In this intimate retelling of how Bruce Springsteen’s most introspective album came to be, musician Zanes (Petty) unpacks the psyche, pathos, and music industry machinery that made it so surprising and stirring. Before Springsteen’s hit-packed 1984 album Born in the U.S.A., there was Nebraska—an album Zanes lovingly compares to “a cave painting in the age of photography.” Despite the fact that it was laid down on a cassette recorder in a room with wall-to-wall shag carpet at a New Jersey rental house, Zanes calls Nebraska the Boss’s most important work, an “album that was cutting deals with no one” and stripped away so much of what seemed required for commercial success (“clean and clear fidelity, perfect performances”) that “all that was left was the grunt of art.” In interviews with Springsteen, Zanes details how the artist recorded Nebraska during one of his “loner periods”—a time of deep soul-searching during which he probed his childhood in songs such as “Mansion on the Hill” and “My Father’s House.” Early chapters fill in backstory to the record’s creation and later ones break down the album song by song. Zanes traces how the album’s punk rock spirit pushed back against the industry’s preferred polished sound to become a chart-topping success, and delivers the narrative in energetic prose that makes his enthusiasm for his subject palpable. Rock ’n’ roll fans will want to crank this up to 11. (May)
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