Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Great Moments in Springsteen Cinema History: Home Alone

Want to feel old?  Well, this year, Home Alone turned 25 years old!  (As a personal aside, this is the first live-action movie I remember seeing in the theaters.)  So, if you choose to re-watch it this year, keep an eye out, for there is a fleeting great moment in Springsteen cinema history!

It takes place right after Kevin McCallister has made his family disappear.  He runs around screaming, starts going through his family's personal objects, and, of course, watches Angels With Filthy Souls.


But, what else could Kevin have watched?  Take a look:



A Bruce Springsteen video anthology!  My research shows that it is, specifically, this anthology collecting videos from 1978 to 1988.  The track listing is heavy on the then newly-released Tunnel of Love album and the big hits from Born In The USA.  Still, clocking in at 100 minutes, I imagine that, after getting scared from Angels With Filthy Souls, he may have turned to Springsteen to calm him down.  Perhaps, in a deleted scene, he played a prank on an unsuspecting delivery man using expertly-timed clips from Springsteen's "I'm On Fire" video.  The world may never know (well, the world does know, but let your imagination run wild).

Interested in decorating your house like the McCallisters?  The VHS is available for $0.95 on Amazon, or you can be a big spender and get the DVD.

And yes, I'm aware there's also a Rolling Stones tape there, but I'll let the good people at Legends Of Jagger cover that.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Bruce on Saturday Night Live, 12/19/15

As twenty-firstly reported on Legends of Springsteen, Bruce played on Saturday Night Live last night.  Continuing the promotion for The Ties That Bind, Bruce played "Meet Me In The City" and "The Ties That Bind".





Saturday Night Live is a notoriously poor place to perform, and Bruce did his best.  While it was interesting to see the "stripped-down" band (if you can call 5 guitarists, a bassist, two keyboardists, a sax and a drummer "stripped-down), I felt that the keyboard was too high in the mix, and you could tell Bruce was missing the front-row of fans to play off of.  However, Bruce wasn't done with the night:



Instead of saying their regular goodbyes, Bruce joined the SNL cast to sing "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", with a little help from Sir Paul McCartney!  It was a great treat for people who were lucky enough to stay up to 1AM, or, if you were a tired blogger, a delightful surprise to view on YouTube early the next morning.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Bruce on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, 12/17/15

Last night, Bruce Springsteen appeared on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, once again hyping The Ties That Bind collection and the subsequent tour.  It was a rather "tame" appearance, as Bruce didn't perform any music or partake in any skits.  However, fans got a chance to see some of the material that is included in the box set, to hear Bruce acknowledge the underlying homosexual themes in his music (I knew it!), and, most impressively, to hear the Roots do their rendition of the Ramones potential rendition of "Hungry Heart".  Catch up on all your Springsteen-ness below!





Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Merry Christmas, Baby



It wouldn't be the Christmas season if we didn't take the opportunity to highlight Bruce's rendition of "Merry Christmas, Baby" performed on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in 2002.

While the song feels distinctly Bruce, it is an R&B Christmas standard written by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore and originally recorded in 1947 by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers. It has been covered by everyone from Chuck Berry to Elvis Presley to Hanson.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Bruce Calls In To E Street Radio



The level of hype for The Ties That Bind is, honestly, staggering.  I feel like I've started nearly every blog post these last two months with a sentence similar to that.  Most recently, "Bruce from New Jersey" called in to E Street Radio to discuss The Ties That Bind, as well as the upcoming tour.  Bruce explains the formation of the short tour, why he is playing The River at every show, and who will exactly be in the band.

Stay tuned for more and more Bruce this week, as he appears on Jimmy Fallon on Thursday and Saturday Night Live this weekend.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Cover Spotlight - "Anytime At All" by the Weeklings, featuring Max Weinberg



Usually, around this time of year, Christmas music starts to subliminally weaves it way back into the public consciousness via car commercials, speaker systems at Starbucks, and the like.  However, while Springsteen has a couple of famous Christmas song performances in his catalog, we at Legends of Springsteen have already covered them extensively in our past.  Rather than rehash the same old tunes again, I'd encourage you to go back and check out our archives:




Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

But, what video are you going to watch today?  Why, a cover of the Beatles' "Anytime At All" by the Weeklings, featuring E Street's own Max Weinberg on drums.  Why this song?  Well, this is from a concert in July, and the performance has a perfect "summer" feel to me.  In the midst of all this winter music, it's good to take a break from all the ho ho hos and holly jolliness.  Did this video help you feel a bit warmer?  No?  Well, I tried.

Thanks for your continued readership!

(And, if you are still in the holiday spirit, check out the Springsteen Holiday Gift Guide we posted last week!)

