Somewhere in the Swamps of Jersey – A Six-pack of Springsteen

Why Bruce? Well, he “won” my blogger’s playlist and then I got to thinking about him and listening to him and I thought, well, why not?

First up – Back in early 1973, Bruce and the lads were hard at work on their second album, The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle. (There was a 1959 movie called The Wild and the Innocent and I’ve always assumed he got the title there.)

One of the tunes recorded around that time but which never made it onto the album is “The Fever.” It got a lot of play on FM radio but was never officially released until a 1999 compilation album called 18 Tracks. This song is better, IMHO, than a fair chunk of his stuff – bluesy, soulful, jazzy – it hit all the right notes.

Spotify link

Anybody with a modicum of rock and roll knowledge knows that that album – despite getting generous amounts of airplay in the Philly-Jersey-NYC-Boston nexus – pretty much went nowhere. Bruce’s last chance power drive was his next album, Born to Run which he put everything he could into and well, the rest is history.

Springsteen is famous for sweating the details of every single album – what fits, what doesn’t fit, what sounds great, what doesn’t. And so a tune he recorded around then, “So Young and In Love,” didn’t surface until a 1998 compilation album, Tracks, which preceded the stripped down 18 Tracks (for the casual fan they said.)

This is nothin’ but a good-time party song about, well, being young and in love. And who can argue with that?

Spotify link

In 1980, Bruce released the double album The River, behind which he recently toured. I saw the last show of that tour and by then he had pretty much abandoned the album, for some reason favoring much of his early catalog.

One of the most beautiful songs on the album and my wife’s favorite song of his is “Point Blank.” Wikipedia says this is one of the songs on the album that deals with the conflict between dreams and reality. Springsteen has stated that one of the themes of the song is the fact that if you ease up as you get older, you effectively cease to exist.

And I was gonna be your Romeo, you were gonna be my Juliet
These days you don’t wait on Romeos you wait on that welfare check
And on all the promises that you can’t ever have
And on all the promises that always end up point blank
Shot between the eyes

Spotify link

By 1992, with the exception of keyboardists Roy Bittan and the returning David Sancious, Springsteen had largely discarded the E Street band for, one assumes, a new approach. (They were to reunite in 1999). In ’92 he released the album Human Touch (oddly on the same day as an album named Lucky Town.)

Again, there’s an outtake from this album that I really like. (I didn’t intend this to be an outtake post or even realize that much of it was that till now.) The song “Sad Eyes” showed up on the previously mentioned Tracks, an album that got better as it went along. Another one of those melancholy love songs with a catchy hook:

Spotify link

Yeah, that’s all well and good but isn’t Bruce a rock ‘n roller? Didn’t he once say, sagely, “I’m a rocker, baby I’m a rocker?” Yes, yes he did in those exact words. Bruce has been doing the “Detroit Medley” for years and years. I found this write-up on it from a blogger who seems to have disappeared from the interwebs:

“Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels had a top 10 hit in the 60s with a single that combined the traditional blues song “CC Rider” with Little Richard’s “Jenny, Jenny” (aka “Jenny Take a Ride”). Wanting to repeat the formula, Ryder & the Detroit Wheels paired “Devil With The Blue Dress” — a hit for Shorty Long on Motown’s Soul label — with “Good Golly Miss Molly,” another Little Richard classic. They reached no. 4 in 1966, creating a sonic boom forever associated with Detroit. Bruce Springsteen most of the time uses all four songs for the “Detroit Medley.”

Spotify link

In 1984, flush with his success, our hero went Hollywood and married actress Julianne Phillips, a marriage made in heaven and one that would last … five years. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if you want your life to be private, do not marry a songwriter. Writers are always looking for something to write about and while love songs are great, break-up songs are even better. (Witness Taylor Swift’s entire catalog.)

In 1987, Bruce released Tunnel of Love which dealt with Springsteen’s marital strife. Music critic Steven Hyden: “If Ingmar Bergman had been born in Freehold and cut his artistic teeth at the Stone Pony, he would’ve made this record in place of Scenes From a Marriage.

Totally ’80s production aside … this album represents the heaviest blues of Springsteen’s career. The songs are about men and women who flirt, have sex, fall in love, get married, get bored, have sex with other people, and wind up stuck in the middle of that dark night from the second disc of The River.” Your humble reporter couldn’t have said it better himself.

This is “One Step Up.”

It’s the same thing night on night
Who’s wrong baby who’s right
Another fight and I slam the door 
Another battle in our dirty little war

When I look at myself I don’t see
The man I wanted to be
Somewhere along the line I slipped off track
I’m caught movin’ one step up and two steps back

Spotify link

36 thoughts on “Somewhere in the Swamps of Jersey – A Six-pack of Springsteen

  1. A six pack from The Boss works for me anytime!

    I can’t quite explain what it is about Springsteen. After a while his songs start sounding repetitive, and his voice isn’t particularly outstanding. And yet the whole package just works time and again!

    I guess it’s the combination of mostly simple songs with catchy hooks, combined with nice storytelling about the everyday guy – very relatable.

