Friday, September 14, 2012

Book Review - Glory Days by Dave Marsh

Dave Marsh's two Bruce Springsteen biographies – Born to Run and Glory Days – are widely considered the definitive books about The Boss. With unparalleled access to Bruce and his camp, it would be hard for them not to be. If anything, Marsh has been criticized for hero worship. But you won't find any such criticisms on a blog called Legends of Springsteen. Hero worship or not, Marsh’s detailed, engaging and affectionate writing deserves credit on its own merit.

Glory Days picks up where Born to Run leaves off and covers Bruce's career from The River through the release of Live: 1975-1985. One of the highlights here is a finely detailed account of Springsteen creating the Nebraska album. The picture of Bruce alone in his New Jersey home writing and recording the solo album may seem like familiar territory in Bruce folklore. However, the level of insight to the album's production and the marketing approach offers an engrossing account of the album’s unorthodox production.

Another section I found particularly enlightening was the post-Born in the U.S.A. success. Marsh gives a grand account that represents the sheer enormity of the album's popularity. I was intrigued to learn about the radio / dance remixes of "Born in the U.S.A." and "Dancing in the Dark" by Arthur Baker. I didn't even know these versions existed before. It's interesting to listen to them now - although both are unremarkable apart from their novelty.

The book concludes with a great promotional effort for the Live: 1975-85 album. I had never given the album much thought before, figuring that I have so many live songs already but after reading about the considerable work that Bruce and record producer Jon Landau put into the track selection and order, I'm very eager to pick up a copy. Marsh includes a quote from Landau about the project that we should all envy: "It was an enormous amount of work and it was easy as hell."

Glory Days is full of beguiling anecdotes that will have Bruce fans enraptured for page upon page. My personal favorite involves Bruce going to see a movie by himself in Denver and ending up meeting a teenage fan who invites him back to his house for dinner with his parents. It's tempting to suspect such stories to be apocryphal but it's much more fun to believe that Bruce really is that down to earth.

Returning to the hero worship claim, there isn't much critical here beyond a harsh ribbing of "Downbound Train". Throughout the book, you kind of keep waiting for some sort of failure to creep in but it's really all about success. I would be fascinated to read Marsh's take on 1987 through 1996 in contrast. In 2003 Marsh released Two Hearts, the Story which combined abridged versions of Born to Run and Glory Days and included a new addendum on The Rising. I haven’t had the opportunity to read it myself but from what I understand it doesn’t delve into the less revered period of Bruce’s career.

I picked up my second hand copy of Glory Days for $2.00 at a Housing Works in New York City. What a steal! Every Springsteen fan should read this book. If you aren't lucky enough to find a copy in a secondhand store, it's still worth the money on Amazon Market Place. Just be sure that you have your iPod within reach while you're reading.

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