Friday, August 31, 2012

Springsteen on Film: Best Uses of Bruce Songs in the Movies

As illustrated in our post on Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Bruce has had a major impact on cinema through his music, lyrics and iconography. In fact, whole movies have been made based on his songs (The Indian Runner - inspired by “State Trooper”). And in turn, films have had a large impact on Bruce’s music - The Grapes of Wrath and Badlands being the most frequently cited.

This week we're highlighting uses of songs that were not originally written for the movie (which leaves out Philadelphia, Dead Man Walking and The Wrestler):

"The Fuse" in 25th Hour (2002) - Spike Lee's portrait of a convicted drug dealer's last few days of freedom is also a heavy meditation on the aftermath of 9/11. In a film whose parts are more than its whole, the film's lengthy fantasy-tinged coda is a heartbreaker. When Bruce's "The Fuse" (off The Rising) kicks in over the end credits it's both a reprieve from the tension and a continuation of the film's central themes and 9/11 backdrop.

“Out in the Street” and “Drive All Night” in Reign Over Me (2007) – Another film where 9/11 plays a major plot point in this drama about a 9/11 widower played by Adam Sandler trying to move on with his life through the help of an old friend played by Don Cheadle. This movie shows both sides of the Springsteen spectrum as “Out in the Street” scores a joyful jam session between friends while the painful “Drive All Night” is later used as a conduit for Sandler to confront the reality of his tragic loss. Sandler is clearly a large Springsteen fan as Bruce’s songs also appear in Bedtime Stories, Big Daddy and The Wedding Singer.

"I'm on Fire" in No Looking Back (1998) - This minor melodrama from Edward Burns was his third film and probably his least commercially successful (which is really saying something). It is a love triangle set during the winter on the Jersey Shore starring Burns, Lauren Holly and Jon Bon Jovi but ironically featuring three Bruce Springsteen tunes. Of particular note is the use of "I'm on Fire" to score a barroom afternoon tryst between Holly and Burns (the film's villain). The DVD is out of print but it’s on Netflix Instant Watch. The scene perfectly uses Bruce's blend of soul and threat.

"Secret Garden" in Jerry Maguire (1996) - Despite common misconception, this song was not actually written for the movie. It was released the previous year on the Greatest Hits album. Even so, the song is so closely tied to the movie (for better or for worse) that it feels unfair to put it on this list. If you're able to distance yourself from the song's "You Complete Me" Pop 40 association and rewatch the actual scene where Tom Cruise and Renee Zellwegger meet in the dark suburban street on their first date, you might just fall in love with the song all over again.

"The River" in High Fidelity (2000) - This is actually a scene where I'm not a big fan of the use of Springsteen. The film is based on my favorite book and features the only Bruce Springsteen appearance on film. Yet I can't warm to the movie. To reflect on his top five break-ups, the narrator puts on “The River”. But it isn’t used to punctuate the sequence as effectively as it could be from a cinematic perspective. I'm also not certain “The River” is the right choice even though it’s the most popular sad Springsteen song. But hey, it's still "The River" so it's great to hear it in a film anyway.

"Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" in The Heartbreak Kid (2007) - This Farrelly Brothers bomb is underappreciated not only for frankly how bizarre and peculiar a film it is, but also for its use of “Rosalita”. Early on, the film features “Rosalita" as Ben Stiller and his new bride, Malin Ackerman, drive down to Mexico on their honeymoon. The energy and youthful enthusiasm of the song underscores the couple's headfirst dive into marriage and their inability to sing the lyrics to the song hints at their incompatibility. But enough film school analysis, the song rocks! It's great driving music and the scene makes light of Bruce's occasional incoherence. In the DVD audio commentary the Farrelly Brothers remark how they'd been trying to get Springsteen’s music into their films for years. My kind of filmmakers!

"Tunnel of Love" in Walk on Water (2004) - An Israeli drama about a conflicted Mossad agent was one of the last places I expected to hear a Bruce Springsteen song but low and behold they play “Tunnel of Love” and reference Springsteen by name. During a long drive, the lead character puts in a Springsteen CD as an attempt to create a bond with a German character. And it works! Proof that Bruce really is universal.