    Springsteen is also one of the greatest live acts I’ve seen over the decades – I suppose this makes me sound really old.

    My first show was in Frankfurt, Germany in the 80s in the wake of the “Tunnel of Love” album. After the first part of the concert, which basically was a greatest hits compilation, Springsteen mostly played covers of soul classics – Clarence Clemons and the rest of the E Street Band were kicking ass – what a hell of a band!

    I caught Springsteen again in good ole’ New Jersey a couple of years ago during “The River Tour 2016,“ a four-hour gig! If it would have been up to Bruce, who appeared to be in a trance-like state, he would have kept it going, but I guess they ran up against their noise permit!😜

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    1. I think Bruce has a nice variety of tunes, but yeah, there is a “Springsteen sound” where I sometimes say, “I think I’ve heard this before.” But that’s true of a lot of artists who largely write alone. So there’s a Petty blueprint, a Dave Mathews stereotype song, etc. Greatest live shows ever. Four hours 2 minutes at that last show. No intermission. And he was what, 67? There’s hope for geezers like me yet! BTW, I have to defend Bruce’s voice here. Outstanding in every respect, IMHO.

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        1. Yes, that’s how you keep a dummy busy. As to the picture, yeah they look more like something out of a modern-day Dickens than a band. I think they’re twelve years old here.

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        2. That’s how CB and his buddies dressed. Something cool bout the no pretense about the pic. ‘Hey guys we need a photo for the album, get your ass down here”. Look at the wardrobes, especially on Lopez and Clarence. These guys did not have a lot of dough. Love that pic.

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  2. I don’t know a couple of these, but One Step Up is one of my favourites from Tunnel of Love, The Fever rules (why couldn’t they ditch Wild Billy’s Circus Story for it?), and Sad Eyes is my about the best thing he did in the 1990s.

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    1. Good point about ditching Wild Billy for The Fever. That would have made a great album even better. Bruce wasn’t always the best judge of what to put on an album. Sometimes he left some of the better stuff off. It’s a wonder he put Born to Run on Born to Run! He himself admitted he was absent during much of the ’90’s

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        1. It’s funny but when I would first listen to that album, I used to not hear that one. Then my wife would sing along with it and I started to listen to it and appreciate it. So yeah, while I like it, if they had put that on Tracks and added The Fever to this album, well, that wouldn’t bother me at all.

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  3. A Springsteen 6 pack is a nearly impossible feat. There’s just been too much great stuff for too long. Another EStreet Shuffle outtake that I love is Seaside Bar Song…a tremendous rock n roll rave up. And from the Human Touch era; the duet with Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave) on Man’s Job is fantastic.
    Usually I avoid bonus tracks as much as possible. But the outstanding quality of the recordings on the Tracks box set and The Promise boggles the mind. 6 songs??? Where to begin?

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    1. Well, I wouldn’t get too overwrought about it. You just pick a bunch of songs and narrow it down. It’s not the all-time list, list a bunch of picks. Springsteen doesn’t come out at a show and say, I have so many songs, what can I possibly play? Out of the hundreds he has and knows he just picks, what 20 songs? And plays them. He’s not saying, “These are the definitive 20.” He’s saying these are the 20 (or whatever) I choose this night. So a six-pack is just a snapshot in time and could just as easily be six others some other time.

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  4. A really fine pick of Springsteen tunes here, Jim. Its nice to see Point Blank and the alternative cut of Sad Eyes included (agreed that Tracks is a collection that gets better as it goes on… some really brilliant stuff on there).

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    1. Funny you should mention that. I have the Springsteen channel on Sirius. Yesterday as I was driving home they were playing “Fever” by Southside/Bruce. I think it was live. As to “Detroit Medley,” yeah that’s awesome. He did it last time I saw him as part of a request. It’s pretty amazing but Max hammers away on the drums for like, 10 minutes while Bruce goes out in the audience and gathers signs with song names on them and then chooses some.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I could talk about every cut. Yeah I have SJ doing that on a studio album (Ithink they credit Clarence on bg vocals with another name) and a live album. I was going to talk about Johnny in your horn take. He put them to good use. He made it to the west coast and old CB was there being groovy.

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        1. I saw them as peers with Bruce, Steve and a bunch of those guys interchanging bands in the early days. Johnny has or had a real edge. back then. When I seen him he had no problem letting you know what he thought of certain popular music. I dug his music plus it was a place to hear Bruce songs that he gave SJ.

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        2. I thought you’d be all over tht. The second album is kind of a tribute to I guess his roots and inspirations. Vocal groups you dig like the Drifters, Coasters, Satins. Bruce and Steve all over it. Was a bit of a departure for me but it grew on me. All the songs you featured are playing in my head. Later.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, don’t misunderstand. I don’t hate it. It’s a good song. But when you only got seven songs. In fact, in thinking about it, it would have fit in nicely on ‘Asbury Park’ and then ‘Fever’ on ‘E Street.’

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        1. Excellent idea! Never even occurred to me. All my commuting time is music time, never talk radio, NPR, nothing. I’ll check it out. Thanks.

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