Friday, December 4, 2015

Official - Springsteen Tour in Early 2016

As first fake reported here, Springsteen has confirmed a short, two month, 24 show tour, officially called "The River Tour".  Brucespringsteen.net is currently offline, but you can find the details on numerous other music websites (I found it on Pitchfork).  We here at Legends of Springsteen will be eagerly awaiting the news of when the tickets go on sale, and what shows we'll be able to attend.  Happy holidays, indeed!

UPDATE: Tickets for all shows go on sale Friday, December 11th, at 10AM EST.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Review - HBO's "The Ties That Bind" Documentary


When they announced The River box set six weeks ago, I thought it was an odd choice.  It has an odd place in Springsteen's discography: of course, it is a classic, but it is arguably the least classic of Springsteen's classics.  It doesn't have the rawness of his first two records, the birth of stardom that surrounded Born To Run, the drama and meloncholy behind the production of Darkness, the experimentation of Nebraska, nor the unprecedented hit-making with Born In The USA.  It came at a point where Springsteen was, more or less, very comfortable with his music career.  Also, it is the 35th year anniversary - while it may be an anniversary worth a quick blog post, it isn't not quite a nice round number for a celebration.  So, I found myself asking, what is the point of all of this?

Well, to help answer that question, along came the HBO documentary The Ties That Bind.  In what is basically a 60-minute infomercial for the aforementioned box set, we sit down with Bruce as he discusses the making of The River.  And, let me be clear, we are only talking to Bruce.  There are no other interviewees - and any other voices heard in the documentary are quick or off-camera (like a bizarro-Springsteen & I).  While this may sound like Bruce-overkill, it is fortunately padded with live performances to break up the interview sections (Bruce plays "Two Hearts", "The River", and "Independence Day", among others).  It is also interesting to note that, at times, they subtitled Bruce while he was singing, which should elicit a chuckle from Bruce-diehards but was probably necessary to help the casual fan follow along.

However, despite my snark present in the last paragraph, the documentary did provide some fascinating insights into this period of Springsteen's life and career.  Without giving away too much, the documentary explores the decision to make The River a double-album, the often clashing dynamic between Jon Landau and Steven Van Zandt, and the issue of Springsteen's live shows being a better experience than his record (a problem some critics may say he never solved).  The most relatable part, to me, was Springsteen talking about entering his thirties, and trying to move from an observer in life into being a participant.  While Darkness came from a period of isolation, he wanted The River to be a movement towards the mainstream.  As a 31-year-old New Jersey boy myself, I can't help but vicariously project myself into Bruce's shoes in the recording studio.

Ultimately, the documentary helped show The River in a slightly new light.  Many people may criticize it for being entirely about cars and girls, it shows Springsteen's maturity as an artist - he had the confidence needed to put out an extra-long album with a variety of genres on it. While the documentary may be hampered with a bit of padding and a lack of voices, I would recommend it to any fan just as confused as I was about this recent celebration of The River.  I can't say that I still don't find the whole thing to be coming out of the blue, but I am enjoying the ride.

You can watch the documentary on HBOGO, or try this link while it lasts.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Springsteen Holiday Gift Guide 2015

Season’s greetings! Fretting about what gift to get that special Springsteen fan in your life? Worry not. Legends of Springsteen’s annual Holiday Gift Guide is here!

For Every Springsteen Fan:


The Ties That Bind: The River Collection ($107)

The single must-have present this season. Featuring 1980’s The River, a collection of previously unreleased songs and three DVDs of documentaries and concert footage, this is shaping up to be every bit the treasure chest that was The Promise in 2010. Caution, the most diehard Springsteen fans may have already rushed out on their own to buy it. Be sure to investigate the situation before plunging into anything.

For the Springsteen Fan Who Loves Motown:



Introducing Darlene Love ($11)

Fans of the documentary 20 Feet from Stardom or the fantastic Holiday pop song “All Alone on Christmas” will be familiar with Darlene Love’s connection to Springsteen and The E Street Band. The latest in a career that started in the 60s, “Introducing Darlene Love” is her first solo album in decades and is produced by Steve Van Zandt. What’s more, Springsteen himself penned two tracks including “Night Closing In” which sounds very Springsteen indeed.


For the Springsteen Fan who is a History Buff:


Marching Home: To War & Back with the Men of One American Town ($6)

Historian Kevin Coyne gives us an intimate depiction of Springsteen’s hometown of Freehold, New Jersey by chronicling the impact of World War II on this NJ town where some 900 men went off to war and returned to shuttered factories and racial tension. Reading this captivating history will make Springsteen’s lyrics resonate with newfound understanding.

For the Springsteen Fan who is a Mom:


Ricki and the Flash ($18)

Meryl Streep is always a crowd-pleaser and here she stars as an aging rocker who chose life as a cover band queen over a close relationship with her family. Whether you’re a new mom or a veteran mom, this family dramedy beats with the heart of rock and roll. Bonus points, of course, because Streep performs Springsteen’s “My Love Will Not Let You Down.”

