When Bruce Springsteen performs in concert or makes an appearance anywhere these days, the internet is filled, the next day, with fans’ photos, videos and mini-reviews. But it wasn’t always that way. For the first few decades of The Boss’ career, photos were rare, cellphones didn’t exist, and if you heard anything about a particular show, it was likely from a friend who was lucky enough to be there.
Immersing yourself in Lawrence Kirsch’s book “For You” is like revisiting that world, where fans are eager to enlighten fellow rock fans about this incredible new artist they’ve just seen in concert for the first time. There’s enthusiasm on every page, and magic in nearly every photo.
“For You” is a handsome 206-page coffee table book with more than 200 stories from fans, and more than 400 photos, many of which are otherwise unpublished. Though not a biography, per se, it tells the story of Springsteen’s career, from the ’70s to the 2000s, through the eyes of his fans.
Kirsch published a limited edition of “For You” in 2007, and it sold out quickly; for years, the only place you could get a copy was on a website such as eBay. But he recently re-released it in a second limited edition, and is selling it at ForYouBruceBook.com.
The photos are of Springsteen onstage, and backstage, and playing softball, and doing the Tunnel of Love cover shoot, and walking down a street by himself in Amsterdam — not aware, perhaps, that a fan has spotted him — and much more. Of course, E Street Band members are shown in many photos; there are even a couple of shots of Suki Lahav, the violinist who performed with the band in 1974 and 1975. Musicians such as Neil Young, Bono, Ronnie Spector, Jon Bon Jovi and Peter Wolf pop up from time to time, too.
Kirsch received some 1,500 submissions of stories to run in “For You.” A lot of fans write about their first Springsteen shows, or favorite moments from favorite shows. But there are also stories about getting tickets for a sold-out show in a serendipitous way … or the night they went to a show by someone else and Springsteen made a surprise appearance … or the night they ran into Springsteen at a diner … or just some thoughts on the way certain songs resonate with them, every time they hear them, through the years.
Sometimes the mini-essays are breezy, but they can get quite deep. Sarfraz Manzoor, for instance (the British-Pakistani journalist whose story was told in the 2019 movie “Blinded by the Light”), writes about the song “Candy’s Room,” and how one line from that song in particular — “In the darkness, there’ll be hidden worlds that shine”— helped him get through a difficult time in his life.
Historical events (9/11, Hurricane Katrina, John Lennon’s death) make it into some of the stories. So do politics. But most of the entries are of an intensely personal nature. I think my favorite may be Harold Dean Beverly’s two paragraphs. He writes about seeing Springsteen in Virginia, in 1974, and how Springsteen jumped into the crowd, pointed at him and shouted, “Rock, you son of a bitch!”
“He made me into a new person inside, as well as a greatly improved singer/songwriter,” Beverly writes. “I’ve never seen things in quite the same way since that night.”
“For You” is available at ForYouBruceBook.com.
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