“Lucky Town” in Lucky You (2007) – Eric Bana riding a motorcycle through the streets of Las Vegas with “Lucky Town” blasting on the soundtrack. Is there any better formula for an opening credits sequence? I must admit the first time I saw the movie, I didn’t even realize it was a Bruce Springsteen song. I instantly started tapping my toes and thought, “This movie knows its country music.” To my embarrassment, it wasn’t until I read the New York Times’ review that I realized it was Bruce. I’ve since thought of Lucky Town as Bruce’s most rockabilly album and the title song has become one of my favorites.

“This Land is Your Land” in Food, Inc. (2008) – I find that the majority of politicized documentaries spend plenty of time exposing issues but no time offering solutions. Food, Inc. is a rare exception that gives tangible suggestions on how we can all work to change the health and safety of the food industry. Playing Springsteen’s live version of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” over the end credits makes the call to action that much stronger.

The picks above are all from the past fifteen years. This is partly because Springsteen’s songs have had an increased cinematic presence during this time period and also because some of the more prevalent uses in the 1980s like Baby It’s You and Light of Day are harder to track down today. These links on IMDB and Wikipedia are a helpful guide to finding films featuring Springsteen's music but both lists are incomplete. Are there any notable uses that haven’t been mentioned? Do you have a favorite Springsteen moment in cinema?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week - Valentine's Day

"They say if you die in your dreams you really die in your bed
But honey last night I dreamed my eyes rolled straight back in my head"
- Valentine's Day, Tunnel of Love

Bruce has written about dreams several times throughout his career; both literal and metaphorical. One of the most famous examples is "The River." In contrast to the lyrics in "The River" - which paint dreams as false hope - the lyrics in "Valentine's Day" present a dream as a moment of arcane reflection that reveals the true importance of life.

"Valentine's Day" is the last song on the Tunnel of Love album and the entire song possesses a dreamlike quality with its lullaby styled melody, absence of a chorus and nearly two minutes of instrumental conclusion.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Springsteen Video of the Week - Thundercrack at Fenway Park (8/15)

The Boss is back in the U.S.A and his first shows back at Fenway quickly became legendary in the Springsteen community with the second night (8/15) boasting a killer set list.

100.7 WZLX Classic Rock posted a series of videos from the shows highlighting some of the top songs. I would have loved to have been there for "Thundercrack" and while the above video isn't great quality, I love listening to Bruce's introduction describing their experience opening for other bands when they were first getting started. Bruce says they had to make convoluted songs in order for them to stand out with the crowd (explains a lot) and that "Thundercrack was their first showstopper." I would have loved to see "Thundercrack" performed back then and would love to see it played now. He's played it five times on the Wrecking Ball tour - twice in Boston. Here's to hoping for a few more performances before the tour wraps up!

We'll be attending Wrigley Field on September 7 and MetLife on September 22. We won't hold out breath for "Thundercrack" on either night, but we will be reporting back on the shows!

Friday, August 24, 2012

OB's Top 5 songs "I've never heard at a concert, but really want to!"

What can I say?  I enjoy a good list.  So even though I've seen Bruce a dozen times before (and gotten to see some rare "once in a lifetime" performances like "The Weight" and "Jailhouse Rock") there are plenty of songs I haven't gotten to that I am really hoping he plays either of the next two times I see him (September 7th at Wrigley Field and September 22nd at Metlife Stadium).

Honorable Mention goes to "The Wrestler" and "Leap Of Faith".  I would love to hear either one of them, but they both just barely missed the cut.

5.  "Ain't Good Enough For You"-  Just in general, I'd like The Promise  to get some more love at live shows.  But in particular this toe tapper would be awesome to hear live!  It's upbeat, got some heartbreaking lyrics which are completely contradicted by some rockabilly-style piano and E Street harmony, and is one of my favorite songs from The Promise.  I can't see Bruce putting this into a setlist, so my best hope is for Bruce to pull a sign requesting this.

4.  "Two Faces"-  Like The Promise, I'm dying to see some more songs from Tunnel Of Love played!  I realize both albums were written when Bruce was going through some issues, and they might just be too personal to play live.  Tunnel Of Love, has so many under-rated songs that'd be great to hear live, but this soul searching ballad tops the list for me.  Like previously mentioned, this one probably won't get played outside of a sign request.  But hey I can still hope, right?