For the Springsteen Fan in College:


Bruce Springsteen 2016 Wall Calendar ($20)

12 pages of Springsteen will keep you inspired all year round. This gift is more appropriate for the dorm room demographic, but if you have a large refrigerator and an accepting spouse, you might be able to get away with it as well.

Happy Holidays from Legends of Springsteen!

For even more gift ideas, check out last year's gift guide as well!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Song Spotlight - "Party Lights"



Keep that hype train chugging!  So, to date, we've got three major updates regarding The Ties That Bind.  First, there was the initial announcement, which cam along with the previously unreleased "Meet Me In The City",  That was followed by a clip of "Ramrod" from the Tempe concert.  Finally, it was announced Bruce would be playing on Saturday Night Live (and another live performance, this time of "The River", was also dropped).  Now, we've got another new track, "Party Lights".  Sounding a bit like someone took "Take 'Em As They Come", "Jackson Cage", "Janey Don't You Lose Heart", and "I Wanna Be With You" and smashed them all together, it's a very solid song (although I prefer "Meet Me In The City").  Either way, it's yet another nice treat to satisfy the Springsteen die-hards this holiday weekend, as they patiently await seeing the Ties That Bind documentary on HBO, Bruce on SNL, and, hopefully, any news about live dates.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Album Review: The Ghost of Tom Joad


Today marks the 20th anniversary of The Ghost of Tom Joad, Bruce's 11th studio album, and second acoustic album, following 1982's Nebraska.  Coming after the dual release of Human Touch and Lucky Town, this album came out at arguably the nadir of Springsteen's popularity.  While Bruce would later regain his swagger seven years later on The Rising (discussed extensively on this blog), today is a time to look back on 90s Bruce.

The Ghost of Tom Joad is an album that I have listened to very little, and have discussed even less.  In fact, in the process of writing this review, I realized that I was missing a couple tracks.  And after a few listens, I find myself, unfortunately, with very little to say on the album.


The album starts off very strong, with album stand-outs such as the title track, "Straight Time", and "Youngstown".  (It is notable to point out that "The Ghost of Tom Joad" and "Youngstown" would eventually be worked into full-on rock songs, versions that this author prefers).  There is a lot of strong lyrics on this album, too.  For example, the "where there's a...." part in "The Ghost of Tom Joad", while lifted from the book, is particularly strong - so strong, in fact, you can find similar sentiments in future songs such as "The Wrestler" and "We Are Alive".  Bruce's musical work here excels when there is a band accompaniment, as they add diversity and flourish to a rather bleak album.

However, the back half of the album drags, as many songs begin to blend together.  The formula is the same on many songs: Bruce's voice is high in the mix, an acoustic guitar plinks in the background (sounding like a guitar-practice progression), and the songs go on without a strong beginning or ending.  A string of songs like "Balboa Park", "Dry Lightning", and "The New  Timer" just waft over me, and it is difficult for me to find anything that stands out musically.


Ultimately, I don't find this album offering much new to me; the bleak, stark storytelling was explored much better on Nebraska, and Nebraska had a bit more diversity of sound on it, from the Suicide-esque yipping on "State Trooper" to the random rockabilly track "Drive All Night".  Even Devils & Dust, which owes some of it's sound to this album, has a few more memorable tracks than this one.  While there's no offensively bad song on the album (although "My Best Was Never Good Enough" is a bit cheesy), I'd rank it last among the Bruce acoustic trilogy.  

However, having not really discussed this album much, I contacted the other writers on Legends of Springsteen.  Both OB and Steve agreed - The Ghost of Tom Joad was their favorite of Springsteen's acoustic albums!  This came as a shock to me, so let's put it to you, the reader: how would you rank Springsteen's acoustic albums?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Breaking News - Springsteen to Play SNL, 12/19 (Also, a 3 Month Tour!)

Yesterday, Springsteen announced that he would be performing on Saturday Night Live on December 19th, with hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.  Even though The River is probably the least classic of Springsteen's classic albums, I must say I am loving the hype around the upcoming box set (moreso than last year's Outlaw Pete hype).  Speaking of hype, Springsteen also released another performance from the Tempe tour that will be on the aforementioned box set:



Here, we get a new piano introduction for the song, leading up to the iconic harmonica.  There aren't many performances of "The River" that would rival that from the 1975-1985 live set, but this is pretty darn close.

EDIT TO ADD: There's also a three month tour coming!  No dates or cities announced yet, but man, this is quite a shock.  I am still processing it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Video Spotlight - "Ramrod" in Tempe, 1980



The hype train for the River box set keeps on rolling.  Here, we have a jocular performance of "Ramrod" from the River tour in 1980.  Taking place in Tempe, Arizona, we see Bruce with long sleeves and Clarence Clemons in his "I just had an interview for an insurance company" suit.  This is just a small snippet of a 2 hour and 40 minute concert DVD that will be included in the box set.

