Friday, March 29, 2013

Lyrics Spotlight - Soul Driver & Sad Eyes

"Well if something in the air feels a little unkind,
Don't worry darling, it'll slip your mind"
- Soul Driver, Human Touch & Sad Eyes, Tracks

With any kind of artist as prolific as Bruce Springsteen, you're bound to see some overlap between their artistic output. Bruce is particularly interesting for his willingness to release unfinished songs or alternate versions over the years, kindly digging into his treasure trove of abandoned work to the delight of his adoring fans. We've written about Bruce's "first drafts" several times in the past and while I'm not sure "Soul Driver" and "Sad Eyes" quite qualify for that type of comparison, they do share an identical pair of lyrics. As noted in the liner notes of Tracks, "Sad Eyes" is a cast off from the Human Touch album. Aside from the shared lyric, the songs tell the story of pursuit from two different approaches. In "Soul Driver" Bruce sings from the position of an active pursuer whereas in "Sad Eyes" he plays the more passive role, attracting his object of desire by playing hard to get. In both songs, the quoted lyric serves to convince the object of desire not to dwell on the negatives and be open to a love that supersedes life's problems.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lyrics Spotlight - Streets of Philadelphia

"The night has fallen, I'm lyin' awake
I can feel myself fading away
So receive me brother with your faithless kiss
or will we leave each other alone like this
On the streets of Philadelphia"
--"Streets of Philadelphia", Greatest Hits

"Streets of Philadelphia" is one of the more controversial Springsteen songs, as Bruce tackles the issue of the AIDS epidemic, without ever mentioning the disease in question.  Furthermore, there doesn't seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, as the song starts negative and goes further downhill by the end.  Fortunately, the same is not true when it comes to the disease in the real world, as scientists have recently cured a baby with HIV.  However, the secret behind the cure seems to be, frighteningly enough, bees.

That's right.  Bees.

Come on scienece, really?  Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am not a scientist.  I attempt to read these articles, then my head hurts, then I close the window and move onto to posting about what I think I understood.  But, I think we can all agree that bees are still a menace to society.  I'd feel comfortable sharing a bottle of water with someone who had HIV, but if a bee comes anywhere within 15 feet of me I would freak out and flail my body to avoid its horrible sting.  Now you are saying bees might save thousands of lives?  I'm sorry, but this sounds like pro-bee propaganda.  Can we really trust these sticky flying monsters, especially after what they've done to Macaulay Culkin and Nicholas Cage?

Sure, curing a baby with HIV is an absolutely outstanding medical breakthrough that only an idiot would find fault in.  However, can't we find a better way to do it, preferably sans bees?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Video Spotlight - Just Like Fire Would

Can you feel that, gentle readers?  You feel that in the air?  That's the wonderful feeling you get when Bruce kicks off a tour.  His 2013 has just rolled out, beginning in Australia earlier this week.  He rolled out an impressive 3-hour setlist, highlighted by this rare cover of a Brisbane punk band.  I'm completely unfamiliar with the song, but Bruce's performance here is spectacular (and kudos to the man filming the performance).

We here at Legends of Springsteen have only been privy to see Bruce in the United States, but if he keeps busting out local covers (such as "Coma Girl" in Glastonbury), we may have to purchase a plane ticket and see him in a foreign land.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Guest Post - Getting Advice About Springsteen

This guest post was written by the incomparable Brad Bogner, host of the Brad Bogner Show.  Take it away, Bradley!

I don’t know very much about Bruce Springsteen. When someone says they just attended his concert, I immediately ask, “Was Tom Morello there!?!?” So in an effort to better understand this man, I asked some people their thoughts.

My Dad: I don’t know when you were born, but I can tell you exactly what Springsteen was wearing on the TIME magazine cover in 1975.

Rory Toohey (Legends of Springsteen): "Dancing in the Dark" is too 80’s.*

Ronald Reagan (U.S. President): “Born in the USA” truly shows that Mr. Springsteen understands that Vietnam was a war worth fighting and dying for.

Conan O’Brien (Late Night Talk Show Host): I hope you can give Max Weinberg health insurance, because TBS sure as hell can’t.

Bill Simmons (ESPN’s Sports Guy): Bruce Springsteen is the greatest musician of all time. He just always finds a way to produce the best music possible no matter the circumstances. It reminds me exactly of Bill Russell and the Celtics. No matter how many times it looked like the team was down and out, tired, old...they just always found a way to come through and deliver for the fans. And in Boston, we wouldn't have tolerated anything else. Are we sure this guy is from New Jersey?

Taylor Swift (Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter): Does he have any interest in a short term romance?