3.  "The River"- This one particularly hurts.  It was a big hit for Bruce and he plays it semi-regularly on tours. I just never seem to be in the right place, at the right time to hear this live.  Fortunately since it was such a big song for Bruce, there's always the possibility Bruce could add it to a setlist, and due to it popularity with the fans, it's also likely there could be a sign for this.  This song is the one I think I have the best chance of hearing, so I'll be keep my fingers crossed.

2.  "The Promise"- I told you I wanted to this album get some more appreciation!  "The Promise" I think is Bruce's best song lyrically.  It's my favorite song off the album of the same name, and probably even one of my top 5 Bruce songs altogether.  It's rare, but not unheard of, for Bruce to put this on a setlist, and I'm sure there will be plenty of signs for it as well.  No matter what else he played that night, I can say with almost certainty this song would be the highlight of the night.

1.  "Incident on 57th Street"- Duh, it's my favorite song.  Of course this one tops the list.  Like "The River", Bruce plays this one somewhat often, but I just haven't been lucky enough to be at any of those shows.  It's always a crowd favorite, and would make this particular blogger very happy!

The coolest thing about this list, is that Bruce has played all of these songs live before.  There's always a chance he could play one, or even all five, on any given night.  It's that sort of variety and appreciation of his fans to not give them any two shows that are alike, that has made Bruce the beloved performer he is today.  And who am I kidding, if he just played "Born to Run" and "Badlands" all night, I'd be happy with that too!  What do you guys say?  What songs would you want to hear live that you've never heard before?  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics Of The Week: "Jack Of All Trades"

"If I had me a gun, I'd find the bastards and shoot 'em on sight
I'm a Jack of all trades, we'll be alright."

Singing about social injustice is nothing new for Bruce. Hell, it's one his trademarks. But his most recent album, and in particular this song have a different feel to it. No longer is Bruce just singing the praises of the working class and the dignity and self satisfaction that comes with honest labor. Now, Bruce is still doing all that but he's clearly labeled who the enemy is as well. And it's not enough to simply label them as enemies, sometimes we need to take matters into our own hands. 

I'm not sure I like this side of Bruce, his anger and bitterness is very divisive. But I know I'm in the minority here, everytime Bruce sings this particular lyric it gets one of the loudest cheers of the night. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Springsteen Video of the Week - The ORIGINAL "Dancing In The Dark" Video

Here, we see the original concept for Bruce's "Dancing In The Dark" music video.  Good.  Lord.  I cringe in vicarious embarrassment for Bruce every time I watched this - it is a difficult four minutes to sit through.  His dancing here can best be described as a cross between Carlton Banks and Elaine Benes.  However, stick around towards the end - Clarence makes a surprising, and very creepy, appearance.  While the final video is now more famous as being a corny time capsule, it is more impressive when you see how much they improved it from its original design. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Lost Songs: "Lovers In The Cold"

Another lost song from Bruce.  This song was written and recorded for Born To Run but never made it.  As I’ve said with the other lost songs, it may not have deserved a place on the current album but is definitely good enough to put on another album or Tracks.  For God’s sake, Tracks is nothing but leftover songs!

“Lovers In The Cold” is good song, far from a classic but certainly a catchy tune.  I probably wouldn’t hold up a sign to hear it in concert, but I wouldn’t go grab a beer if I heard him playing it either.  It’s upbeat enough with an infectious chorus that grows with you on each play.  The quality of the audio leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s just a demo so what can be expected?  As with all the other demos we’ve brought to you on Legends of Springsteen: Lost Songs, I’d love for Bruce to release a better quality version of it.  Till that day,  I’ll just have to settle for YouTube.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week - Spirit in the Night

"We'll pick up Hazy Davy and Killer Joe
And I'll take you all out to where the gypsy angels go"
- Spirit in the Night, Greetings from Asbury Park

Right now there's a really good movie (but not for the faint of heart) called Killer Joe playing in limited release. Whenever I read about it or think about it I can't help thinking about the above lyrics from "Spirit in the Night." The song is not played in the movie (nor would it fit) and isn't referenced anywhere in the dialogue. I don't suspect the playwright Tracy Letts had it in mind when writing the play in 1993 either.