Another interesting note is that I am now married to a girl from Tempe.  Since this post is really short, I'll fluff it up by telling you that Tempe is pronounced "tem-pee", not "tem-pay".  There, now this post looks like an appropriate length.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Springsteen Coasters!

It's a little early to do another holiday gift guide for this year, but once you see what I recently received, you'll understand why I had to share (and slightly brag) in late October.  Given to me by infrequent blog contributor and creator of the creator of the blog - my mom - we have a set of four Bruce Springsteen coasters!


Each coaster is adorned with an iconic Springsteen album cover, starting with his debut album and ending with 1984's Born In The USA.  While one may complain about the omission of Darkness On The Edge of Town, I'd counter by saying your complaining over something so trivial is why we can't have nice things.

While I've broken down these albums in every conceivable way, let's rethink the way we see these albums.  And, by that, I mean: what types of beverages would these albums best support?


Greetings From Asbury Park: With this postcard picture, I can't help but think of summer vacations.  Therefore, a summer-y drink is the clear choice for this coaster.  Putting hot cocoa on this coaster would be a grave sin.

Recommended Drinks: Lemonade, Margaritas, Bud Light Lime, Anything That Has An Umbrella In It 

 

Born To Run: This is the piece-de-resistance of the coaster set.  You aren't going to just put any old drink on this; it has to be a SPECIAL drink.  This is the coaster you bust out when the pope comes to town.

Recommended Drinks: Fancy Wine, Fancy Beer, Fancy Whiskey, That Bottle Of Champagne You've Been Saving To Open When The Mets Win The World Series


The River: Boy, Bruce does not look good on this cover, and the coaster adds to his misery by punching a hole right through his nose.   This is the coaster you use after a long night of partying.  Put your hangover cure on this coaster, and every time you lift your drink up, you see Bruce staring back at you, with no judgement in his eyes.  He's been there, man.

Recommended Drinks: Water, Diet Coke, Smoothies, Hair Of The Dog


Born In The USA: Don't be distracted by that awkwardly placed hole.  This is a pure-American coaster, and the drinks it supports will encapsulate the country - freedom, freedom, eagles, baseball, and freedom.

Recommended Drinks: Cheap American Beer, Whole Milk

Unfortunately, it appears this particular set of coasters is difficult to find for sale on the Internet, so I apologize if I got you excited for nothing.  However, googling "Bruce Springsteen Coaster" does bring up other coaster options (as well as lyrics for "Spirit In The Night").  So, if you know a Springsteen fan with rings on his coffee table, consider your Christmas shopping done early.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Album Review: The River




Today marks the 35th anniversary of The River.  Sure, 35 years isn't quite the iconic number you want to celebrate (unlike, say, 30 years or 40 years).  However, it seemed as good a time as any to take a dive into this massive double album.

The River is a unique specimen in Springsteen lore.  It was Springsteen's first and only double-album release, which, in itself, was a curious decision.  Furthermore, it produced his first top ten single, "Hungry Heart", which strangely enough was sped up to make it sound less like Springsteen was singing it.  The songs range the entire emotional spectrum: one minute, you are listening to a heart-wrenching tale of the working poor, the next, you are in the barroom listening to drunken catcalls like "Ooh ooh, I got a crush on you!"  There's a lot to digest, which is why you'll hear many Springsteen fans profess to love the album, but very few claiming that it is their all-time favorite.



This epic journey begins with a declaration that "You've been hurt and you're all cried out."  It's an important mission statement for the album, as the music acknowledges you have experienced pain, and you are looking for consolation ("Two Hearts" is a good companion piece to "The Ties That Bind", as it has many similar themes and lyrics).  With The River, the "all over" nature of the songs may be about the process of getting through pain - either through somber reflection ("The River"), humor ("Sherry Darling"), self-affirmation ("I'm a Rocker"), or pure dedication to love ("Drive All Night").

Another theme in The River is that of escape.  Throughout the songs, people have "packed their bags", "went out walking", "gone out for rides and never went back", stolen cars, etc. However, these characters don't find redemption, as they either end up in the same place, or find a whole new set of problems awaiting them.  They are no longer pulling out of here to win - they are pulling out of here because there's nothing better to do.



That being said, let's look at the music.  Upon going to this review, I wasn't sure how these songs were ordered - I'm a product of the iPod shuffle generation.  However, listening to it in order, you won't find many better albums than the first album of The River.  You have the aforementioned "The Ties That Bind" leading the record off, a couple of just pure classic rock songs ("Jackson Cage", "Out In The Street"), and a few songs that show Springsteen's lighter side ("Sherry Darling", "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)".  It also contains the sped-up "Hungry Heart" - which, while many fans dismiss in preference of the live version (raises hand), can't be overlooked in its significance, as it helped bring Bruce's popularity to a new level.  The album ends with "The River", one of Springsteen's all-time classic songs (ranking number 8 in a recent fan poll, the highest of any song on the album).  In Bruce's tradition, he ends the album with an emotional gut-punch, as seen before with Born To Run/"Jungleland" and Darkness On The Edge of Town/title track.  From start to finish, The River part one is among the strongest work Springsteen has done.



