Picks and Pans Review: Glory Days: Bruce Springsteen in the 1980s

updated 07/13/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/13/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Dave Marsh

Granted it's been a glorious decade for rock singer-Springsteen, but there isn't really enough grist to justify this second hagiography from journalist Marsh, who nonetheless gives it the old college try. Make that the old pedantic try. Fans of the Boss may want the book for its 48 pages of lively photos (though none is particularly revealing). Otherwise Glory Days is dry, scholarly and tendentious, a curious failing in a rock star bio. The book stays within its premise by concentrating on Springsteen in the '80s, containing just enough earlier data to connect it to Born to Run, Marsh's fuller 1979 biography. The most absorbing sections provide insights into the music business or detail the unexpected technical complexities that arose in recording Nebraska, Springsteen's stark concept-LP of 1982. The book bogs down badly, though, in recounting the mammoth tour that followed the release of Born in the USA, Springsteen's megahit 1984 album. The tour lasted 18 months; reading about it seems to take at least that long. And though the dust jacket blurb brags about Marsh's unusual access to the singer, Glory Days is remarkable for its lack of personal detail. It is apparent that Marsh is really much closer to Springsteen's manager, Jon Landau, his onetime colleague at Rolling Stone. The book's analytical pretensions are wearing too. The reader cringes at the author's frequent forays onto the metaphysical plane, with Marsh dragging poor Bruce along by the forelock. Though he is apparently a compassionate, principled man, Springsteen is after all still only a pop phenomenon, and he can hardly be expected to bear the mythic weight that Marsh foists on him. The history of the book itself is enough to suggest the dubious validity of such an approach. Publication was held up so that Marsh would be able to include information about Springsteen's five-record set out last November. Less than four months later, that outrageously hyped release has become such an albatross that Columbia Records is refusing to accept the glut of unsold copies now being returned by retailers. Sic transit Glory Days. (Pantheon, $18.95)

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