Not a lot of rock stars have seen their lives dissected fairly like Bruce Springsteen. An entire magazine is dedicated to covering his every move. There is a site that painstakingly lists every concert he has ever performed, and expansive documentaries about the making of single albums, complete with crazy reviews, photos, videos and even transcriptions of his onstage dialogue.
With all that in mind, it might be simple to think since we already understand so much Springsteen that his new memoir couldn’t be revelatory. But it turns out that the nine years he spent writing it were worthwhile ones. He reached deep into his memory banks and produced a breathtaking 510 page book that will thrill even the most hardcore Bruce fanatics. Here are 9 things we learned from it.
1. His dad’s final years were really challenging.
As Doug grew old, his mental troubles worsened. He at one point vanished for three days and drove around the nation. Bruce discovered he had been detained for refusing to pay a small fine after a minor car accident. Bruce found his dad in a Chinatown pub soon after he was released. Where Doug got into an altercation with another customer as they got breakfast at McDonald’s. “Out of the blue my pop had began yelling profanity-laced non sequiturs and the guy thought he was speaking to him,” Springsteen said. “I apologized, described the best I could, and we hustled outside with our Egg McMuffins. It was sad. My dad was hearing the voices in his head and he was replying them.”
2. His audition was almost blown by Jake Clemons.
Bruce gave his nephew Jake the chance to to audition for the E Street Band after Clarence Clemons expired. It was one of the most important moments of the young saxophonist’s life, by being an hour late he nearly blew it. Springsteen was steaming angry, although seemingly he had gotten lost. He got even more furious when Jake told him he only “sort of” knew the songs.
3. He had major surgery after the Wrecking Ball tour.
It turned out he had cervical-disc troubles on the left side of his neck that were numbing the nerves on the left side of his body. It needed surgery. “The surgery went like this: they knock you out; cut an incision into your throat; tie your vocal cords off to one side; get in there with a wrench, a screwdriver and some titanium; they get a chunk of bone from the hip and go about building you a few new disks.” Although he lost his voice for a month or two, but fully recovered.
4. He first marriage caused him mental anguish.
It is not a subject he’d discussed substantially over the years, and she has barely uttered a word about it, but in Born To Run he does open up about the relationship. “Nothing could’ve been farther from the truth. Julianne adored me and didn’t have a malicious bone in her body. Inside, I understood that, but I was out where the buses don’t run and couldn’t center myself around the truth.”
5. He entered a period of major depression in his sixties.
The biggest disclosures from the novel concerned his battle with depression, something he’s been treating with drugs for years. It came late in life and it caused him agony. “I could not get out of bed,” he writes. “Hell, I could not even get a hard-on. It was like all my notorious energy, something that had been mine to command for most of my life, had been cruelly stolen away.”
6. Cash issues caused tension between the group and him.
Springsteen is careful not to name names, but sprinkled throughout the book are challenging moments with the E Street Band associated with the problem of finances. “I told him if he could locate a more highly paid musician at his job in the world, I would happily up his percentage. I also told him I could save him the time to search. All he had to do was walk around, shut the door and walk into the toilet and take a look in the mirror. There he’d find the highest-paid musician in the world at his post.”
7. He Didn’t Drink Until He Was 22
Watching his dad develop a drinking problem in his childhood made him stay away from alcohol, but soon after cutting Greetings From Asbury Park in 1972 his roommate Huge Danny Gallagher talked him into taking a shot at a pub in Manasquan, New Jersey. “Another round and soon I was having what felt like the finest evening of my youthful life. What had I been sweating and worrying about!? All was good, amazing even.”
8. The E Street Band did attempt Nebraska.
The question of whether or not the E Street Band recorded the tunes that appeared before Springsteen on Nebraska finally to release his acoustic guitar demo as the final product has raged for decades. Some sources say they simply tried a few of them. While others say they never tried any of them other say the whole thing cuts. “I went into the studio, brought in the group, re-recorded and remixed everything,” he writes. “On listening, I realized I’d succeeded in doing nothing but damaging what I Had created.”
9. His father suffered from mental illness.
Much of what is known about Springsteen’s relationship with his dad comes from tunes like “Independence Day,” but it turns out that those lyrics did not address one of the fundamental facts of his life: Doug Springsteen fought with a serious mental illness that just got worse as the years went by. “I haven’t been entirely honest to my dad in my songs, treating him as an archetype of the ignoring, domineering parent,” he writes. “It was an East of Eden recasting of our relationship, a way of ‘universalizing’ my childhood encounter. Our narrative is much more complicated.”