However, The River part two is much murkier.  Missing are the many of the classic rock hits, as we receive many slow ballads ("Fade Away", "Drive All Night") followed by goofy songs with cocky narrators ("Ramrod", "I'm a Rocker").  While many are enjoyable on their own, it makes for very jarring listening experience, as you can go from getting shot between the eyes to cruising in a Cadillac.  "The Price You Pay" is my personal favorite from this side - while many songs on this side are either dark or light, this achieves a nice balance.  "The Price You Pay" is slow, but not plodding, and the lyrics are emotional, but not maudlin.  And, while I'll always prefer the Tracks version of "Stolen Car", the experimental nature of The River's version of the song has grown on me, and I appreciate Springsteen taking a chance with his music on a major release on this, rather than just going with safe piano ballad.

Overall, I'd give the first half of The River 5/5 stars, while the second half earns a 3/5.  Call it a 4/5 for the whole album, if you must.  So, if you have an hour and a half to kill today, I'd recommend giving this album another spin.  While it may be a little over the place musically, thematically it's one of Springsteen's strongest, and you may find a song that will connect to whatever problems that have been a part of your life.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Breaking News - River Box Set Coming This December!


Start saving your money, boys and girls!  Because, coming December 4th, you'll have to rush to Amazon and pick yourself up a new River box set.  Officially called The Ties That Bind: The River Collection, and coinciding with the 35th anniversary of The River, the set contains 4 CDs, 3 DVDs, and a new coffee table book. As with these recent box sets, we are promised new unreleased songs, concert performances, and photographs.  As an additional teaser, they've released "Meet Me In The City", a catchy rocker never previously released:


So there you have it.  It has been a little dry around here regarding Springsteen news, so this couldn't have come at a more perfect time.  You can read more about the release at Brucespringsteen.net, or pre-order the set on Amazon.  

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Great Moments In Springsteen Comic Book History - Men of Wrath #1


Tearing yet another page from the "We'll write about anything" folder, today's post spotlights Men of Wrath, a 2014 comic book written by Jason Aaron, with art by Ron Garney.  Picking up the series on a whim, I found myself very surprised to be greeted with the above quote, found on the inside cover for the first issue.  These brutal lyrics set the tone for the book, which covers the Rath family, and the inescapable violence that haunts their lives.  Interestingly enough, "The New Timer" is about a man working various jobs, including picking peaches, something Tom Joad did in The Grapes of Wrath (creating a connection back to the comic's title).

Admittedly, "The New Timer" is not in my general Springsteen rotation.  In fact, I rarely find myself listening to The Ghost of Tom Joad at all (and I doubt I'm alone in this).  With the 20th anniversary of the album coming up next month, perhaps it is worth going back to for another listen.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Weird Al Interviews Bruce Springsteen



We've previously spotlighted the joint friendship between Clarence Clemons and "Weird Al" Yankovic, but, in this clip, we see the true friendship between "Weird Al" and the Boss himself.  In this short interview, we learn the origins of Al and Bruce's friendship, Bruce's opinion on Al's current music, and listen to Bruce rattle off some of his favorite numbers.  Enjoy!

Also, happy 66th Bruce, from all of us at LOS!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Dolly Parton singing "I'm On Fire"?



Hey, did you guys enjoy Born To Run Month?  Yes?  Good!  Because I think we're all a bit drained here at Legends of Springsteen.  So, today, here's something goofy that's been making it's way around the Interwebs: someone sped up "I'm On Fire", and it sounds like Dolly Parton singing it.  Does it really sound like her?  Sorta.  Interesting?  Not really.  But I would like to hear "9 to 5" slowed down to see if it sounds like Bruce singing it.

Thanks for reading this pointless article.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Song Spotlight - "Jungleland"

Key Live Performance



I tend to go with more "recent" performances in these sections (if you could call the late 80s or early 00s "recent"), but for the final song, I'm going way back to Bruce's seminal performance at Hammersmith Odeon.  If you haven't watched the whole concert, you are missing out on one of Bruce's best (and easily the best assembly of hats for one single band).

Key Lyrics

"Man there's an opera out on the Turnpike
There's a ballet being fought out in the alley
Until the local cops
Cherry Tops
Rips this holy night"

Sometimes, Bruce's critics like to pick on his flowery lyrics.  However, "Jungleland" sees this criticism, and takes it to the extreme.  This section is among my favorites; various types of performance theater are used to create a holy night.  And why just say "the cops showed up" when you can describe their headlights as "cherry tops"? It's an interesting and engrossing creative choice.

