Peter Ames Carlin
Peter Ames Carlin is a decent biographer, particularly his effort chronicling Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys stands out and this book about Bruce Springsteen is more than decent – particularly (for) the early years.
In fact Carlin picks over the early years, the making of the man, with a fine-tooth comb, concentrating on the pre-fame and that first wave, the rise, touching on the various splinter-groups and related acts, referencing sessions and giving decent lip-service to past E-Street members.
And it’s exciting reading the whirlwind that is 1968-1982 in Bruce’s life – the building of the man, the work ethic, the blood, sweat, tears, the perspiration eventually matched by inspiration – and from there it’s somewhat staggering to take in, again, just what an impressive run it is from the Born To Run breakthrough to the overkill and global stardom of Born In The USA.
Just before USA, just after The River, it almost feels like Carlin gives up – you almost wonder if his deadline was looming; that’s how it feels. That, or he just decided that so many other Bruce-books had covered the post-River stories competently. So he resorts to the Wikipedia-like trace-around, giving a timeline, ticking off the albums and tours. Perhaps to get Bruce’s blessing he was told to stand well away from the marital tensions and the affairs and that’s why all of that is only ever hinted at.
You do – only just – get the hint of the dark side of Springsteen’s perfectionism. When/how will the real story there ever come out?
I liked this book though, overall, because it’s been a while since I read a Springsteen bio, I hate the hagiographies that most of them are – this one dances close to that too. And just admitting you’re a fan – which Carlin does, doesn’t get you off the hook.
Still, at least he’s not Landau. Or Dave Marsh. Their particular shade of near-constant brown lipstick is embarrassing.
Also, I haven’t cared about a record Bruce made since The Ghost of Tom Joad. Well, alright, Devils & Dust perhaps. I liked bits of The Rising and I really liked Magic but I still don’t care about them in the way I do Tom Joad and those early album up to and including Nebraska.
Good book then? Good enough. I’d certainly recommend you read the first half/two-thirds. If you can – and I reckon you should (now that I’ve made it all the way through to tell you) – read up to and including the bits about Born In The USA. Then chuck it in. Flick through Wiki if you must to catch up from there.