have seen an influx of new titles that has made it hard to keep up, let alone read them all. As a librarian and a Bruce fan it is my goddamn duty to try to do something about that. No, I can't read all those books either - nor would I want to - but in this new section called The Bruce Librarian I will talk about some of the books and perhaps make a few recommendations. I may also go back in time and look at some of the books that have gone before and let you know which ones may be worth searching for.
In this first installment of The Bruce Librarian we'll look at two books that have been released in the last couple of months. They both focus on one of the classic eras of Bruce: Runaway Dream by Louis P. Masur is an extensive look at the Born to Run album, and Lawrence Kirsch puts the whole Darkness period in perspective with his book The Light in Darkness.
Runaway Dream, with the subtitle Born to Run and Bruce Springsteen's American Vision, is an attempt to closely examine the Born to Run album. From the grueling studio sessions through interpretations of the songs and the public reception, to a look at the album in the view of Springsteen's later work and career. It's all there. Louis Masur has performed an amazing research. There are countless quotes from more or less obscure Seventies sources, and every claim is backed by a quote from Bruce or the people who were involved in the album.
Although most of the information in the book is relatively well known among fans, not least in light of the Wings For Wheels documentary from 2005, this book may still be the most complete look at how the Born to Run album came to be and its impact on the world that we have seen. If you have read Dave Marsh's books and seen the Wings For Wheels documentary there is not a whole lot of brand new, surprising information, and it looks like most of the book is based on written sources from the Seventies rather than new interviews. But that can actually be seen as one of its strengths. The post-rationalization is saved for the last chapter. Instead we get a great sense of the time that the album was created in, and released into, before it became a classic, and that's really what all good history is about.
Most of all, the book gives you an excuse (not that you need one) and a strong urge to pull out the Born to Run album for the two billionth time and once again appreciate its drama and majesty. And maybe that's all Louis Masur wants us to do. If so, he succeeded.
Another album you don't really need an excuse to listen to is Darkness on the Edge of Town. But regardless of that, you sure get a fine excuse after flipping through Lawrence Kirsch's new fan tale compilation: The Light in Darkness. A couple of years ago Lawrence published the book For You, which was about Bruce Springsteen in general and consisted of nothing but the fans' own stories and tales about their Bruce experiences. The new book is the exact same concept, but focuses entirely on the Darkness era.
So unlike Runaway Dream, in The Light in Darkness facts and research don't play any role at all. It's all about the emotion and how that album and tour made you feel. And if these fan accounts are any indication (actually, they are all the proof you could ever ask for), 1978 was and always will be the time when everything clicked for the most people when it comes to Bruce. These tales all tell the story of the unprecedented magic and intensity that was the Darkness era. And very often, the writing lives up to its subject and sends shivers down your spine and makes you check your CD shelf for that Agora or Roxy bootleg that you haven't listened to in two years.
Unlike the first book, it seems like this time Lawrence hasn't put any limit on how many words the stories were allowed to be. Some of them take up several pages and usually they are not a paragraph too long. And even if they were, it helps the reading experience that every single page is enriched with pictures that in most cases have never been published in a book before.
Altogether, everything from the paper quality to the layout of this book gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling while you devour the words. Great care seems to have been put into every detail. It's just a beautiful publication that fully lives up to its predecessor. That one is said to sell for good money on eBay, and I wouldn't be surprised if The Light in Darkness will fare the same way.
Read more about Runaway Dream
Read more about The Light in Darkness