Thunder Road

essay by Nick Hornby and lyrics by Bruce Springsteen

THIS WAS A FABULOUS PROJECT. We got to collaborate with some great people and we pull Thunder Road out to show at almost every workshop and Lead Graffiti tour. The design process also produced one of our favorite teachable moments for design students where the object is to get the client to say, "Yes" after they've already said, "No."

New Lead Graffiti friend, Mark Cashion, and old Lead Graffiti friend, Bill Roberts of Bottle of Smoke Press, invited us to design the book format and print the covers for a project to benefit the charity, Ambitious about Autism, home of the TreeHouse School in London.

Nick Hornby (a British author best known for his novels High FidelityAbout a Boy, and Fever Pitch) wrote Songbook, which included an essay published by McSweeney’s about his love of the song “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen. Mark and letterpress printer friend, Jim Camp, had the idea of reprinting Hornby’s Thunder Road essay, along with the lyrics to Springsteen’s song, to raise money for Ambitious about Autism. Proposals were made and permission was granted by both writers. The text for the essay and lyrics was designed and printed via letterpress in Los Angeles by Jim Camp at synaesthesia press.

For our task, Lead Graffiti finished off the final design for the book, cover and fly sheet, and produced 200 soft cover books signed by Nick Hornby, along with 34 hard cover books signed by both Nick Hornby and Bruce Springsteen.  Six presentation sets combining both hard and soft cover versions were each housed in a numbered clamshell box produced by  Bill Roberts and presented to the main participants in the project.

All of the books sold out within a matter of days.

The image above is the presentation set signed to Lead Graffiti. The image below is the softcover edition.

The four-panel wraparound cover is printed in metallic silver on Somerset Black Velvet 250 GSM with a handrolled yellow ink along the deckle edge. Jill Cypher of Lead Graffiti produced a linocut illustration which is printed black-on-black on the cover and repeated in white-on-white Mulberry as a flysheet for the essay. We must have listened to "Thunder Road" 50 times during the various stages of this project.

        "The screen door slams
          Mary’s dress waves
          Like a vision she dances across the porch
          As the radio plays..."

Every part of this project, from the creative to the construction, from the cause to the colleagiality, was fun.

You can read more about the project on our blog.

We've heard lots of nice things about the book. We plan on putting a few of them here.

"Dear Mark,

I visited a friend in Edinburgh, Scotland and came home on Monday. I found the envelope with your books on the kitchen table. They arrived safely and without any damage. You packed them well. Thank you.

I am actually overwhelmed. I expected it to be beautiful. I could see that it is beautiful in the internet on this "The unbearable banishment"-blog. I have to confess the pics in the internet don’t cope at all with the real book.

Mark, what can I say to this great, stunning work? This book is worth to drop your knees for. Thank you so much for having this really gorgeous idea. Thank you for not giving up. Thank you for all the love and passion you put in this "job". And I swear you couldn’t have done this job better. FABULOUS!!!"

If you want to read Mark's description of the project which differs slighty from ours, click here.

On December 12, 2017 we noticed the highest price we've seen for the hardback - $3,500. It will be interesting to see if it sells. We've been offered $5,000 for our clamshell presentation copy which is what you see in the photo at the top.


Next book entry : The Multifaceted Mr. Morris