Even hipsters who detest the music and mythology of Bruce Springsteen will have to admit that the venerable rocker has one of the most dedicated and connected fan bases anywhere. These are people for whom simply listening to a studio CD is only the start of a very close journey between artist and admirer. This is especially true with Springsteen’s mythical live shows.
Canadian Lawrence Kirsch is such a fan that he wanted to present the written and visual show memories of other die-hards, and has done so brilliantly with For You. A lavish, gorgeous, detailed book, it is truly a pleasure to read and counters the often slapdash efforts of privately-published or “special edition” fan tomes. (The print run on For You is limited to 2,000 copies.)
Kirsch set up a Web site and solicited stories from fans about Springsteen concert experiences, receiving ones from a 1969 coffeehouse gig right up to last year’s Seeger Sessions tour. To illustrate it, he searched for concert photos – most of them unpublished until now – spanning 1971 up until his recent appearance on the Today show for the release of Magic. More than 400 of them appear throughout the pages.
Portions of the book have Houston connections. There are photos from the June 16, 1974 and September 13, 1975 shows (where Springsteen sports his skinny, scruffy look) at the now-defunct Music Hall downtown, and a more muscled-up appearance at the Summit on November 29, 1984.
Unfortunately, the only anecdote about a Houston show doesn’t exactly contain a wealth of memories. One “Esmerelda K,” who was at the September ’75 show, writes about tagging along with an older brother as a teenager, getting drunk, then knocking herself out on the edge of a seat just as the band was hitting the stage. Apparently unconscious during the entire show, she remembers only coming to as her brother tried to hustle her into the house without waking their parents. But I guess that does speak depths about her brother’s devotion to the Boss.
Other memories come from many who have met Springsteen. There’s a “Wendy” who wonders if she’s a lyrical inspiration for the girl in “Born to Run” after having to rebuff Bruce’s romantic advances because she was married at the time. And there’s a wonderful story and photos from “The Cleveland Boys,” two guys from that city who made a pilgrimage to New Jersey in 1976 to meet Bruce, and incredibly ended up playing on an E Street softball team, partying with Bruce and the band for the weekend and hanging out backstage for years. Photos of Bruce on the field in microscopic denim cutoff shorts and a half T-shirt are particularly hilarious.
The photos are a revelation in themselves, with mostly off-the-cuff snaps capturing great moments. Not surprisingly, the subject is either laughing or lost in the music most of them.
Make no mistake, this book is definitely not for the casual fan, the person who may have only a worn cassette copy of Born in the U.S.A. and a Greatest Hits CD in their collection. But for anyone who can easily identify Crazy Janey, the Magic Rat or Bill Horton, it’s a must-have addition to the Boss bookshelf. - Bob Ruggiero
For You: Original Stories and Photographs by Bruce Springsteen’s Legendary Fans, edited by Lawrence Kirsch, 208 pp., $50. Available only from www.foryoubruce.com
Q&A with For You editor Lawrence Kirsch
Houstoned Rocks: What made you decide this project had to be done?
Lawrence Kirsch: If you ever have cause to wonder why you have followed these guys for 5, 10, 20, 30-plus years...if your family or coworkers or anyone ever asks why you feel compelled to see multiple shows on the same tour, collect bootlegs, spend time on message boards, or why you have so many Bruce shirts…or why posters from 30 years ago are on your wall, I hope that the stories/testimonials in this book help to explain the passion and trust we have in Bruce Springsteen.
How difficult was it to sift through all those remembrances to pick the ones that appear in the book?
It was difficult. We received close to 1,500 submissions from all over the world, in over 12 different languages. The ones that made it into the book are not neccessarily the best, because how do you judge the "best?"
No, these stories are representative of the "Springsteen experience" from the poignant and heartfelt to the passionate and trivial, they all have the common thread of the empowerment that we feel when we listen to and experience Bruce's music.
Why do you think Springsteen has such a fervent and loyal fanbase?
Bruce Springsteen always delivers on the promise. The promise of honesty, integrity and a shitload of fun in concert. Hate him or love him, he stands up for what he thinks is right. If you agree, jump on board, if not, no problem, all are welcome.
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What is it about Bruce that makes seeing him live not just an addendum to the records, but a whole 'nother aspect to him as a performer?
He makes you feel alive, he takes you on a journey like no other performer can. He gives us hope.
I know you've gotten a copy of the book to Bruce through his assistant. How do you think you'll react if you get some word from the man himself about it?
I'm not certain, but pleased I'm sure. The For You in the title is for the fans.