The fascinating story behind the making of Bruce Springsteen’s most surprising album, Nebraska, revealing its pivotal role in Springsteen’s career “Brilliant . . . For fans of American music, Deliver Me from Nowhere makes a great ghost story.”—The Boston Globe
AN NPR BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
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.
About the Author
Warren Zanes is the New York Times bestselling author of Petty: The Biography. As a member of the Del Fuegos, he has shared the stage with Bruce Springsteen, and continues to write and record music. Zanes holds a PhD in visual and cultural studies from the University of Rochester and presently teaches at New York University. He is a Grammy-nominated producer of the PBS series Soundbreaking and was a consulting producer on the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom. Zane’s work has appeared in Rolling Stone and the Oxford American, and he has served as a vice president at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“Brilliant reading . . . For fans of American music, Deliver Me from Nowhere makes a great ghost story.”—The Boston Globe
“Warren Zanes is in possession of a genuine, often astonishing writerly gift. This book is about Bruce Springsteen’s weird, gothic, heartbroken 1982 left turn, Nebraska, which is not just a startling swerve in the career of a great American artist or a pivotal yet neglected transitional moment in the history of recorded music, but the question Springsteen asked himself forty years ago: What do you do when you begin to understand that the things you have loved most have begun to do you harm? This is some of Zanes’s best writing ever, which is saying a lot.”—Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
“Zanes has emerged from the wilderness of Nebraska with one of the greatest books about the creative process ever written. By focusing on Springsteen’s dark masterpiece and the soil it emerged from, Zanes elevates it to near mythic stature. Deliver Me from Nowhere is profoundly felt, deeply understood, and (as it should be) full of joy and abandon—with a hint of menace.”—Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
“This book, more than any other, reveals the hidden corners of Bruce Springsteen’s creative world. It zeroes in on a period of both volatility and artistic breakthrough, when Springsteen made the record no one was asking for but that he was compelled to make. Warren Zanes, one of our very finest music writers, always comes from the place of the music and its maker. No one else could have told this story.”—Judd Apatow
“You can waste your access by protecting your subject or trying to get too pretty. Warren Zanes does neither. He honors the access he gets to all of his central characters. If you’re a writer, his gift will make you jealous. But not jealous enough to stop reading. This is the Springsteen book we’ve been waiting for.”—Geoff Edgers, national arts reporter for The Washington Post and author of Walk This Way: Run-DMC, Aerosmith, and the Song that Changed American Music Forever
“Illuminating . . . Zanes builds a strong case for the album’s singularity, achievement, and influence. . . . Even those who aren’t convinced that Nebraska is Springsteen at his best will hear it with fresh ears.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Intimate . . . Zanes traces how the album’s punk rock spirit pushed back against the industry’s preferred polished sound to become a chart-topping success, and delivers the narrative in energetic prose that makes his enthusiasm for his subject palpable. Rock ’n’ roll fans will want to crank this up to 11.”—Publishers Weekly