Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Springsteen Video Of The Week: "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)"

"Oh Sandy" - "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)"

I hope this post doesn't come off as too dismissive and insensitive.  I want to start off by saying I have absolutely no intent of making jokes or light of the situation.  But for those of us on the East Coast the only story this week has been Hurricane Sandy and the damage caused.   And even last night, Bruce had to postpone his show in Rochester, NY.  I hope everyone who is reading this is safe. I know it seems inappropriate to be thinking of Bruce in times of such tragedy. But right now, I can tell you that I'm doing fine and have been very lucky throughout the storm and its aftermath.  Other's haven't been, and New Jersey seems to have taken a particularly bad beating.  

I chose this as the lyrics of the week just because this song is so identified with Bruce and the Jersey shore, which has been absolutely demolished.  I can't imagine anyone from that area, hearing this song and not associating "Sandy" the song with Hurricane Sandy.  People lost their property, their businesses and homes.  And even some lost their lives.  It may seem trivial to consider Bruce in a time like this, but for those of who are lucky enough to come out of this unscathed, listening to Bruce has actually been a great distraction and comfort to the anarchy outside.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Springsteen Video of the Week - Forward

Well, it's another presidential election, and another round of Bruce trying to woo the voters of Ohio.  What is funny is that this song elicits numerous different reactions, primarily based on people's personal politics.  While the Democrats in the audience laugh and cheer throughout the video, the conservatives on Youtube have let their opinion been know with a variety of scathing comments (although I'm not sure what to make of the comment: "I can say with pride I have spent a dime to purchase one of his albums").  As of the time I'm writing this, the video has 60 likes and 36 dislikes - the opinion on this video is as split as the current polls.  Personally, I think Bruce isn't as fired up for the election as he was in 2008 (or even 2004 with Kerry), unimpressed with both candidates, and basically phoned in this little ditty - but that may be me projecting my own feelings as well.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Great Moments in Springsteen Television History - The Office, Crime Aid

In this classic episode of The Office, Michael Scott is holding an auction to try to raise money to replace the office equipment that had been stolen due to his negligence.  Many of the items in the auction are undesirable (save for a weekend in Martha's Vineyard and a hug from Phyllis), and Michael Scott has to come up with a gift that will be universally appealing to everyone in the office.  You need something that will appeal to a very diverse workplace - the staff runs the gamut from young and old, with different races, backgrounds, and even sexual orientations.  The choice of front row Springsteen tickets is perfect - it both fits the criteria and maintains the show's realistic setting.  Choosing a young "hot" musician or a musician who NBC is trying to promote (i.e. someone who would be performing on SNL that week) would distract from the reality created in the show and make the episode feel phony and dated.  But what really cements this as a great moment in Springsteen television history is Michael Scott's knowledge of Bruce's song catalog.  It was partially the inspiration behind the Bruce rip-off article I wrote, although rewatching that clip, I now regret not putting Tracy Chapman and Randy Newman on that list.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics Of The Week: "I Wanna Be With You"

"I don't understand it,
you're not pretty at all.
But I'll come when you whisper,
I'll run when you call. " - "I Wanna Be With You", Tracks

Bruce has never been the shallow type.  He rarely mentions a girl's physical appearance and instead relies on describing the beauty of her soul and the connection he has with her.  You can tell by the way Bruce sings about her, that in his eyes it's the most beautiful girl in the world, it'd almost be insulting to talk about her physical attributes in such a way.  Occasionally he does, but it's not often.  But in this song, one that sings of devotion (bordering on obsession), he makes a specific point of saying that she isn't a good looking girl.  Ouch.  I mean even in "Thunder Road" she wasn't a beauty, but hey she's alright.

What's great about these lyrics is it's not if the singer was saying "hey ugly, you're not gonna do any better than me, so you might as well take it."  The singer is perplexed by this undying love too, but doesn't question it.  I've always loved this song, and can't believe it didn't get released until Tracks, and even since then is rarely played live.  It's a shame, but despite the catchy chorus and infectious guitar riff lies some great lyrics.  If Bruce stripped this down, and played it at just a piano at a slower tempo it'd be a beautiful ballad.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Springsteen Video Of The Week: Bruce On Letterman 1995

Sorry to our faithful readers for this not being up earlier today  But better late than never, right?  To make up for it here's a double video for this week.


