Glory Days

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Dave Marsh is uniquely able to do justice to his subject: His close friendship with Springsteen gave him constant access to this extremely private and complicated musician, and his penetrating critical insight enabled him to write not a starry-eyed rave but a fascinating tale of rock and roll growing up.

The devoted Springsteen fan will of course revel in the backstage view of performances detailed throughout the book, but Marsh’s patient concern for the process behind the product, the often agonizing or tedious preparations and decisions that lie behind the records and concerts, is meant to educate as well as entertain his readers. He never loses sight of the exuberance and spontaneity of rock and roll, qualities which Springsteen embodies and which Marsh describes as well as any rock journalist. At the same time, though, GLORY DAYS tells a deeper and somewhat darker story, mythologized as Springsteen’s attempt to follow Elvis Presley’s lead but avoid his fate.

On one level GLORY DAYS is a chronicle of one success after another, but the narrative is structured around a series of turning points, if not crises. Rock and roll is often thought of as an escape, but it is also a confrontation, and Marsh skillfully and convincingly shows how Springsteen faces and overcomes serious problems as a person and as a musician. Amidst all the details of the triumphant European tour of 1981, for example, Marsh shows Springsteen experimenting with new...

(The entire section is 416 words.)