13. Bruce Springsteen

“There were a few people who picked up on me very early before my first record, when I was playing solo at Max’s Kansas City,” Bruce Springsteen said about Paul Nelson, “and he’s the one who stands foremost in my mind.”

From 1975 to 1982, Paul wrote a series of infrequent but expansive meditations about Springsteen, his music, and his remarkable relationship to a rapidly burgeoning audience. How accurate were Paul’s perceptions? “Oh, they could come out right now,” Springsteen said, “and they’d be right on the money. That was my job the way that I saw it, and he perceived it. That’s quite a connection to make.”

I spoke with Springsteen Tuesday afternoon, an interview that, by the time all was said and done, took eight months to arrange. In the interim, Springsteen wrapped up his tour with the Sessions band and released a live album documenting it; recorded a new studio album with the E Street Band, Magic, due out October 2nd; and suffered the death of his longtime friend and assistant, Terry Magovern, who passed away in his sleep on the night of July 30th.

As an interviewee, Springsteen was open, funny, and philosophical without being pretentious. And on the subject of Paul Nelson, he spoke eloquently.

Paul entered Springsteen’s life in 1972 when the young singer/songwriter (who was then 22 or 23) would take the bus from New Jersey into New York City to play the opening half of double bills at Max’s Kansas City. Paul was impressed enough to keep coming back, bringing with him other writers and artists (including Elliott Murphy) and turning them on, too, to the New Jersey phenom.

Everything Is an Afterthought examines Paul’s friendship with Springsteen (mostly in Springsteen’s own words) and how the artist’s special brand of rock & roll represented for Paul more than just music. The book will reprint all of Paul’s articles and reviews about Springsteen, presenting for the first time Paul’s preferred texts, based on his original manuscripts. (For instance, Paul’s review of The River is considerably different than what got published in 1980 and which can be found online.) 

Documenting Springsteen’s early career, Paul’s writings reflect not only his fondness for the man but how he had to come to terms with his friend’s music when it took turns down alleyways both unexpected and dark.

Copyright 2007 by Kevin Avery. All rights reserved.

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