Chris Christie (Governor of New Jersey): That karaoke video of “Born to Run” that was supposedly me, could’ve been a lot of fat white guys in town.

Chuck Klosterman (Author): Springsteen has to be the most boring artist of all time. Aside from his predictable lyrics and listless energy on stage, he has ridiculous sideburns. I’m pretty sure he’s the reason why Steve Van Zandt is so ugly. “I’m goin’ down, down, down” onto the next musician on my iPod. Also, can I get some pot?

Gengis Khan (Mongol Empire): Sure, I conquered in 25 years what it took the Romans 400 to do. But what really excites me is that there’s a 2.3% chance Bruce Springsteen and I are related!

Slate Editorial Staff: Chris Brown is a better person than Bruce Springsteen...and that’s a good thing.

Anyone who’s ever lived: We’re all in agreement that he says "douche" in “Blinded by the Light”, right?

*This is an actual quote. I still don’t get it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lyrics Spotlight - American Land

"The McNicholas, the Posalski's, the Smiths, Zerillis, too
The Blacks, the Irish, Italians, the Germans and the Jews
Come across the water a thousand miles from home
With nothin in their bellies but the fire down below."
-- "American Land", Wrecking Ball

While this song spotlights the struggles and hopes of all immigrants, my mind immediately conjures up images of the 1880s Irish immigrants coming into New York City with nothing but their whiskey, potatoes, and shillelaghs.  Am I stereotyping?  Of course, but at least I've got the whole "I can make fun of my own people" thing going for me.  On that note, St. Patrick's Day is this weekend, and this song makes a perfect addition to any drinking playlist.   So have fun, stay safe, and make that beer flow through the faucets all night long.

(And just a side note, in regards to the lyrics spotlighted, so perhaps is shouldn't be a side note: is it just me, or does Bruce put a strange emphasis on "the Jews" when he sings this?  Perhaps he's just frustrated because everyone assumes he is Jewish based on his last name.)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lyrics Spotlight: "Streets of Fire"

"I'm wandering, a loser down these tracks
I'm dying, but girl I can't go back"
"Streets of Fire", Darkness On The Edge Of Town

"Streets of Fire" is one of those songs that I always enjoyed, but I never really put it towards the top of my list of favorite Springsteen songs.  I think a major reason is that I don't really know what a street of fire is, much less many of them.  But it's definitely a great song, with great lyrics, and is incredibly powerful when sung live, albeit a rarity.

The above lyrics in particular caught my eye (ear) when listening to this song recently.  Bruce is singing about his pride and his refusal to admit failure.  This isn't necessarily a positive trait, but it can be.  I have no doubt Bruce is talking about the struggle that was putting out Darkness (Brilliantly covered in the documentary "The Promise".)  I'm sure at times Bruce was wondering is it even worth all this effort to put out this album.  But rather than admit defeat, he kept moving forward and put out not just one of his best albums, but one of the best rock n' roll albums ever.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Springsteen's Answering Machine

Throughout this decade, as Generation Y begins to get married, have kids, get fat, and lose their hair, we will all be inundated with 90s nostalgia.  While some of the focus will be on the pop culture of the time, such as movies, television, and fashion, I think people will reminisce more about the technology of the era.  In the 1990s, you had to choose between being on the phone, watching television, or being on the internet; now, we do all three at once.  Though it sounds cliche, it truly was a simpler time, where technology enhanced your life, but did not consume it.

With this in mind, allow me to wax nostalgic about one forgotten technological relic of the 80s and 90s: the answering machine.  Granted, voicemail greetings are not extinct, but more often then not I receive the default "You have reached 555..." rather than any personal greeting.  Calling it an afterthought nowadays is too nice; I have no idea what my current greeting says, and probably can't even figure out how to change it.  However, answering machine instructions were drilled into my head as a small child, and I'll never forget them.  I even remember answering machine "safety tips", such as using a man's voice and mentioning multiple names (but not your last name).  These tips were allegedly to detour burglars or stalkers, but looking back, it seems insanely paranoid.  But, my mom still shreds her bank statements into fine confetti to prevent her identity from being stolen by "dumpster divers", so perhaps these "tips" were just unique to my family.

