For You Original Stories and Photographs By Bruce Springsteen's Legendary Fans
I’ve always been devotional and obsessive fan when it comes to music. Merely having the released albums has never been enough for me for certain artists. For the chosen few, I go over the deep end and need to have everything. One of the artists I follow religiously is Bruce Springsteen. While he was amongst the first artists whose albums I bought, my addiction to his music didn’t get the best of me until college. By this point, Springsteen had dismissed the E Street Band, had won an Oscar for “Streets of Philadelphia” and was largely hibernating while still being among the world’s most respected artists. I can’t even pinpoint my exact watershed moment, but if I remember correctly, I felt an enormous void in my life and was continually looking for answers in films, books and music. One day, while perusing a used CD store, I magically found all of Springsteen’s albums that I had not yet bought on CD. I snapped them all up and later that day while listening to the dark, desolate and hopelessness of the characters on Nebraska, something snapped. I can’t even properly express what happened, but I felt as if there was someone out there who understood me, my feeling, my emotions and my struggles. As the disc spun its way towards a conclusion, it reinvigorated me and provided me with a “reason to believe”. From there I went on to collect every B-side and bootleg I could get my hands on. Listening to the album cuts wasn’t enough. I needed to hear the alternate and live versions that would one day validate my traveling hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles to be touched and inspired by this music. When you really love a certain artist, you find live versions of songs that have that extra bite that will leave a small scar on your heart. When you go back and eventually listen to the studio cut, in your head you can hear exactly where the crowds roars and voices congeal in a perfect concert moment. Ever since then, I’ve been compulsive when it comes to Bruce Springsteen and even though my devotion has waned in recent years, I still consider him an integral part of my musical experience.
Through the years, I’ve read almost every book written about Springsteen. Some are great and many are not. Over time, I’ve even become cynical when I hear about new books. In the last few years, there have been a plethora of coffee table book releases in the Springsteen world including Greetings From E Street, the Born To Run: The Unseen Photos and Dave Marsh’s Bruce Springsteen On Tour: 1968-2005. Each one in itself is a gorgeous work of art that will glisten on your polished coffee table. However, if you only have those three, then you still are missing the ultimate Bruce Springsteen keepsake ;For You. When I heard about this book a year ago, I dismissed it thinking I didn’t really need yet another glorified coffee table book. I was wrong….dead wrong. For You takes the reader on a magical, mystical and poignant journey through forty-years of Bruce Springsteen’s life. It’s a time machine to the past where tickets were once $7, the E Street Band was a boy’s only club, Steve Van Zandt looked like a member of Jimmy Buffet’s band and most of the members of the E Street Band could have begun their own television show-“Stashin’”. I wasn’t impressed with the book, I was bowled over.
Something no press agent, record company or management firm will ever wrap their heads around is the concept of fanaticism. They may think they get it, but in reality, they don’t. To truly understand a full blown junkie music fan, you have to be one. Die-hard fans are always vocally ardent about their devotion, but Springsteen fans are in another realm all unto themselves. So why was I deeply cautious about reviewing For You? All I could think about was “does the world really need a new Bruce Springsteen book”? Don’t get me wrong, I love the man as much as anyone, but as I grow older I often question these types of projects. In recent years some of these books have been nothing more than exercises in pretention. I often find myself wondering if they are birthed out of greed, capitalism, ego or pure passion? Now that I hold For You in my hands, I can confirm there’s nothing but unbridled passion in all of its 205-pages.
For You (available exclusively at: www.foryoubruce.com) was worked on meticulously for a two-year period and is a self-published book limited to 2,000 copies. No, that is not a typo, two-thousand copies. Editor Lawrence Kirsch had a monumental undertaking choosing from 1500-stories which were submitted and tracking down and obtaining the 400 photos eventually used for this project. If this wasn’t enough, he had very ardent and strict rules; only scans from original negatives and slides were considered. I don’t know anyone who would hold a book to standards this high today in the age of internet scans and cell phone photos. I’m glad he did, as For You is staggering in its detail, vastness and variety of concert shots. Kirsch dug his heels in, shot for the moon and the stars while putting this book together and succeeded wildly. It’s an awe-inspiring book that should be on your book shelf even if you aren’t a Springsteen fan because it would convert you without hearing a note of his music; it’s that impressive. It encompasses every Springsteen tour in detail (organized by decades) and has over 400-pictures. The book contains 200 stories from fans explaining why this music and this band mean so much to them. The good news for fans is that the largest section (close to 70-pages) is the 1970’s and many of these photos I didn’t even knew existed and let me tell you, they are a sight to behold. They range from epic concert poses to random softball games where someone was fortunate to have a camera on hand. The 1980’s is a close second in coverage with 53-pages dedicated to the decade and even the most current decade has a whopping 50-pages dedicated to it. You see pictures of Bruce with assorted musicians through the years including John Eddie, Southside Johnny, Jon Bon Jovi and Neil Young.
The difference between For You and most other books commissioned by the artists themselves is that there wasn’t a 4th quarter release or special anniversary being exploited dictating the contents or the constraints of it. The book is held together by passionate and resourceful fans whose main objective was to provide fans with the best damn book possible. Saying that Kirsch succeeded would be saying that Born in the USA was a semi-successful. For You is a photographic passage through forty years of Bruce Springsteen’s career. The photographs are not just revealing and are more than mere images, but part of a larger story of just not Springsteen’s life, but many fans as well. The detailed anecdotes make the pictures jump off the page and come to life. For You provides a better history lesson of who Bruce Springsteen is better than any album, DVD or book has done to date.
Most self-published fan driven books can be cringe inducing and just flat out embarrassing in their devotion for the artist or sloppily executed which is not the case here. While there is zealous admiration for Springsteen and his music, the book is an epic visual storytelling time machine that encourages you to hop on for a ride down thunderous roads to simpler times for a journey through the heart of darkness where the fans feel so close and intimately personal with Springsteen like he’s an old college buddy. As I paged through For You I thought of how far I’ve come in my own life journey since that desolate day where I listened to Nebraska repeatedly. This book took me back to a time where a new world was opened to me. This book is not just a fine addition to your collection, but is essential for any Springsteen fan. It is a treasure trove of pictures and stories that will not just take you for a ride down memory lane, but will leave you with an impenetrable sense of hope much the same way you feel cruising down the highway and having “Thunder Road” blast from your speakers with the wind in your hair. When was the last time the written word did that?
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer whose his daily writings can be read at The Screen Door.