This Week’s Word is “Boss.”
A complete change of tack for Word Wednesday this week, on to a geeky passion I’ve never mentioned in the four years I’ve been writing for GeekDad. Bruce Springsteen. As much as I love the sound of Springsteen and the E-Street band, I also love to listen to the vignettes and stories they encapsulate in 3 or 4 mins of comparatively simple rock. Many of Springsteen’s songs feel like they’re small parts of something much bigger. This is why I leaped at the chance to review Brian Hiatt’s, Bruce Springsteen – The Stories Behind the Songs.
What is The Stories Behind the Songs?
Rolling Stone journalist, Hiatt, has extensively researched Springsteen’s catalog to bring us the backstory to every track from The Boss’ official studio albums. The book has come out of over 55 hours of interviews with Springsteen’s fellow musicians, producers, and engineers, and five interviews that Springsteen gave to Hiatt for Rolling Stone.
The book is broken down chronologically by album, starting in 1973 (the year I was born!) with Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and ending with 2014’s High Hopes. Along the way, it takes in every album including (of course) Born to Run and Born in the U.S.A. It chronicles everything, the good, the great, and the (occasionally) indifferent.
Note: The entries also include album outtakes that were then later included on the compilation, Tracks.
Inside each chapter is an entry for every track on the album. Some entries are long, particularly for the opening track, which also gives a flavor of the evolution and context for the album. Many entries, particularly for lesser-known tracks are just a single paragraph.
Interspersed throughout this 286-page hardback are lots of photos. Some are from photo-shoots and the rest are shots taken during Springsteen’s legendary live performances.
Why Read The Stories Behind the Songs?
If you are a fan of Springsteen, you’ll love this book. I’m not a reader of music biography. I like listening to music, but I’m not particularly interested in the lives of its creators. I haven’t, for example, read Bruce’s autobiography. Nevertheless, I love this book.
Probably because I have a lot of hours invested in listening to Springsteen and his songs, I find the book fascinating. It tells not only a history of Bruce’s life at the time a song was made – why he wrote that song at that time, but it also details how particular tracks evolved. The genesis of Born in the USA, one of the most iconic tracks of all time, makes for compelling reading.
The Stories Behind the Songs reveals the hard work and persistence that go into making music that sounds like it was no effort to create, whatsoever. Such catchy immediate brilliance is hours of work and refinement by a devoted and dedicated team. This is an important lesson in a world where success appears to be easily attainable. Springsteen and the E-Street band are living embodiments of what Matthew Syed talks about in his book, You Are Awesome. To be the best requires consistent effort and application.
As well as revealing the evolution of the lyrics and the situations in which Springsteen’s songs were fomented, Hiatt’s book also examines the massive contributions from sound engineers and producers. It lifts the lid on the art, magic, and science of sound production that feeds into creating one of the finest back-catalogs of all time. Again, an awful lot of work went into making it seem so easy.
The photos used throughout the book contribute to making The Stories Behind the Songs a must have for Springsteen fans. Many of the pictures used are as iconic as the songs themselves. They show the Boss and his band at their best; capturing the essence of Springsteen’s blue-collar rock.
Bruce Springsteen: The Stories Behind the Songs is the perfect book for Springsteen fans. It delivers a welcome insight into the man and the music that made him.
If you’d like to pick up a copy of The Stories Behind the Songs, you can do so here, in the US, and here, in the UK.
For an extract of the book, check out this article from Rolling Stone magazine.
If you enjoyed this review, do take a look at my other Word Wednesday columns.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review.