Given that “prolific” doesn’t even start to describe Springsteen’s immense body of work, and the manner in which multitudes of his songs have materialised only momentarily as unrecorded live numbers, or spent countless years swept under the carpet of extensive album sessions, it’s hardly surprising that he lacks a definitive Revolution In The Head- style “song-by-song” analysis.
Springsteen wrote his own overview, Songs, while June Sawyers tackled 100 of his recordings in Tougher Than The Rest. Now Kirkpatrick’s updating The Words & Music Of…. Despite briefly looking at Springsteen’s biography, Kirkpatrick’s ultimate goal is the exploration of The Boss’ social and political outlook through his songs.
It’s a reasonably successful study, commencing pre- Greetings From Asbury Park and ending with this year’s moderately pleasing Working On A Dream, referencing enough obscurities along the way to send us scurrying back to our Lost Masters bootlegs. We might not always agree with Kirkpatrick’s interpretations, despite Springsteen’s generally literal lyrics (his take on the thoughtful ease of Valentine’s Day is most surprising), and he makes heavy weather of relating songs almost word-by-word. As an assessment of one of the great writers of character and place, however, it’s a decent starting-point.