This was a great performance for so many reasons.  First and foremost, it's Bruce Springsteen.  That can never be a bad thing as far as I'm concerned.  Secondly, after the whole "Tonight Show" debacle after Johnny Carson retired, and a war broke out between Jay Leno and David Letterman over who got to host, which Letterman lost and had to take his talent over to CBS to have a rival show, Letterman seemed kind of bitter towards show business.  But not that night, Letterman is having a blast, riffing with his band, Bruce and The E Street Band, and the audience.  He's off the cuff, and truly enjoying himself.  Dave has always been a Bruce fan, and treated him well.  Something Bruce has shown his appreciation by, by never doing "The Tonight Show" and staying loyal to Letterman.  Very admirable.  Thirdly, this was the reunion for the E Street Band after Bruce had broken away in the late 1980's.  This was Stevie Van Zandnt's first performance in I believe 10 years with the E Street Band.  And finally... It's just a damn good performance.  Bruce and the band were on that night, and the fans in the Ed Sullivan theater got a great performance out of it.  It would take another 4 years before the band would fully reunite and tour together, but this definitely laid the groundwork, and shown them that the world had not forgotten the legendary E Street Band.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Book Review: The Light in Darkness by Lawrence Kirsch

Part coffee table book and part rock ‘n’ roll history saga, “The Light in Darkness” contains a collection of personal essays and photos from the Darkness on the Edge of Town tour. Meticulously compiled by Lawrence Kirsch, the words and images paint a picture of the profound effect Darkness on the Edge of Town had – both on Springsteen’s career and the fans that connected with it.

In the wake of the lawsuit between Bruce and former manager Mike Appel that kept Bruce out of the recording studio for several years, Springsteen and The E Street Band released Darkness on the Edge of Town in 1978. The album’s reputation is quickly becoming cemented as Bruce’s most challenging but richest album. In addition to its own merit, Darkness’ status has been aided by compelling textual and visual supplements that have bolstered its reputation. If you weren’t sold on Darkness before, reading the first-hand accounts lovingly compiled in "The Light in Darkness" will certainly have you revisiting the album.

From entries by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Josh Olson (A History of Violence) to Springsteen blogger Pete Chianca (Blogness on the Edge of Town) to a factory worker in Nigeria, the book offers a wide variety of tales. The one similarity is that all roads lead to Springsteen.

The best entrants, like Springsteen, are good storytellers. One of the standouts is Brian Schmuck who recounts his odyssey to see Bruce perform at the feted Agora concert in Cleveland on August 9, 1978. Meanwhile, the pictures that line the pages are evocative and multi-faceted. They seem to change significance between your first glance and your second.

"The Light in Darkness" is a remarkable work of curating and an excellent complement to The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story. A limited edition printing, there are only around 200 copies left of "The Light in Darkness," which can be ordered directly here. It’s a must for Darkness diehards.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week - A Night with the Jersey Devil

"16 witches, cast 16 spells
Make me guitar outta skin and human skull
Sing you a song like the wind in the sandy loam
Bring you baby out'cha your happy home"
- A Night with the Jersey Devil, Working On A Dream

As mentioned in the inception of this blog, this is my least favorite Springsteen song.  In fact, the Working album has yet to worm its way into my heart in the slightest.  With Halloween around the corner, I decided to play this song for the first time since it earned the illustrious title of "Least Favorite Springsteen Song".  As it turns out, I remembered it better than I thought I would.  An unoriginal jazz riff, corny "spooky" sounds, and an awful vocal effect that makes the already difficult to understand Springsteen even more unintelligible all combine to make the song almost impossible to listen to.  I had to look up the lyrics, which, surprisingly, told a violent and grim story, up until the part spotlighted above.  At this point, the haunting Jersey Devil becomes a dangerous....rock star?  Springsteen's bread-and-butter has been writing about the tales of the blue collar heroes, but he should leave the Halloween tunes in the more capable hands of the great Bobby Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Springsteen Video Of The Week: "Take 'Em As They Come"

NOTE:  Bruce drops a few "F-bombs" in the intro to this video.  So if'you're at work, or got kids around, you might want to hold off on this one

I found this video on YouTube last week when I did my lyrics of the week of the this same song.  This is video might show the most accurate depiction of Bruce and his fans.  It's almost as if Bruce knew he would be at multiple shows, and held off waiting till the time was right.  And this fan, never gave up hope, never thought that Bruce would disappoint him.  And Bruce rewards that faith with his "ask and you shall receive" mentality.  When Steve and I went to show at Wrigley Field this summer, Steve had mentioned that Bruce had started off by testing the fans a little bit.  Almost to see if we would abandon Bruce (of course we never did), and when he was sure of it, BAM!  That's when Bruce comes out swinging and ready to partyAnd this fan, and his family with him, are just about the happiest people I've ever seen at a Bruce concert.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Under the Influence of Springsteen: The Killers

With the release of Battle Born last month, The Killers further revealed the Bruce Springsteen influence that was accentuated with the release of Sam’s Town in 2006. For further credibility this time, they even enlisted producer Brendan O’Brien (Devils & Dust, Magic) for the album.

“Runaways” – the album’s first single – makes little effort to hide its Springsteen sensibility in its lyrics and music video imagery. A fast-paced toe-tapper, the single encompasses both the escape promised in Born to Run ("Let’s take a chance baby we can't lose") and the sinking feeling of failure in Darkness on the Edge of Town ("I recognize the girl but I can't settle in these walls").