But, back in the day, conversations about your answering machine were just as frequent as conversations about your Facebook profile.  Nearly every sitcom had an answering machine moment in their show, most notably Seinfeld, which had an entire episode based on switching the tape on an answering machine and had a classic gag involving George's answering machine.  With answering machines in our collective conscious, it stands to reason that our beloved entertainer would make a contribution to the answering machine world.  And that he did.  The results will amaze you:

Before sharing my thoughts, I'd just like to reprint the lyrics for those who may have not caught them all:

Hey there ain't nobody home
Hey there ain't nobody home
Hey there ain't nobody home
To come to the telephone

I don't know when I'm coming back
I don't know when I'm coming back
I don't know when I'm coming back
If you got something to say 
You better spit it out, Jack

Now, objectively, this is hilarious.  There's the element of the goofiness and awkwardness already associated with 90s Bruce.  Here is a campy, lighter side of this rocker who made his mark singing about the souls of the departed, preserved forever in Internet history.  But for me, the funniest part of this is not in the message itself, but in imagining the process that led to Bruce recording this message.  I imagine him slaving away at his desk, trying to come up with the right melody and lyrics, tossing paper after paper into a nearby wastebasket, trimming down the song from eight minutes to 30 seconds, arguing with Patti that this will be a fantastic way to greet his callers (while she reasonably suggests a more formal message), etc.  It is a wonderful clip that provides laughs, groans, and a rare "behind the curtain" look at our favorite entertainer.  And, for me, it is the perfect summation of the answering machine era: it was an amusing part of our lives that, while we may feel nostalgic for, nobody wants to go back to using.

(On a side note, it is good to hear Clarence's voice in the clip, if it was only so brief.  However, I'm always thrown off by the sound of his voice - I always expect it to be deeper, such as in "Kid you better get the picture" or "You better be good for goodness sake".  Is it just me?)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Lyrics Spotlight: Easy Money

“And all them fat cats they just think it's funny
I'm going on the town now looking for easy money”
- Easy Money, Wrecking Ball

There have been quite a few headlines over the past week about U.S. Chairman Ben Bernanke defending the Federal Reserve’s ‘easy money’ policy. Now I don’t bring this up in the hope of starting a political debate. In truth, I barely understand what he’s talking about. But I do know one thing, seeing the headlines immediately gets me humming Springsteen’s “Easy Money.” Sadly, there isn’t a YouTube mash-up video of Bernanke set to Springsteen’s tune yet and I doubt they play the song when he enters Congress. So in the meantime, we'll just have to draw our own connections in our head.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Lyrics Spotlight - Ain't Got You

“I got a pound of caviar sitting home on ice
I got a fancy foreign car that rides like paradise
I got a hundred pretty women knockin' down my door
And folks wanna kiss me I ain't even seen before ”
- Ain't Got You, Tunnel of Love

At the end of a long working day, I go through a process I call "decompression", where I take about 10-15 minutes to relax and wash away the stresses of the day (which come more from the commute rather than the job).  It's a three step process that involves 1. blasting music, 2. taking off nearly all my clothes, and 3. throwing myself face-first onto the couch.  I understand this may be an unsettling image to some of our readers and is in no way essential to the rest of the post, but I'm offering it out there as a solution to cure one's post-work stress.

Anyway, during one of my decompression moments, "Ain't Got You" started playing.  My girlfriend, who is a nascent Springsteen fan, takes notice, and asks if this was a cover song.  I assured her it wasn't, but immediately went to Wikipedia to check.  This minor interchange got me thinking about not only this song, but the way we interact with music today.

As a young Springsteen fan from the later 90s, my experience is completely different from those fans from the 70s and 80s, which is why "Ain't Got You" has fascinated me.  Here was Bruce's first studio album since the chart-destroying Born In The U.S.A., and so much had changed in that time.  Changes came not only from Bruce himself (being married, using less of the E Street Band, change in song subject matter), but in the way you, as a fan, consumed his music.  In 1984, fans bought Bruce's album in vinyl, dropped the needle, and heard a pounding song about the struggles of thousands of Vietnam veterans.  In 1987, fans were probably buying Bruce for the first time on compact discs, and immediately got a stripped-down bluesy number about a rich guy trying to win over a hottie.   It must have been a crazy shock for Springsteen fans that, given my youth, I'll never be able to fully understand.

That being said, I've always listened to "Ain't Got You" outside of its historical context in Springsteen's career, and absolutely love it.  The simple 1950s musical vibe completely works with the over-the-top riches lyrics.  It even has a little bit of a touch of George Michael's "Faith", which was released at almost the same time.  I spotlighted the above lyrics, as they remind me the most of Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good".  There was a podcast where Chuck Klosterman interviewed Joe Walsh, and asked him how much of "Life's Been Good" was actually true.  If I ever had the chance to sit down with Bruce, I'd love to hear what about "Ain't Got You" was actually true.  I really can't picture Bruce driving a foreign car, and have a tougher time imagining him in possession of a pound of caviar at any point in his life.