Overall

How do you finish one of the greatest album of all times?  After song after song of epic anthems of youth and freedom, where do you go now?  Well, "Jungleland" answers this by doubling down on all the themes and pulling out all the stops.  The longest song on the album, "Jungleland" is takes you on a journey through Springsteen's world - a world where you can imagine all the other characters in the previous songs living.  As Louie CK once pointed out, you can sense the utter sadness and loneliness at the end, which would set the stage for Springsteen's next three albums.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Song Spotlight - "Meeting Across the River"


Key Live Performance



Born to Run has a bleak narrative trajectory. It begins in a town full of losers and ends in Jungleland where the heroes wind up "wounded, not even dead."

“Meeting Across the River” – a song you will never hear requested at a bar – is the album's lynchpin. It is the subtle prelude that sets the scene for the 9 1/2 minute, operatic conclusion in “Jungleland”.

I chose the video above not just because I was at the MetLife leg of the Wrecking Ball tour but because it perfectly preserves that segue between the two final tracks of Born to Run.

Key Lyrics
“And the word's been passed this is our last chance”

At every turn, Bruce makes it crystal clear where this story ends.

Overall

Even while being the “smallest” song on the album, “Meeting Across the River” heightens everything around it, serving as the turning point where petty hijinks evolve to hard crime and youthful malaise evolves to Greek tragedy. The song is a masterful ballet of trumpet, piano, bass and vocals with each of the four instruments working together to create a vivid cityscape.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Song Spotlight - "She's The One"

Key Live Performance:



If I could time travel I would absolutely love to see Bruce on the Darkness tour.  He'd put out enough classic material that you'd still get a killer setlist, but it was prior to Born In The USA so Bruce was playing theaters and smaller venues where you could still feel like you were in on something that everyone else who wasn't there was missing out on.  I love listening to and watching shows from this era, and "She's The One" is a great example of why.  For over 13 mins Bruce and The E Street band have fun jamming on the classic Bo Diddley Riff that makes up the intro, including covers of Van Morrison and Buddy Holly, respectively, and then the song builds up to a perfect crescendo at the end.  It's no wonder this song has been a staple of Bruce setlists since 1975, but this era seems to be where he's having the most fun with it.

Key Lyrics:

"With her long hair falling,
And eyes that shine like the midnight sun
Oh, she's the one."

I know it's a bit easy to go for the chorus, but man do these lyrics just stick out for me.  When I reviewed the book "Tietam Brown", I wrote about how Bruce's lyrics may not seem to make the most sense literally, but there's something about Bruce's genius way of phrasing it that it makes perfect sense.  I think I can speak for just about every guy out there that when they read that lyric a certain special girl pops into their mind.  I don't even know what a midnight sun would look like, but I know exactly what Bruce meant when he said her eyes shine like one.

Overall:

"She's The One" is a strange song that is revered by Springsteen fans, that I never think I'm that big a fan of it.  But whenever I am at a Springsteen concert and hear that distinct organ intro, I start clapping and dancing along and really getting into it.  When I wrote about "Night" last week I wrote about how it was an oddity in the sense that Bruce never seems to capture the spirit of the song live as he did in the studio.  "She's The One" is the exact opposite.  I usually skip the studio version of this song when it pops up randomly when listening to music but I will spend hours seeking out different live versions on YouTube.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Song Spotlight - "Born To Run"

Key Live Performance


Here, we have the acoustic arrangement of "Born To Run", which was released on the Chimes of Freedom LP in the late 80s.  Nowadays, it seems that nearly every song has an "acoustic version" of it out there, and usually it is done in jest.  However, a re-imaging of a popular song, by the artist himself, was a greater novelty 25+ years ago.  This version of "Born To Run" comes at a fascinating time in Springsteen's career, too, as he had just released Tunnel of Love and would soon be leaving the E Street Band behind.  This performance symbolically captures this new phase in Springsteen's career, as he takes his most iconic song down to its bare bones and rebuilds it by himself.

Key Lyrics
"Oh-oh, Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we're young
`Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run."

"Born to Run" is filled with a surprising amount of violent imagery, including two uses of "suicide", along with dying, being broken, etc.  The lyrics spotlighted above are simultaneously gruesome and catchy.  It's a trick you don't see in many pop songs, as they tend to stick to words like "baby" and "i wish".  With these in-your-face lyrics, it isn't surprising that it was nominated to be New Jersey's official state song.

Overall

Come on.  It's "Born To Run"!  It's Bruce's most iconic song, and for good reason.  You've got a dramatic drum-roll to start, an instantly memorable chorus, and an amazing drop.  It's hard not to drive recklessly when listening to this song.  It's the perfect anthem for lovers and dream, and yet, crazily enough, many people would say that it isn't even the best song on the album!  It just goes to show how on point Bruce was at this point in his career.  This song has been a pop-culture staple for 40 years, and will easily be for 40 more.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Song Spotlight - "Backstreets"


Key Live Performance



This gut-wrenching rendition from Toronto during the 1984 Born in the U.S.A. tour begins with a two minute intro heavy on ambient piano and wailing before leading into the familiar opening notes. Just one look at Bruce’s ripped jean jacket and you know he means business. From the defiant guitar solo to the sweat soaked bandana, the energy is palpable.