In addition to similar themes and evocative lyrics, it’s the strong sense of location that creates the clearest connection to Springsteen. The Killers are resolutely a product of Las Vegas: the shallow characters they sing about, the flashy excess of their music and the lack of a real band identity. Like Vegas, they are nothing and everything at the same time.

Since the breakout success of “Somebody Told Me” in 2004, front man Brandon Flowers has been working really hard to distinguish The Killers as something more than the pop confection they were perceived to be when they first hit the scene. He's had some minor success in doing so. Over the years, his imagery has gotten much more distinct without letting go of the pop trappings that defined them. Critical response has been middling throughout their career though and reviews for Battle Born aren’t glowing.

In the face of critical shrugs, The Killers have slowly revealed an unexpected depth to their music. Their storytelling isn’t as vivid and the characters aren’t as nuanced as the ones you’ll find in Springsteen’s music but certain tracks like “Heart of a Girl” (Battle Born) or “Dustland Fairytale” (Day & Age), paint a strong picture with a clear sense of time and place.

If the above sounds overly critical of The Killers, it’s perhaps an effort to protect myself from worshiping them. I’ve loved The Killers ever since I bought Hot Fuss and I’ll never stop. I haven't been able to embrace them unashamedly though. I always feel the need to qualify or justify my appreciation. No matter how hard they try or how clear their ties to Springsteen, I don’t think that will ever change.

Here are my selections for The Killers’ most Springsteen-sounding songs:


Heart of a Girl

Dustland Fairytale

For Reasons Unknown

When You Were Young

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week: "Take 'Em As They Come"

"Little girl, put on your best dress
cause we're going out on the town tonight.
Better bring along a switchblade,
Cause for sure some fool's gonna wanna fight."  - "Take "Em As They Come", Tracks

This is one of those cheesy Springsteen lines you just kinda have to chuckle at.  Here you have a guy who clearly likes a girl and wants to impress her with a night on the town.  But just in case things get a little out of hand, he tells her to bring a switchblade.  You know, in case they get into a little hand-to-hand combat with some of the other locals.  Maybe he's trying to impress the girl, by showing a little bit of an element of danger, or maybe he's being honest and really is telling her she needs protection.  Either way, I can't imagine it worked out well for them.  But hey what do I know?  I'm the single guy.  Perhaps I'll start making weapons a prerequisite for a date.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Springsteen Video Of The Week: "Stand On It"

Sorry to our fans: I'm going to phone it in this week. It's a 3 day weekend and I'm enjoying it by reuniting with my old college roomates. So I picked this video soley based on the fact that there's a line about Columbus discovering America and I found it fitting for Columbus Day. But hey it's a pretty cool performance of a good song. So enjoy!

Friday, October 5, 2012

First Draft: Child Bride

Earlier this week Rory mentioned how the lyrics from "Working On The Highway" "if read out of context of the music and other lyrics, it could easily be mistaken for a song from Nebraska."  Well he's right!  "Working On The Highway" was originally written for Nebraska. But Bruce decided to hold on to it, jazz it up, add a catchy chorus and bingo!  We have the beloved version of "Working On The Highway" that we all know and love today.

First off, let me start off by saying this was a fantastic decision.  "Child Bride" is just an awful name for a song, and would be really hard to defend as a fan.  Secondly, even though I love Nebraska and his other folk albums, this song just sounds so much better as the uptempo toe-tapper that we all know today.  That's not to say the song doesn't have it's merit.  "Child Bride" is much more akin to the somber lyrics.  "Working on the Highway" is paradoxical to it's lyrics.With rockabilly guitar licks, a snappy beat and an incredibly catchy chorus, "Working On The Highway" is always a favorite in concert.  I can't really imagine fans holding up signs for "Child Bride" in concert.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week - Working on the Highway

I saved up my money and I put it all away
I went to see her daddy but we didn't have much to say
"Son can't you see that she's just a little girl
She don't know nothing about this cruel cruel world"
--"Working on the Highway", Born in the USA

Springsteen's sense of humor has been a subject of discussion recently on this blog.  "Working on the Highway" is another song I immediately associate with Springsteen's funny side.  However, this is due to the rockabilly style and over-the-top crotch thrusts that are staples of his live performances.  The tale actually told in this song is more sardonic.  The narrator works on the highway dreaming of a better life, gets in trouble while pursuing a girl, and ends up in prison, where he is back working on the highway.  In the end, his freedom and his imprisonment were the same.  The above passage is my favorite part of the song, and, if read out of context of the music and other lyrics, it could easily be mistaken for a song from Nebraska.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Springsteen Video of the Week: Bruce Being Funny

When I stumbled upon the above video on YouTube, I assumed that it would be either a parody or a mockery of Bruce Springsteen. For as strong as the bond is between Bruce and his fans, there's still a tendency to playfully make fun of him even as you idolize him. Ben Stiller has proclaimed his adoration for Bruce Springsteen but he still slyly mocks his persona in the Legends of Springsteen segments on The Ben Stiller Show. As such, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the above video was in sincere praise of Bruce's sense of humor and his ability to make us laugh.