"Well Cherry says she's gonna walk
'Cause she found out I took her radio and hocked it
But Eddie, man, she don't understand
That two grand's practically sitting here in my pocket"
- Meeting Across The River, Born To Run
We’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again now: Bruce Springsteen is the greatest storyteller in Rock N’ Roll. “Meeting Across The River” is one of his best story-songs, and it’s fitting that it goes on the album that tells the best story, Born To Run. All the preceding songs on Born to Run seem to take place in New Jersey but this song bridges (pun-intended) the album to New York City, the setting for the finale of “Jungleland” which closes out the album.
“Meeting Across The River” is about a wannabe criminal who doesn’t seem to be able to get it right. The details of the song are unclear, but the message is not: If he screws up, he’ll be killed. The unnamed protagonist seems not to be the most skilled criminal, but in his mind he’s Don Corleone. When he asks his friend Eddie for help with his latest situation, he gives him the promise of the big payoff but then shows his naivety with the above-quoted lyric. If the payoff is so great, then the task can’t be that easy.
Bruce rarely plays this one live, but when he does, no one gets up to get a beer or go to the bathroom. All eyes are on Bruce Springsteen and he never fails to deliver. The lack of instruments in this song, including percussion, really set the scene of desperation and self delusion. The piano really picks up at the end of this song, again playing along with the emotions of the protagonist, but then slows down and fade out. The trumpet, and somber piano coda to the song seems to imply that Eddie and the protagonist weren’t successful. Oh well, they weren’t successful but Bruce definitely was when he wrote this classic.