Bruce Springsteen – (Final of 4 – This Boardwalk Life is Through)

First post here:

Congregation gathers down by the riverside
Preacher stands with a bible, groom stands waitin’ for his bride
Congregation gone and the sun sets behind a weepin’ willow tree
Groom stands alone and watches the river rush on so effortlessly
Wonderin’ where can his baby be
Still at the end of every hard earned day

People find some reason to believe

I confess that I followed Bruce a lot more in his first twenty years than I did in the subsequent twenty. I keep tabs on him, listen for any good songs, etc. But of the ten or so albums he’s put out since the early ’90’s (including a tribute to Pete Seeger), I’ve bought one, “Magic.” (Two if you count the B-side, unreleased song CD “Tracks.”) And “Magic” only because we were going to the show in support of that album. Springsteen himself said of his output in the ’90’s –  in a Rolling Stone interview – that it was a “lost period. I didn’t do a lot of work.”

Still, of those albums he released, I’d argue the most notable is “The Rising,” Bruce’s musings on the 9/11 disaster. A number of the firefighters who died were from his county in New Jersey. And apparently it was not uncommon for him to pick up the phone and talk to family members of those who died. He did this quietly as I did not even know this till I read it in a magazine I picked up. (Uncut: The Ultimate Collector’s Edition, published in the UK.)

I could post “The Rising” here or “My City of Ruins.” Instead I’ll go with this live version of the joyous “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day.” This is just a fun song with a great, catchy melody proving once again that even Bruce needs to get away from singing about the downtrodden every once in a while:

Not all of “Tracks” works but I really love the song, “Sad Eyes.” (“Thundercrack” is a great, loose tune but perhaps deemed too similar to the first two albums. Some of the stuff Bruce doesn’t release is better than the stuff he does).

Randy Jackson, the guy who was a judge on American Idol for so long, plays bass on some of the tunes on the album. (Bruce disbanded or downplayed E Street Band for a number of years starting with 1992’s “Human Touch” only rekindling with their 1999 Reunion tour. Interestingly, he turned 50 that year. Midlife thing? Beats me.)

I mentioned Bruce’s 2007 “Magic” album as being the last one I bought. I admit it didn’t knock my socks off. Too much of it seemed generic and warmed-over. Or maybe my ears were just tired. I intend to give it another listen soon. However, the kick-off song – “Radio Nowhere” – proves that Bruce and the E Street Band could still rock.

This is radio nowhere, is there anybody alive out there?
This is radio nowhere, is there anybody alive out there?
Is there anybody alive out there?

And so we come to the end of our excursion into the land (and mind) of one Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen. I wasn’t even able to get to “Human Touch” or “Lucky Town” or a bunch of other stuff. (Recorded mostly with studio musicians. And the return of David Sancious!) If you’re a fan, you may have heard them or some of the others. If not – and you like what you heard on these pages – there’s plenty to check out.

Now having gone back and reviewed much of his output over 40-some years, it only confirms my opinion that Bruce Springsteen is a unique artist in the musical firmament. He tells sweeping cinematic stories about people from the wrong side of the tracks or those who are yearning for something that they can maybe never find. He is easily one of our greatest songwriters not only in rock and roll but, in my observation, a descendant (like Dylan) of Woody Guthrie and the best folk traditions.

As a performer? Is he the best ever? Well, maybe not. But tell me who’s better.

Does he get stuck in that “fighting for the working class” mode perhaps too often? Sure but I’d rather hear about the Tom Joads of the world than the upper crust. Let them write their own albums about the price of caviar or whatever.

–Wait, what? An encore? You didn’t think I was going to end this series and NOT do “Rosalita,” did you? Impossible. When he plays this as an encore at his shows, I sing at the top of my lungs and then my head explodes and people run for the exits, frightened.

This is a live version from 1978. Even if you don’t watch the whole thing, be sure to scroll ahead to the end where he gets positively fucking mauled by a couple of ladies from the audience. And you know, someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny.

You don’t have to call me lieutenant, Rosie, and I don’t want to be your son
The only lover I’m ever gonna need’s your soft, sweet, little girl’s tongue
And Rosie, you’re the one

Bruce, man, thank you. If I ever get a ticket to one of your shows again, I will happily allow you to allow me to pick the set list. 🙂

Also, I dedicate these posts to two fallen E Street members – Clarence Clemons whose sax and personal presence helped power the band for so many years. (Suggest reading his book, “Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales,” which, as much as anything, is about being a black man in a white rocker’s world).

And Danny Federici, keyboardist extraordinaire. Who the hell else plays organ, glockenspiel and accordion? Anyway, you both left us too soon. Much love, guys.

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

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Next post – The genesis of British blues

 

6 thoughts on “Bruce Springsteen – (Final of 4 – This Boardwalk Life is Through)

  1. We subscribe to Sirius satellite and one of our pre-set channels is Bruce. They play a lot of concerts but every now and again I hear something from one of those albums. Of the two, which do you like best?

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    1. I like High Hopes more, but there’s not much between them actually. High Hopes was partially recorded here in Australia and features a great cover of a song by a great Australian band The Saints (Just like Fire would).

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  2. Reading this while listening to Exile on Main Street…”Let them write their own albums about the price of caviar or whatever.” – Great line! I hear that Human Touch and Lucky Town were apparently when he lost his way, although some people like them and Apparently Wrecking Ball is the strongest album he’s done recently.

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  3. I have “Exile” in my car and slap it in the CD player no less than every 5 weeks or so. Fave album of all time, never get tired of it. Come to think of it, I may be overdue for a listen. 😀

    For whatever reason, I guess he released both Human Touch and Lucky Town on the same day. I’m in the middle of listening to Human Touch. It sounds pretty good. I think he got trashed more on Lucky Town.

    And I just read that Rolling Stone said that Wrecking Ball was the best album of 2012 and got nominated for several Grammys. Like I said in the posts, I track Bruce but not so scrupulously any more. I’m sure I’ll get to those eventually, just don’t know when.

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  4. Yeah, well I’ve never been one for following the current careers of my favourite artists from the 60s and 70s, who are now classed as ‘the older set’ now, so I don’t have much interest in those records. I’ve still got to collect some of the pioneers! 😉

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