Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. I remember it coming out. Buying it quickly. Loving it particularly.
You see I was a Bruce fan but before Nebraska only loved The River. I don’t like clutter or heavy sounds. Nebraska I got immediately. Just voice and guitar. Powerful songs. I think I had just watched Badlands on late night TV.
Warren Zanes new book about this amazing record has almost convinced me that it is Springsteen most important albums.
Zanes has all the qualifications. He was in the Del Fuegos and came across Springsteen as a peer, well a follow musician at least. He has become a great writer, I particularly love his biography of Tom Petty. He is now an academic and that means research and boy has he done the research here. He even gets to go with Springsteen himself into the very bedroom in Colts Neck, New Jersey where Springsteen mumbled the songs into a 4 track recorder.
Zanes gives us everything that we need to think about for the making of Nebraska - Springsteen’s career trajectory at the time, his personal fragility, how the songs came out, where, with what equipment and their failure to be improved upon when taken into a studio. The aftermath is deciphered too - the response to it commercially and by other artists and Springsteen’s next move… oh my what a move.
My favourite moment in the book and therefore in the creation of Nebraska is when Springsteen is in the studio with his producers trying every which way to make these bleak damned moody songs sound better and he releases that the best sounding version of them that he is going to get are the ones captured on a cassette in his shirt pocket.
I found the few days that I spent in Zanes’ book riveting. It helped me to lift Nebraska out of Springsteen’s catalogue and begin to really appreciate it for what I probably already knew that it was.
It is a unique and near eccentric recording in the historical time frame of its making. Springsteen had been the future of rock n roll since then journalist and now his manager, Jon Landau, quipped those words in the mid 70s.
Hungry Heart of the previous record The River hit the top 10 and if all had gone in the pop star plan his next record would have blown The Boss into a rock star stratosphere like the one after Nebraska did.
Nebraska’s follow up Born In The USA did just that. Seven singles. MASSIVE! Indeed it was massive with stadium tours filled with 40,000 fans who had never heard of Nebraska.I hated the lead off singles for Born In The USA, Dancing In The Dark and Cover Me. Sure fire hits they were not Bruce Springsteen.
Nebraska was Bruce Springsteen. How thankful are so many of us that he had the artistic determination to finally release a record that he hadn’t recorded to release.
Nebraska sits up and begs attention in the timeline of rock n roll. I might have thought that in the back of my mind but how thankful I am that Warren Zanes wrote this book and gave a great album its greatness back.