Warren ZanesNov 17, 2023
Deliver Me from Nowhere
The Making of Bruce Springsteen's 'Nebraska'
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 for Deliver Me from Nowhere: The Making of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska (Crown, 2023), 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.
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.
Bradley Morgan is a media arts professional in Chicago and author of U2's The Joshua Tree: Planting Roots in Mythic America. He manages partnerships on behalf of CHIRP Radio 107.1 FM, serves as a co-chair of the associate board at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and volunteers in the music archive at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Bradley Morgan on Twitter.