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on 29 November 2012
The bad news is that many people will probably not like this book. But we need a Springsteen book like this. We need Heylin to do for Bruce what he has done for Bob so many times.

Up until the last few months all Bruce books seemed to offer only glowing portraits of Bruce and all his work. Dave Marsh set the tone with his 2 biographies, which were so devoid of any critical content that they could have been released by the Bruce organization. Most other Bruce books have followed the same path.

Unfortunately for Clinton Heylin his E Street Shuffle is being released at the same time as a new book - Bruce by Peter Carlin. Heylin is a dogged pursuer of the truth, with extensive interviews and obsessive devotion to minutiae. This is somewhat trumped by Carlin, who apparently had access to Bruce's family and the man himself for his pretty solid biography. This steals a little of Heylin's thunder, but E Street Shuffle is still a very thorough and honest analysis.

Some may find it too thorough and honest. Heylin is very opinionated and he doesn't care about prevailing opinions. I like this. Here are 3 sacred cows Heylin takes the time to slaughter:

1. Mike Appel is a villain. ------ I myself have never bought into the fact that Appel was the horrible record company executive taking advantage of the naive young genius. Heylin persuasively shows how the falling out was a mutual thing, that Bruce was just as much to blame. Bruce would never have reached his early level of success were it not for Appel' energy, enthusiam and huge sacrifices. The most important thing I took from reading the account of their fallout was, that once the lawyers got involved, their was no way it could end well.

2. The River and the subsequent tour are just a continuation of Bruce's genius. ------- I enjoyed Heylin's criticism of this album and tour. After 3 perfect albums I found The River to be very disappointing. Yes, there are good songs, but quite a lot of mediocre tracks.

3. Live 1975 - 1985 is awesome ------ No one who has read anything by Clinton Heylin will be surprised that he is very critical of the easy, sales-driven choices made in choosing the tracks for this 5 album set. And he is right.

Heylin is not shy about painting Bruce in a bad light when he deserves it. He pries up some rocks that usually don't get lifted up. But he is not Albert Goldman; he is doing what he does best - portraying a well rounded view of the artist.

The other aspect of this book that is unusual for a Springsteen biography is Heylin's obsessive coverage of Bruce in the recording studio. Most will think this is overkill. I have owned dozens of Bruce bootlegs and still there were many things I was not familiar with. From The River through Born In The USA Bruce recorded literally hundreds of songs and Clinton mentions most of them. Throughout the book the author is happy to point out when Bruce makes a bad choice to leave a quality track off a released album. But that is what I like about Clinton Heylin. Or maybe what you hate about him.

Heylin has a genuine interest in Springsteen and it shows. Obviously he is not devoted to Bruce's art the same way that he is devoted to Bob Dylan's but he has created a detailed, unapologetic look at both the man and his music.
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on 8 September 2013
Whilst a degree of criticism is welcomed, and there are books that share that point of view, the most telling thing for me in this book is that the author is clearly of the opinion that Bruce peaked with the Wild , The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, and that anything that was written, played, discarded or recorded post that album was naturally a let-down. Now, I don't mind which album a fan prefers, and sees as the artist(s) zenith. But to spend an entire book decrying Springsteen's output in the 40 year period since, in the process deifying Appel, Lopez (an erratic drummer at best) and Davey Sancious whilst simultaneously crucifying their replacements, smacks of overkill. The unwritten message in here is that Bruce sold out sometime in 1974, and should have done what Dylan did. What Bob did, in the main-with the exception of an enjoyable diversion with the Wilburys - was produce a succession of indulgent, redundant, unchallenging and relatively (by his own standards) unsuccessful albums. But hang that, so long as he was true to what he wanted, even if most fans lost interest at Desire.

Heylin's book is eminently readable; he knows the material; his writing style is accessible, though I coulda (!) done with a few less colloquialisms, and puns; as others have noted, he had access to a select few of the pre-74 cast, so kudos for that, and he has spent a lot of time (& money - those bootlegs cost a lot of dosh, even at record fairs in the 80's!) researching the lost cuts and alternative versions. I enjoy the style and salute the dedication, which is why I gave it 3 stars. I just dislike the personal jibes and the 'everything I don't like is rubbish' approach. Oh, and the author or publisher may like to take note that Edwin COLLINS was only 10 when Edwin STARR wrote 'War' in 1969.
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on 25 July 2014
I was bought this as a present by my son desperate to find something his Dad would be interested in. I've pretty much read everything written about Springsteen over the last 30 years but dutifully took it on holiday to show my lad I was pleased with his gift.

