If you’re seeking proof of Bruce Springsteen’s continued relevance, look no further than your local bookstore (or Amazon.com if your local bookstore has gone out of business, which it has). These days it seems you”ll find almost as many Springsteen-related titles as you will knockoffs of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which I recently discovered is NOT about haberdashery. (Boy, did I find that out the hard way.)
I know I’ve contributed to the onslaught (requisite plug: “Glory Days: Springsteen’s Greatest Albums,” only $2.99!), but oddly enough most of the offerings have been worthy additions to the growing canon of Springsteen commentary, and the most recent to come across my path seems like no exception. Clinton Heylin’s “E Street Shuffle” traces Springsteen’s career up through “Born in the USA,” and focuses specifically on the E Street Band’s role in Bruce’s ongoing artistic development during those years.
Heylin is the author of “Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades,” and is known to have more of a jaundiced eye than some biographers — he clearly admires his subjects, but doesn’t pull punches either. Take his assessment in “E Street Shuffle” of one well-known track from “The River”:
… The worst of the lot was “Cadillac Ranch.” After six sessions working on this rust-bucket, one wonders how he kept a straight face when singing [it] … If there was ever a Sprucesong that deserved to go straight to the scrapheap, this was it.
Heylin’s style makes the book a clear departure from the more reverent approach in Peter Ames Carlin’s bestselling “Bruce” — although if anything, “E Street Shuffle” probably suffers most from poor timing, coming so close on the heels of that book and Marc Dolan’s “Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock and Roll.” Still, with its tighter focus (and shorter length) it looks to be more complement to the others than rehash.
But don’t take my word for it — find out for yourself by winning a free copy, courtesy of Viking Penguin. Email the response to the below question to email@example.com and we’ll pick a winner at random from the correct answers at 9 p.m. EST tonight. (Sorry, U.S. only.)
QUESTION: In the book, Heylin tells the story of one of the “great unreleased performances of the E Street era” that was subsequently “mangled” by Warren Zevon, with Bruce’s blessing. What’s the song title? (Either Springsteen’s original title or Zevon’s adapted one is acceptable.)