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.
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?
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
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:
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.”
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