Initially I was surprised about how this book gripped me. Heylin had done his research and offered some new insights into the Boss. I couldn't put it down as I enjoyed his review of all the cuts that were binned I had enjoyed on bootlegs and B sides wondering where they came from. Now I know. Also some gaps were filled in about Mike Appel and Springsteen's psyche which led to splits and tortuous recording sessions.

However, his writing began to wear me down and I ended up not finishing the book. The constant coverage of every track written and discarded becomes a strain after a while. But worst of all is Heylin's constant assertions of what were good tracks and good albums and what were not. In his world there is no such thing as subjective opinion. He is correct, end of story. At first I would rue the gems he described that Bruce threw away until I started to remember listening to some of them on bootlegs and the like. Some of these 'diamonds' Heylin rates so highly were pretty indifferent in my book. So I began to read with a little less acceptance of the 'word of Heylin'.

And then this book started to become ridiculous. In his view Springsteen peaked with his first two albums. Born to Run and everything since has been a let down! The 3 box live set excluded his best work!

I remember reading reviews of albums such as Nebraska that were in awe of his desire to write what was on his mind and not follow commercial motives. I remember reading revues of Tunnel of Love where he was applauded for his transition from cars & girls songs to issues that reflected his growing maturity. In both his skills as a song writer and integrity were applauded. I own most of the bootlegs and still rate very highly the box set for it's flow and constant quality. No positive reviews are featured in Heylin's book. He has dug around for anything negative he can find as he tries to re write history in the image he has described for Bruce.

The man Heylin describes is a flop, a sell out and a mediocre band leader. How then did he achieve the success he has and continues to enjoy? I have seen Bruce and the E Streeters three times in the last 18 months perform some of their best ever concerts. Not the wash outs Heylin describes. Eventually I lost all respect for the author's descriptions and assertions as the inevitable thought entered my mind, "... maybe Bruce has been a success because Heylin is wrong and in his own tortuous flawed way, Springsteen got it right'. That's when I stopped reading. I recommend strongly you don't start - just don't tell my son.
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on 13 March 2013
I was reluctant to buy this after reading about the author's "honesty." Honesty is sometimes code for a hatchet job, and you don't want to read that about a band that is an important part of your musical life.

This book is largely very positive, though, and where the author does criticize Springsteen and some of his songs, it is entirely fair and well-reasoned.

Highly recommended.
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on 19 December 2014
Although I am only halfway through the book I feel compelled to write this review. However I do feel that I have read enough to give a fair and balanced review as Mr Heylin has of Bruces career. One reviewer has stated that we need a book like this. Yes, I quite agree. It can be held up as an excellent example of a music journalist who, although obviously no big fan of the artists music, is quite happy to stick Bruces name on the front cover to make a few quid.
The early chapters were bad enough with Mr Heylin quoting Springsteen about various occurrences then contradicting this with evidence from other, presumably far more reliable sources.
BUT now I am reading the chapter dealing with the infamous lawsuit of 1977 and I don`t know whether to laugh or cry. Where do I begin. Well in one instance Mr Heylin refers to Bruces counsel as the opposition although having checked the cover again it is definitely Bruce Springsteens name on there and not Mike Appels. But this speaks volumes as to the main problem with this chapter and the book as a whole. This whole chapter is Mike Appels version of events but apparently this is the only version needed, just ask any divorcee! Then, just when you start to think it couldn`t get any worse, in Mr Heylins opinion Bruce should have taken the easy option to get out of his oh so fair contract and released a live album and then a quick studio album without any real control over the production. YEAH RIGHT! After all, Bruce, once free of the contract, only went in to the studio and put together Darkness on the Edge of Town. What can I say? But then Mr Heylin is a big Dylan fan and no doubt good old Bob would have had no problem throwing together a quick album in a spare 5 minutes from various sessions with musicians and producers who met Bob when he walked in to the studio that day. Then after a jam session hear the engineer tell them it was a take and that Bob was back in his hotel.
Oh and I have read various other Springteen books including the superb Peter Ames Carlin biography and in these Mike Appel has not been portrayed as a villain.
If this book had been titled Mike Appel: My Time on E Street it would have got another 2 stars.
...........................maybe
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on 19 July 2013
At the end of this book I'm left with two questions: why did Clinton Heylin write the book and, perhaps more worryingly, why did I finish it?

