As I watched the Hurricane Sandy benefit concert “Coming Together” last week, I wondered what Bruce Springsteen and fellow Jersey Boys Jon Stewart, Jon Bon Jovi and Brian Williams were thinking when they saw the photos of their devastated beach playgrounds scroll on the green screen.

Peter Ames Carlin knows better than most what was going through Springsteen’s brilliant mind.  Carlin literally wrote what is being called the “most important” book to-date about the singer’s life.  The new biography “Bruce” is the first written in 25 years with the cooperation of Springsteen.

The book is a solid must-read-thrice for any fan of the superstar, with exclusive and first-ever interviews with the true insiders.  Even for those who have been baptized into the Springsteen “religion,” the book has major revelations.  “Bruce” is now the preeminent reference in the study of all things Bruce.

In a “Coaster” exclusive, I spoke with the author earlier this week about Springsteen’s family, local rumors and sitting with Clarence Clemons for his last major interview.

Image copyright and owned by Frank Stefanko

“Bruce” bio by Peter Ames Carlin features never-seen family and archival images. Photo by Frank Stefanko used with permission.

TBP:  You have interviewed many music legends during the course of your career.  Do you see any commonalities in the personalities of these world icons?

Carlin:  I think it’s safe to say that they all have some kind of inner disturbance at their core.  Some kind of primal trauma, some unresolved issue, or series of issues, that prompts a kind of full-body immersion in their muses and labors. They’re escaping a reality by creating art that reaffirms their existence and allows them to leverage an entirely new existence for themselves.

TBP:  A rabid Springsteen fan who read your book said it is a wonderful walk down memory lane and fills in the blanks of many questions.  Why did he want this book written now?

Carlin:  It seemed clear to me that Bruce had gotten to a point in his life where he felt okay about focusing on his legacy, and thus allowed an outsider – over whom he had no authority or control – to access his inner circle, friends and family to get the real story before the stories began to vanish with their participants.  Fortunately, I was lucky enough to speak at length with his mom, sisters and aunts.

What amazed me during the three years I worked on the book was how many stories – really important ones – were still more or less unspoken, unrecorded and unwritten. Even before I got access to Bruce and the E Street insiders, I found myself continually marveling at how much new and obviously reliable information I was turning up.

There was so much information about Bruce’s days as a kid, a little leaguer and teenage band member and even more about his early career on the Jersey Shore, and then the inside machinations at Columbia Records when he was a distinctly unpopular artist, long on the edge of being dropped by the label. Once I started interviewing Bruce and his family, the untold stories became all the more intimate and surprising.

When I spent time with Bruce’s mom, Adele, she ignored the framed platinum and gold albums on the wall and made sure I saw all the old family pictures, boyhood drawings and, especially, the ‘A’’s he got for the short stories and essays he wrote in community college.

For sure, Adele is enormously proud of her son and his achievements as an artist and performer. I’m not sure that the fame means much to her – she knows him as her son.  Now he’s just an older version of the kid she’s always known. But I think she really admires his ability touch the hearts of his fans, and to impact their lives for the better. [more below]

"Bruce" by Peter Ames Carlin features an exclusive interview with Clarence Clemons as well as with members of Springsteen's inner circle.

“Bruce” by Peter Ames Carlin features an exclusive interview with Clarence Clemons as well as 150 other people, including members of Springsteen’s inner circle.

TBP:  Locals are still curious about the rumored, errr… friendship Springsteen had with Ann Kelly.  In 2009, the singer was named by Kelly’s husband in divorce filings.  Overall, after decades of fame and gallons of ink written about him, does it get any easier for this very sensitive man when his personal life becomes public?

Carlin:  We didn’t get into that. From everything I heard those tales were a bunch of bull prompted more by an ugly divorce than by anyone’s actual behavior. And even if it were true I probably wouldn’t have given it much, or any space. Because who cares?

For all that, Bruce obviously loves his wife and family.  He doesn’t go on and on about his love or about the vital importance of monogamy, or anything that would make his private behavior with any other consenting adult anyone else’s business.

TBP:  In a great score for the book, you spoke with Clarence Clemons in his last major interview.  Actually, for the last two years of his life he did not grant many interviews period.

Carlin:  Clarence was proud of his sax work and his influence over the band’s sound, but also knew that his most transcendent contribution was in how the force of his spirit amplified, and was amplified by, Bruce.  Look at those pictures of Clarence in his enormous white suit, gleaming like a god while Bruce wrings the devil out of the neck of his guitar – just breathtaking.

They never left that behind entirely but it was extremely tough for Clarence when he could feel Bruce drifting away from him.  Clarence definitely had his resentments at the end of his life. But he loved Bruce with a passion, and he had no question that he had been put on earth to stand at Bruce’s side.

Meet Peter Ames Carlin at his talk and “Bruce” signing at Barnes & Noble Monmouth Mall, Monday (Nov. 12), 7 pm.  Buy “Bruce” online.  “Bruce” is published by Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone imprint.

More Springsteen exclusives from “The Coaster” and “TheBPlot” by clicking here.