Key Lyrics

“When the breakdown hit at midnight
There was nothing left to say but I hated him and I hated you when you went away”

While I’m partial to the so-close-you-can-feel-it description of “getting wasted in the heat,” I can’t stray from this raw admission of hatred made all the more painful by the disappointment with which it is laced.

Demos and lyric drafts have shown that early versions of “Backstreets” explicitly cast the character of Terry as a female. But I prefer to stick to the song text which leaves the gender ambiguous. Perhaps because Bruce’s career is full of heterosexual love gone sour, “Backstreets” feels all the more exceptional when read as a tragic tale of love between two men – regardless of whether it’s a homosexual or platonic love.

Overall

I often think of “Backstreets” as the ultimate summer song. It effortlessly evokes both the initial optimism and inevitable disappointment that define every summer season in our teenage years. As one of the few Born to Run songs that doesn’t feature heavily in Bruce’s recent concert rotations, “Backstreets” packs a powerful punch when you are fortunate enough to hear it. It’s easy to overlook but hard to forget.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Song Spotlight - "Night"

Key Live Performance:



Taken from the The Today Show when Bruce and The E Street Band played on the release day of Magic.  They played a bunch of their classics, like "Night", as well as songs songs from the excellent Magic album.  After the monster success of The Rising, Bruce threw his fans for a loop by putting out Devils and Dust and The Seeger Sessions.  Both great albums, but us fans were dying for some E Steet!   Magic and, in particular, this performance was Bruce and The E Street Band's triumphant return to prove that The Rising wasn't just a fluke.  They were back, and they were back to rock.  "Night" was a perfect choice.  It's by far the most upbeat rock song on Born To Run, even more so than the titular song.  Unfortunately though, I don't think any live performance has come off as great as the album version, which is insanely rare for Bruce.

Key Lyrics: 

"And the world is busting at its seams
And the you're just a prisoner of your dreams
Holding on for your life, 'cause you work all day
to blow 'em away at night."

While Bruce writing songs about blue collar values, fast cars, and overly romantic notions towards women may seem like old hat now, in 1975 it wasn't as much a staple on his first two albums.  He would certainly do it on other songs on this album, and really follow up on those themes on future albums.  I mean just reading these lyrics without knowing anything else about the song or album and it's still pretty easy to identify as Springsteen's lyrical work.  The song is filled with lyrics like the one above, that really any of them could have been used for the "Key Lyrics", but there's something about that particular line that really stands out to me and made me pick it.

Overall:

I love this song.  I love this album.  I put this song on my Bruce For Beginners playlist.  Like I said, this is one of the rare occasions where the studio version surpasses the live versions.  It's impossible not to hear that opening drum, Clarence's signature sax sound, and Bruce's lyrics and not get yourself all pumped up for your next big night out.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Jon Stewart's Moment of Zen



We interrupt Born To Run Month to give you this performance by Bruce and the E Street Band.  On Jon Stewart's final Daily Show last Thursday, he quoted "an artist [he] really admired",  saying,

"He thinks of his career as a long conversation with his audience...I liked that idea for many different reasons, the main one is that it takes away the idea of finality....This show isn't ending.  We're merely taking a small pause in the conversation."  

After his speech, the identity of this "artist" became clear, as he cut to Springsteen and the entirety of the E Street Band, to play him off to "Land of Hope and Dreams".  While Bruce has been making various cameos all summer long, it was great to see him back with the entirety of the E Street Band.  The Daily Show has never really accommodated musical acts very well, which makes this performance even more impressive.  Hopefully, our conversation with the E Street Band will be continuing again in the near future.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Song Spotlight - "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out"

Key Live Performance


As an amateur blogger, I have found little reason to try to disguise my biases.  Therefore, I might as well admit that, since I was an impressionable high schooler in 2000, I will forever lean towards the performances I heard on Live In New York City.  While actual clips from the MSG concert are hard to find on YouTube, here we have a performance from the same tour (in nearby Hartford, CT).

That being said, this performance has it all.  It has a dramatic build, a "Take Me To The River" interlude, Springsteen getting possessed by the Holy Spirit, classic Springsteen speechification, and a spotlight on every E Street member (including the late Clarence Clemons and Dan Federici).  This performance takes me back to my youth, where I only knew a handful of Springsteen songs.  Little did I know that it would spark this life-long (and unhealthy?  disturbing?) obsession.