I've read most of the Springsteen biographies published since the mid-80's and this one is well-researched in that Heylin uses extensive studio logs and out-takes to build a picture of Springsteen in the studio although the quotes are all secondary sources. What made this such a battle to finish was the constant use of opinion throughout the book. I got the impression that the author doesn't like Rolling Stone magazine, Dave Marsh or Barbara Carr. He has little time for Jon Landau. I have no problem with that but the seeming need to weaken well-researched writing with personal venom doesn't make sense to me as a reader. This made the tone of the book seem whiny and quite petulant in places. Heylin uses the same technique with songs he doesn't think are very good. Disparaging adjectives are added each time the song gets mentioned, for example Factory. Assumptions and guess-work are presented as fact. The frequent Dylan references are largely irrelevant unless Heylin had decided to make the comparison the core of the book.

I got caught a bit by the hype on this one. A lot of nice things written on the sleeve but I don't agree. There are better books out there if you want to learn more about Springsteen and his music. The troubles of Springsteen as an artist make for interesting reading as he drives those around him almost to despair. I'm left with the over-whelming feeling though that Heylin would stand in the Sistene Chapel and criticise Michelangelo's colour choice and brush technique.
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on 2 February 2013
I would view this book as being for completists only. A word of
warning, though.....I ordered this tome from Amazon.uk because
the British edition was supposed to contain roughly 100 more
pages than the American version. However, I was sent the US
edition - from England!!
Still, I would have to give `E Street Shuffle: The Glory Days Of
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band' a thumb-up.
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I am a Springsteen fan. I have read the various books by Dave Marsh which is entertaining but perhaps lack any real critical edge. This book certainly has a critical edge but it fails for me because it does not reveal much, if anyhting new about Springsteen himself or his life. Indeed, i don't think it is very revealing at all. For me if you read a biography, you should feel you know the subject better than you did at the start of the book. I didn't after reading this book. It is more a catalogue of the songs Springsteen performed when or recorded when or didn't as often the case. I have heard Heflin called the greatest Rock biographer....for me, he does not live up to it in this book. It is a fair read, sometimes a little turgid, tedious and sometimes it takes too long to get where it is going or just does not arrive. It's ok but I am still waiting for the definitive biography of the Boss. This is not it. However, it does provide some interesting material regarding the songs Springsteen wrote/recorded/performed or didn't. Overall if a keen Springsteen fan, it is worth reading.
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on 13 February 2013
As a Bruce fan of some 36 years I read whatever I can about the worlds greatest musician/songwriter, and some more recent books have been disappointing, but this one is the real deal !! A fascinating read about the earlier E-Street line-up, would recommend to any devotee.
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on 9 January 2014
For years, the party line on the Boss, created and disseminated by his official historian,Dave Marsh, has been that Jon Landau saved the day and swooped in to rescue Bruce from the greedy clutches of his manager Mike Appel. In light of the fact that Marsh's wife Barbara Carr works for Landau, I've always been cynical about the truth of this story. Finally, Heylin, the fearless biographer of Bob Dylan, who does not pull his punches, provides a radically different, alternate history that, to me, is far more plausible. Fans of Bruce's earlier albums will particularly enjoy this book, featuring a 100 page appendix that details Springsteen's earlier sessions, Lewisohn-style. Fascinating stuff that the US publisher chose to delete, presumably to keep the number of pages and price down below that of the concurrently - released (and inferior) Boss biography by Peter Ames Carlin. Get and read this one . I consider it to be a fair description of Springsteen as a human being with his own foibles, rather than the superman who coincidentally puts bread on the Marsh table.
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