Boss Hogs

So you say that you're born to run, blinded by the light and more than just a little bit on fire to read more about The Boss? That until you make that human touch with other fans there'll be a darkness on your edge of town?

Here, then, are 10 choice thunder roads, tunnels of love and secret gardens that we've sought out and compiled -- "for you."

1. Backstreets Magazine (published quarterly, P.O. Box 51225, Seattle, WA 98115; or Web site http://www.backstreets.com)

The tie-ins that bind: Bruce-o-rama in print, in stores and online.
The tie-ins that bind: Bruce-o-rama in print, in stores and online.

Over the course of 20 years and 63 issues, this publication has tirelessly covered the Bruce world: concerts, official and bootleg recordings, even the Jersey club scene. The latest issue features an exhaustive show-by-show breakdown of the entire '99 European tour. Backstreets is also a mail-order enterprise; consult the Web site for books, magazines, posters, tour merchandise, etc., offered there. It also contains breaking tour info, and offers a ticket exchange forum as well.

2. Lucky Town Internet news group (http://www.luckytown.org)

An extremely lively and passionate list, and as it's moderated by list owner Kevin Kinder, the signal-to-noise ratio is good (no bonehead Korn fans cruising for chicks). Detailed concert reviews and set lists appear literally hours after the fact. Trivia is batted about like shuttlecocks -- Why'd Bruce drop the piano/guitar intro to "Prove It All Night" after the '78 tour? What about that now-absent bald patch? -- and great friendships are forged. There's also a companion list, the Lucky Town Ads (accessible from the same site), where ticket swaps can be negotiated, concert tapes and CD-Rs are traded, and assorted rarities and collectibles get offered up for sale.

3. The Springsteen Webring (http://hem.passagen.se/nm/webring/index.html)

Links to more than a hundred fan-based Web sites bursting with ephemera, opinion, artwork and, ahem, "music" (hint: keep that MP3 player warmed up).

4. Brucelegs (http://www.mv.com/ipusers/richbreton/brucelegs.htm) and Boot Camp (http://anicon.com/bootcamp/index.shtml)

As Springsteen is the most bootlegged artist in history, it comes as no surprise that collectors would systematically catalogue and rate underground CDs. Brucelegs is the most comprehensive site (it even includes reproduced disc sleeves), although Boot Camp is updated more frequently. No, you can't purchase boots here -- try eBay.

5. Greasy Lake (http://www.greasylake.org)

A colorful page crammed with tour info, reprints of reviews and interviews, original essays and artwork, and links to simpatico sites.

6. Brucebase (http://www.shetlandnews.co.uk/websites/bruce/bbmain.htm)

Amazing: a database of every known Springsteen concert, set lists included, from the '60s onward, available for bulk download.

7. Tramps Like Us, by Daniel Cavicchi (Oxford University Press)

Evolving from a Ph.D. dissertation into a scholarly book, Cavicchi's undertaking was to chronicle and then analyze what it means to be a Boss fan -- collecting records, employing ticket-buying strategies, bonding with other fans -- and how that relates to some of the underlying issues implicit in Springsteen's artistry. Impressive as hell.

8. It Ain't No Sin to Be Glad You're Alive, by Eric Alterman (Little, Brown Books)

It'd be hard to top Dave Marsh's exhaustive, if hagiographical, pair of Springsteen bios (Born to Run, Glory Days), so political columnist Alterman, instead, focuses on the songwriter's artistic growth and thematic consistency over the years, bringing forth new insights into the man's psyche -- as well as the reasons his work resonates so fully in the hearts and souls of his audience.

9. Springsteen Point Blank, by Christopher Sandford (Da Capo Press)

On the other hand . . . Sandford, a decent enough British writer but possessed of a real nasty streak, aims to peel back the veil on some of Springsteen's less-than-admirable traits across his career highs and lows. He focuses, in particular, on the man's romantic entanglements, and does dig up enough behind-the-scenes ephemera to make it an interesting read. Yet his contempt for his subject echoes that of his countrymen some 24 years ago on the eve of the E Street Band's first UK tour -- a kind of "so what? show me!" attitude that he never really got over. Right between the eyes, baby.

10. Bruce Springsteen -- Songs, by Bruce Springsteen (Avon Books, 305 pages)

Or you can simply get it straight from the Boss' mouth. This coffee-table book compiles the lyrics of every Springsteen song to appear on an album proper (B-sides and Tracks material is excluded) and is lavishly illustrated with photographs. What lends the volume significance beyond mere songbook status: selected handwritten lyrics, fragments and songs-in-progress are reproduced, and the songwriter himself pens chapter introductions where he explains what he was aiming for on each album.

Tellingly, his unguarded moments reveal volumes of insight -- for example, his retrospective ambivalence toward Born in the USA helps explain why that album is only lightly featured on the current tour -- and, in turn, this unprecedented public candor from a very private person speaks directly to the heart of the issue re: Springsteen's concomitant need to be understood by, and his abiding respect for, his fans. -- Fred Mills

 
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