How My New Springsteen Book Came About
Funny how things work out.
Back in January 1974, shortly after Bruce Springsteen’s just-released second album had turned me into a serious fan, I interviewed him for a then-popular music magazine called Zoo World. At the time, he was earning $75 a week and complaining about how difficult it was to keep a band together on a shoestring.
The next year, I interviewed an equally struggling Tom Waits for Britain’s Melody Maker.
Fast forward about three and a half decades. A journalist named Paul Maher discovered the Waits piece and tracked me down. He emailed me via the No Depression website to ask permission to use the article in Tom Waits on Tom Waits, a book he was compiling for Chicago Review Press.
I said yes and wound up exchanging a few emails with the publisher regarding page proofs and contributor copies. At some point in the conversation, I asked whether Chicago Review Press might ever be interested in a similar book about Springsteen. I sent along a copy of my Zoo World piece. Next thing I knew, I had a contract and was staring at a deadline.
In the months that followed, I gained new respect for compilers of anthologies. Before I assembled Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches, and Encoutners, I would have assumed that editing a collection like this would be much easier than writing from scratch. It’s not. Even with the Internet, it took hundreds of hours to track down all of the material included here, find the copyright owners, and secure rights. I spent hundreds of additional hours transcribing audio and video recordings, editing, checking facts, making corrections, writing introductions, and securing photos. I’ll never look at an anthology the same way again.
I’ll also never look at Springsteen the same way again. He has been a sophisticated and articulate player on the world stage for so long now that I’d forgotten just how far he has come or how much he he has evolved over the years. In the first interview in the book, he says, “I’m at a point where this is all very new to me” and admits, “I’m not really a literary type of cat.” He also says early on that he wouldn’t play anyplace that seated more than 3,000 “and even that’s too big”; that New Jersey is “a dumpy joint”; and that marriage is “not for me.”
Putting together this anthology—which Chicago Review Press has just published, was so much fun that shortly after I turned it in, I accepted the publisher’s invitation to compile another. That book, which focuses on Leonard Cohen, is now complete and will be out early next year. For that project, I collected more than 50 interviews spanning nearly half a century from all over the world, including a fair amount of material that hasn’t previously been available in any format. This project was even more of a treasure hunt than the Springsteen one and just as fascinating.