In fact, I doubt anyone except the Bruce obsessives would connect the film with the song. But maybe I'm wrong! Maybe I'm underestimating the staying power of the many vivid characters Bruce has created, especially the large casts assembled in his first two albums. Regardless of the filmmakers' intentions, I've been listening to the song with increased interest the past few days and thank them for that.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Springsteen Video of the Week: "Incident on 57th Street"

Sorry faithful LOS readers, I wish I had more to say but I've been pretty terribly sick the past few days and just can't do a full post. So enjoy my favorite performance of my favorite song.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Springsteen Exhibit at National Constitution Center Closes September 3

As we've previously reported, we are all huge fans of From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. If you haven't had a chance to visit the exhibit yet, time is running out! The exhibit runs through September 3rd and is well worth a visit to pay homage to the Boss. Here's a bit more information about the exhibit courtesy of the National Constitution Center...

Less than one month remains for visitors to experience the smash-hit exhibition From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen, which debuted at the National Constitution Center on February 17 and will conclude its run on September 3, 2012. The Center is the only venue to host From Asbury Park to the Promised Land outside of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. With no future tour dates set, this is truly the last chance to see the exhibition that is “as American as apple pie and fun to boot,” according to Philadelphia Magazine. Legendary radio personality Pierre Robert says “fans can get a rare and wonderful glimpse into the impact this one man from the great Garden State has had on so many people all over the world. It gives me such pleasure that this tribute is here at the National Constitution Center, in the city that was, and still is, such a vital part of the story of Bruce Springsteen.”

The final days of the exhibition coincide with back-to-back concerts by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Those who visit the Center by August 30, 2012 can enter to win a special VIP Springsteen prize pack featuring a pair of tickets to the first Springsteen concert at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday, September 2; an overnight hotel stay at the Holiday Inn Philadelphia-Stadium location; and $50 towards dinner at Xfinity Live! To enter, guests must visit the Center in person and complete an entry form. One lucky winner will be chosen at random on August 31, 2012. The contest is open to residents of Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

What the F---?!?

Editor's Note: While we try to run the classiest of all Springsteen fanblogs, we also are dedicated to exploring every nook and cranny of the Springsteen-iverse.  With that being said, some of the language ahead is salty, so if you usually read the Friday Legends of Springsteen posts as bedtime stories to your children, you may want to skip this week.  

Fuck.  It isn't a word you expect to hear out of Bruce Springsteen.  Throughout most of his career, he has worked a clean act.  I'd speculate that record company executives preferred to keep it this way in order to not to alienate his fanbase.  However, pop culture continues to push the envelope over what is acceptable, and Springsteen has built up a loyal following whose adoration he constantly challenges (with controversial songs such as "American Skin" and "Death To My Hometown").  With these two factors converging, Bruce has started to test the waters of using more profanities in his music.  The first instance occurred on Bruce's 11th studio album, The Ghost of Tom Joad, over 20 years after he made his mark on the scene.  The last track, "My Best Was Never Good Enough", expresses a man's frustration with various cliches, as Bruce sings:

The early bird catches the fucking worm

The song sounds disturbingly dated (quoting Forrest Gump at the end) and uses a couple of other naughty words.  It doesn't sound true to Bruce's nature, as it seems he wasn't sure how he wanted to make his foray into the new world of swearing.  It would be ten years before Bruce would drop the f-bomb again, this time in the Devils & Dust track "Long Time Comin'".  This fantastic song tells the story of a man getting rid of his past demons and starting a new life.  When the narrator finds out he is going to be a father (again), he wishes that 

I ain't gonna fuck it up this time

As opposed to "My Best", this song was much better constructed and told a powerful story that the use of "fuck" ends up being an exclamation point on the message of the song.  In "My Best", the cursing was just out of frustration with his situation.  Here, he curses out of the self-doubt and fear every parent has.  He knows the suffering he had in his life, and he is reminding himself that he is responsible for making sure that this does not happen to his children.  Of the three songs I'm spotlighting here, this is the only one I had the chance to see performed live (during the Seeger Sessions Tour).  The audience knew that the f-bomb was coming, and erupted in applause after the line.  

The final use of "fuck" to date was in "Queen of the Supermarket", a corny love song that ranks among the worst of Bruce's songs.  It is a lovey-dovey ballad to a blue-collar worker that drives Bruce mad with desire.  Towards the end of the song, Bruce informs us that she has a smile

That blows this whole fucking place apart

Here, rather than cursing in fear and anger, he is shouting out in the name of love.  It seems like a desperate plea to make us truly buy into the romance of this song.  "I love her guys.  I love her.  I FUCKING love her!"  The song ends with a cash register beeping, a beeping which could've been used over Bruce's f-bomb earlier.  

