This is a study of music fandom, of the ways in which people form special, sustained attachments to musical performers or genres. In particular, my focus is on one of the most sustained and devoted groups of fans in contemporary popular music, Bruce Springsteen fans, and on their activities and experiences--what they do; how they talk about what they do; and, finally, why they do it. I use the word "they" hesitantly, for my knowledge of Springsteen fans is based not only on my ethnographic fieldwork with various Springsteen fans over a period of three years, but also, since I am a Springsteen fan, on my own experiences and interpretations. This work presents an "insider's narrative" of music fandom which, rather than relying on a distant, objective analysis of fans' public behavior, instead examines the intersection of others' experiences and my own. The text moves constantly back and forth between fans' stories and ideas about their experiences and my own stories, commentary, and analysis.
This book began as my Ph.D. dissertation in American Civilization at Brown University. I conducted the bulk of my fieldwork with Bruce Springsteen fans from spring 1993 to spring 1995, while I was a graduate student. There are few dissertations on music in the field of American civilization (or American studies, as it is known elsewhere) if only because people who are interested in studying music usually do so in music departments. But I learned early on that my interest in popular music and my reluctance to learn a symphonic instrument made me unwelcome at most American university music departments. Instead, I drifted into American studies, which, by encouraging a broad interdisciplinary study of the culture and history of a geographical area, allowed me the flexibility to study musical life as I pleased. This is not to say that I abandoned any notion of working in the field of music; I spent much of my time at Brown in the music department, taking courses on ethnomusicology, attending recitals and lectures, reading musicology journals, and teaching courses about American