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E Street Shuffle
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An impressive feat of rock scholarship. (Sunday Telegraph)
Heylin traces Springssteen's development from the bars of the Jersey Shore to the stadiums of the world in compelling fashion. (Catholic Herald) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The essential book for any fan of the Boss, Bruce Springsteen. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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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.
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.
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.
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