Sunday, December 16, 2012


The only reason to get this biography is because it is semi-authorized, meaning the author, Peter Ames Carlin, got unprecedented access to Bruce's band mates (including Clarence Clemons, who was interviewed months before his death), family, close friends, ex-girlfriends (even his ex-wife, but not current wife), and music industry colleagues, and the man himself. But Bruce and manager, Jon Landau, had no control over what was published. This is a book that, unlike Dave Marsh's excellent but ultra-subjective books about Bruce, also reveals his imperfections -- there are stories by his band and crew talking about how difficult it is working with him at times, his run-ins with previous romantic partners, and his battle with depression. Then there are plenty of interesting footnotes, with some new revelations in them.

But for the hardcore fan, there generally isn't a whole lot we don't already know about Bruce's career. Carlin doesn't delve much into the Boss' artistic and creative process (more of that can be found in Marsh's Born To Run and Glory Days books). He just merely 'reports' it. In fact, this book reads like a long journalistic feature story, not that there's anything wrong with that. But sometimes it feels a little 'soulless', ya know? There are too many citations to past media interviews. On the other hand, I like that considerable attention is given to his relationships with his family (in particular with his estranged father), and the E Street Band; occasionally the bandmates had not-so-nice things to say about their leader.

Now the flaw lies in that Carlin devotes so many pages from Bruce's childhood up till the early 90s where he broke up the E Street Band, but he rushes through the last twenty years of his career. There is a bit of new information about how the Reunion tour came about, but I feel I could have more of it. And even less is written about his past ten years, which he had been on a constant creative roll. There is so much to write about from 1990 to this year that it could warrant a second book. So yeah, I thought it was gonna be the best book ever written about Bruce, but not quite there. It is thoroughly researched though, missed opportunities and questionable editorial decisions notwithstanding. At the end of the day, this is essential reading for anyone who cares about Bruce and his craft, as it serves yet as another reminder why he is one of the most extraordinary artists of all time, and why he's still as relevant as ever.