Meredith Ochs: The Bruce Springsteen Vault – book review
Meredith Ochs – The Bruce Springsteen Vault
Jamie Havlin answers the question, ‘Does the world really need another book on Bruce Springsteen?’ below.
Opening this hard cover book and leafing through it, readers will be immediately impressed by the lavishness of its design and production values. There are over one hundred carefully chosen photos as well as ten pieces of removable memorabilia that include facsimiles of a Rolling Stone cover, prints and a reproduction of a rather psychedelic ad from student newspaper Commonwealth Times for a show headlined by Bruce’s old band Steel Mill back in 1971.
Written by Meredith Ochs, a radio commentator, DJ and journalist, whose work has appeared in many rock publications, The Bruce Springsteen Vault examines the career of one of rock’s biggest selling and most highly respected stars, beginning with his schooldays in Freehold, where the young Bruce decides he wants to be Elvis after seeing him perform on the Ed Sullivan Show. This revelation later leads to him joining up with early bands like The Castiles, before his story moves into more familiar territory with the formation of the E Street Band and the release in 1973 of that band’s debut LP Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.
That album would find a critical acclaim that wasn’t backed by sales and at the time it would have been impossible to imagine that one day anybody would ever get the opportunity to study the man at Ivy League University Princeton where a degree is now offered called ‘Sociology from E Street’, which analyses ‘Bruce Springsteen’s America’.
What made a course such as this available were the huge successes of albums like Born to Run, The River and Born in the U.S.A. and this book delves into the reasons behind why these works struck such a chord, not only with Americans, but with millions of fans throughout the world.
As someone who is pretty neutral on the music of Springsteen, I learned quite a bit about him throughout the book’s 176 pages, such as his depression and the part that this has played in the intense and gruelling three and four hour sets that he has performed over the decades and the painstaking attention to detail that the ‘songwriting juggernaut’ puts in while in the recording studio.
Och’s attention to the evolution of his political beliefs is particularly fascinating. ‘In the late 60s, when his draft number came up, he wondered why his life was worth any less than a rich boy who could defer because his parents had economic or political clout. Boys he knew from Freehold served and died, including Castiles drummer Bart Haynes, leaving a lasting impression on Springsteen.’
By the 1980s, Bruce was becoming increasingly vociferous about American political issues, something which, if anything, has only intensified since then and, indeed, Meredith Ochs takes us right up to the recent past of his performance with Pete Seeger at the Obama Inaugural Celebration in 2009; Baillie Walsh’s 2013 documentary Springsteen and I, and the mammoth Wrecking Ball world tour.
Ochs, a New Jerseyan like Springsteen, possesses a fluid and unpretentious writing style and is obviously a huge Boss fan to the point of her book at times resembling a hagiography, so if you’re after some gossip and backbiting then give her book a miss. The Bruce Springsteen Vault will delight the bulk of his legions of fans, who I’m sure will think another book on Bruce is a good thing especially when it looks as visually striking as this one does.