While it is interesting to see Bruce experiment with dirtier language, the results have not been good, as he is just one-for-three in effective uses of "fuck". While it would be easy to say that it just doesn't "fit" Bruce, I feel that pidgeon-holes him, and sets expectations for an artist that has consistently tried to shed the labels given to him.  I feel the error in his use of "fuck" so far has been a lack of commitment - it seems that the use of it has been half-hearted and worked in after the fact, rather than essential to the lyrics.  Given how angry "Wrecking Ball" was, I fully expect to see more cursing from Bruce in the future, and I see them being in a different context than the previous songs.  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week - Blinded By The Light

"Madman drummers bummers and Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat
In the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps his way into his hat"
--Blinded By The Light, Greetings from Asbury Park

I know we've just recently discussed this song in a lyrics of the week post,  but I wanted to call special attention to it again, as this was the first song on Bruce's first album.  These two lines, with their plethora of internal rhymes and nonsense imagery, are what Bruce chose to make his first impact on the musical world with.  While this was a risky move, the lyrics displayed youthful playfulness and energy, encapsulating the strongest element of Springsteen's career at the time - his live performances.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Springsteen Video of the Week: Better Man

In 2004 many big names in music came together for the "Vote for Change" tour.  Although officially non-partisan, nearly every performer encouraged concert goers to vote for Democratic candidate John Kerry, instead of the Republican incumbent George W. Bush.  The shows were held in swing states, and even though they drew big crowds and raised money, the tour's effect on the election was negligible.  None of the states that featured shows on the tour went differently than predicted in pre-election polls.   But hey at least we got some great music out of it.

Case in point, Bruce Springsteen performing with Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder.  Vedder is a huge Springsteen fan, and has covered him numerous times in the past.  And although Eddie and Bruce did jam along to some E Street classics, Bruce paid respect to Pearl Jam when they played this song.  It's kinda hard not to laugh at Bruce at this performance as he clearly doesn't know the song that well and sings it like a bad karaoke song. But oh well, it's fun anyways.  Enjoy!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Better Things- Ray Davies featuring Bruce Springsteen

The Kinks are one of the coolest bands in the history of rock n' roll.  I never think of them when discussing great bands but their name should be brought up more often.  Their killer riffs were a huge influence on punk and metal. They were absolutely vital to the British Invasion, and rock music in general.  Unfortunately differences within the band, specifically the 2 brothers Ray and Dave Davies, have caused the band to break up.

Last year Ray Davies put out a great CD called See My Friends which featured him and some of the biggest names in rock to re-record some classic Kinks songs.  The album kicks off with a great version of "Better Things" featuring our boy, Bruce Springsteen.  The whole album is great though, with appearances by Bon Jovi, Metallica, Billy Corgan, Jackson Browne, and Alex Chilton just to name a few.   I definitely recommend buying it.  Don't steal it.  We at Legends of Springsteen don't condone such actions.  Maybe Rory does, but this is my article.  So without further ado...

"I hope tomorrow you'll find better things".

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

4 hours in Finland!

Wow!  What a way to close out the European leg of  The Wrecking Ball Tour! A 4 hour show, filled with plenty of rarely played songs, covers and of course Bruce classics. I had been looking at some of the setlists in Europe and had noticed the setlists seemed longer than normal. But 4 hours!!!  Wow!  And that's not even counting that Bruce came out and did some acoustic songs for the crowd who was there early. How cool is that?  Bruce opening for Bruce!  Now I'm even more excited to see Bruce this fall!

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week - This Depression

"This is my confession,
I need your heart, in this depression"
- This Depression, Wrecking Ball

Continuing on the theme of last week’s article in The New Yorker, “This Depression” from Wrecking Ball takes on a new persona in light of Bruce’s comments about struggling with depression. It comes as a surprise to think that someone who seems as unbelievably happy with his job, that someone who has brought so much joy to millions of people, can feel a lack of self-worth and suffer from depression. In our quick take, we even expressed skepticism that Bruce could feel as low as the narrator of the song. But Bruce’s own admission suggests that he can. I’ve always found it strange that this was one of the two songs from Wrecking Ball that hadn't been played on the tour. Then, just last week in Norway, he played it for the first time. I initially assumed he wasn’t as proud of it but perhaps, up until now, it just felt too personal to play it live.