Alex Austin //
The Red Album of Asbury Park captures the late 60’s of Asbury, New Jersey, and its music scene. This was a time when the town was resonating with a "rock and roll" energy (the same time that then-unknown/up-and-coming musicians like The Boss were just getting started). The lead character, the 22-year-old musician Sam Nesbitt, is introspective, pensive, and philosophical.
The book takes the reader through the events in Sam's story: his romantic involvement with two women; the nurturing of his dream of becoming a rock star; themes of despair; and a murder mystery (which turns out to be more significant than Sam expected).
Musical influences in the novel come from the most vital, culturally dominant musicians at the time: the Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Doors, Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Steppenwolf, Cream. The music is always there, affecting Sam’s thoughts and actions, and even transforming events. As an artist/musician, Sam obtains the raw material for his songs from his experiences in Asbury.
The character is undeniably driven for his passion for music; to be somebody in a town of nobodies. The dream of becoming a famous rock star (and the story takes place in New Jersey; NJ natives include Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra, Bon Jovi, Lauryn Hill, Dionne Warwick -- talk about pressure) hangs over Sam Nesbitt, doggedly. One can't help but feel for the character, in the sense of his despondency/anxiety about being a struggling, young musician (something every artist can relate to!) in the city.
text by Jess C. Scott / photo by Sara Mattiace