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Review: Bruce Springsteen biography By Charlie McCollum

In the fall of 1975, not long after the release of "Born to Run," I got a call from a publicist at Columbia Records asking if I'd like to interview Bruce Springsteen. It seemed Springsteen had read my rave review of the album in the Washington Star, the paper I worked for at the time, and a couple of my reviews of his live shows. He had put me on the short-list of writers he'd like to talk to.
Of course, at the time, everyone wanted to talk to Springsteen. "Born to Run" had taken off like a rocket, and Springsteen had been on the covers of both Time and Newsweek -- in the same week. My editors told me to drop everything else and get to New York for the interview.
I met Springsteen, who had just turned 26 at the time, in an office in Manhattan. It was late on Friday, and the offices were emptying so that, not long into the interview, he and I were all but alone. It was supposed to last a half-hour or so, but instead went on for a couple of hours with the two of us talking about everything from the impact of those Time and Newsweek covers to the music of Roy Orbison and the guitar work of Duane Eddy.
I would interview Springsteen once more (briefly) and would run into him backstage at a couple of concerts. But within a few years, I switched from writing about music to the news and so simply became a fan of the Boss.

 But those few hours in New York have stuck with me. Not that Springsteen had said anything that profound -- although he was as articulate and engaging an interviewee then as now -- but just how downbeat much of the conversation had been. It wasn't so much what he said but the tone with which he said it. When I started to press him on something, he would retreat, not so much becoming elusive as simply not opening up. Even with very good interviewers like Ted Koppel, he seems pretty much the same today. All of which must have made Peter Ames Carlin's new Springsteen biography, "Bruce," a tough one to pull off. Springsteen cooperated with Carlin, although the author stresses the Boss had no editorial control over it. Much of the best stuff in "Bruce" comes not from Springsteen himself, but from those around him: Steve Van Zandt, Clarence Clemons, former girlfriends, friends from the early days in Jersey. While hardly the artful dodger and revisionist of his own history that Bob Dylan has become, Springsteen doesn't really open up -- a real disadvantage for a biographer.

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