Monday, October 24, 2005

Sometimes too much is ... too much

From the mailbag:

"In Chapter 2 of the book, you wrote:

'An early, much longer draft of this chapter (which, honestly, you're lucky not to be reading) played that If-Only-You-Could-Hear-It game. It burrowed through the music that Springsteen made before he signed with Columbia in '72, in great detail. (It had to be great detail, because I had to assume that few readers had access to the music in question). But then I realized that approach was unfair. The music of units like the Rogues, the Castiles, Steel Mill, Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom, and the first Bruce Springsteen Band may be cherished by diehard fans with an addiction to BitTorrent, but it's marginal, juvenilia, early work of a soon-to-be-but-not-yet-major-artist that sheds little light on what makes him great. You can hear bits and pieces of the beginnings of his singing and guitar style, but not much of the songwriter he would become. [...] The more I listened to them, the more I realized the songs are not important to any understanding of Springsteen's subsequent work. [...] Springsteen never plays these songs, he never talks about these songs, he never uses them as source material. Unfortunately, I had to devote many hours listening to that music before I came to that conclusion. But, in the spirit of reissue producers who whittle down 50 hours of archives into one or two CDs of what is worth listening to, I listened to it so you don't have to!'

Considering how much I enjoyed reading your comments on Springsteen's post-1972 work (whether I completely agreed with them or not), I would love to read your detailed analysis of his pre-1972 work! And I'm sure I'm not alone in that sentiment! Is there any chance that you might post that "much longer draft" of Chapter 2 on your website for all of us fans to enjoy?"

Reply: Hmm. I could go for humor or just tell the truth. I'll go with Option B. That section didn't make it into the book because I didn't have anything interesting to say about that music. Either the work of the Castiles, Steel Mill, etc., didn't move me to any insights, or I just didn't have any insights. Either way, I wasn't kidding when I said you were lucky not to be reading it. I just looked at the early version for the first time in a year and I'm glad it's still locked safely in my hard disk in a directory entitled "REJECTED." Sorry.