The fascinating story behind the making of Bruce Springsteen’s most surprising album, Nebraska, revealing its pivotal role in Springsteen’s career
“Brilliant reading . . . For fans of American music, Deliver Me from Nowhere makes a great ghost story.”—The Boston Globe
Without Nebraska, Bruce Springsteen might not be who he is today. The natural follow-up to Springsteen’s hugely successful album The River should have been the hit-packed Born in the U.S.A. But instead, in 1982, he came out with an album consisting of a series of dark songs he had recorded by himself, for himself. But more than forty years later, Nebraska is arguably Springsteen’s most important record—the lasting clue to understanding not just his career as an artist and the vision behind it, but also the man himself.
Nebraska is rough and unfinished, recorded on cassette tape with a simple four-track recorder by Springsteen, alone in his bedroom, just as the digital future was announcing itself. And yet Springsteen now considers it his best album. Nebraska expressed a turmoil that was reflective of the mood of the country, but it was also a symptom of trouble in the artist’s life, the beginnings of a mental breakdown that Springsteen would only talk about openly decades after the album’s release.
Warren Zanes spoke to many people involved with making Nebraska, including Bruce Springsteen himself. He also interviewed more than a dozen celebrated artists and musical insiders, from Rosanne Cash to Steven Van Zandt, about their reactions to the album. Zanes interweaves these conversations with inquiries into the myriad cultural touchpoints, including Terrence Malick’s Badlands and the short stories of Flannery O’Conner, that influenced Springsteen as he was writing the album’s haunting songs. The result is a textured and revelatory account of not only a crucial moment in the career of an icon but also a record that upended all expectations and predicted a home-recording revolution.