E Street Shuffle: The Glory Days of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band By Clinton Heylin Viking, 352 pp., $27.95.
Capping a trilogy of recent, impressive Springsteen bios that also includes Marc Dolan's Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock and Roll and Peter Ames Carlin's semi-authorized Bruce, noted music journalist Heylin digs a bit deeper for the hardcore fan in this tome originally published in England.
Heylin is a fine journalist, a writer whose Behind the Shades remains the definitive Dylan bio, but his strength has always lay in his near-obsessive attention to detail. So those looking for a more general or sociological bio might look elsewhere, as E Street Shuffle is mostly concerned with the minutiae of the music.
Thus, through original interviews and previous quotes -- as well as his own analysis--Heylin goes deep into Springsteen's songwriting process, unreleased and rare songs, concert recordings, bootlegs, and even Bruce's intense mind-wrestling with song sequencing on records.
And there's much to work with. After all, Bruce is a guy who released Tracks, a 4-CD box set of songs he didn't think were good enough to make their intended albums -- and he has hundreds of more in those vaults at Thrill Hill.
Heylin's section on Nebraska is particularly worth noting, for how the album was conceived and executed as well as Springsteen's thoughts that it would become his own John Wesley Harding.
Ironically, the E Street Band themselves only make fleeting appearances. Most members are mentioned or quoted only briefly, and a few names don't appear at all. A bit odd, considering the book's focus is on the E Street's first era albums up through Tunnel of Love only. (Note - the U.S. edition has excised Heylin's 100-page song-by-song analysis, as well as the color photo section).
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As mentioned, E Street Shuffle is definitely for the more committed Bruce fan, but Heylin's own commitment to the material and the music is more than evident.