Key Lyrics

"When the change was made uptown
And the Big Man joined the band
From the coastline to the city
All the little pretties raise their hands
I'm gonna sit back right easy and laugh
When Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half"

Seriously, how can I pick any lyrics besides this final verse?  No lyrics better sum up the camaraderie of the E Street Band.  With Bruce (Scooter) and Clarence (Big Man), the band set off to rock from the Jersey Shore (the coastline) to New York City (the city).  As time passes, these lyrics become a time capsule, as they show us the band's humble roots, setting out to conquer New Jersey and ending up as global phenomenons.  Additionally, during live shows, this verse is given a music break, as the band (and crowd) pay tribute to the late Clarence Clemons.  While they may be just talking about the E Street Band, these lyrics can apply to us all, as we take a moment to reflect on the innocence of our youth and loved ones we have lost along the way.

Overall

I've been writing about this song since, literally, day two of this blog, so I'm not sure how much more I can say about it.  While I prefer the live version for its tremendous build-up, the album version provides a bridge between the raucous energy that was on Springsteen's previous two albums and the somber, serious ton that would take over in his next few albums.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Song Spotlight - "Thunder Road"


Key Live Performance



Bruce chose to open his set at the 2012 Hard Rock Calling festival in London’s Hyde Park with a barebones version of “Thunder Road” accompanied only by Roy Bittan on piano. With his arms frequently folded behind his back, Bruce croons the lyrics to “Thunder Road” with the wistful restraint of a man who has been singing this song for 30+ years but hasn’t forgotten how important it was to him the day he wrote it. One of my favorite parts of this video is at the 0:28 second mark where a young couple cheer and kiss when they realize what song Bruce is playing. It makes me think of the joy my wife and I experienced the first time we both heard him play Rosalita live.

Key Lyrics

“It's town full of losers
And I'm pulling out of here to win”

“Thunder Road” is chock full of indelible lyrics but it’s this final exultation that serves as the rally cry for not only the Born to Run album but in many ways, Bruce’s entire career.

Overall

For many years I resisted this song because I had trouble embracing the instrumental conclusion. On the one hand I appreciate it as a lovely piece of music. But on the other, I can’t help not imagining it as what would be played if there was ever a commercial for a cheesy Springsteen-themed Broadway musical. You know, something between the real ads for Movin’ Out and this Ben Stiller parody of a Tom Cruise one-man show.

I’m pleased to say though that I’ve finally grown past this and come to embrace it with all my heart. “Show a little faith there's magic in the night”; “I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk”; “The door's open but the ride ain't free”… It’s not just some of Bruce’s finest writing, it’s some of the best pop music writing in history.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Coming Soon - Born To Run Month!

Last year, we did a deep dive into Born In The USA, providing videos, links, and analysis regarding each song.  This year, in honor of Born To Run's 40th(!) anniversary, we're going to do it all over again!  Please join us this August as Steve, OB, and myself go through one of the greatest albums of all time, track by track.  It all starts next Tuesday, so make sure to be the first in (the imaginary Internet) line.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Under the Influence of Springsteen: Third Eye Blind


If you wanna see me
You know I'm easily found
Just climb the stairs where we used to live
Wrap your fist 'round my heart
Yeah, you know how it pound, pound, pound
- “Everything is Easy”, Third Eye Blind

Okay, so this one is a bit if a stretch. In fact, I didn't even notice it myself. The AbsolutePunk review had to alert me to this slight “Darkness on the Edge of Town” reference. But it's an excuse to talk about one of my other favorite bands, Third Eye Blind.

Third Eye Blind’s fifth album Dopamine was just released last month, nearly 20 years after their debut album. So they certainly don’t share Bruce’s prolific level of output. But there are two distinct similarities: their sense of location and their propensity to tell sad stories set to a snappy beat.

In terms of location, their hometown of San Francisco penetrates many of their songs, even when it’s about its absence and the feeling of being an outsider in locations like New York City ("Motorcycle Drive By"), Los Angeles ("Forget Myself"), or London ("London").

Third Eye Blind has gone through several band member rotations and it’s clear that Stephan Jenkins is the heart and soul of the band while the rest are “salaried employees” (to quote Max Weinberg talking about The E Street Band).

Lyrical complexity is one of Third Eye Blind’s strongest traits (the music speaks for itself and Jenkins has stated its importance to him in interviews). Like Springsteen, this complexity can lead to frequently misunderstood songs. But Third Eye Blind’s music gets misconstrued in a way different to Springsteen’s. Bruce’s stories are usually straightforward with clear characters that have clear - if misguided - motivations. Jenkins' lyrics on the other hand often need a Lit major and/or a pervert to decode them. For example: “But the light, it falls on my castle walls; And my basketballs pelt me with bricks in my dreams” – An Ode to Maybe

What these two bands have most in common though is that they so effectively set downbeat stories to upbeat tempos. Songs like “Semi-Charmed Life,” “Blinded,” and now “Everything is Easy” are dirtier, angst-ridden variations of the classic Springsteen "happy/sad" song we dance our hearts out to like “I’m Goin’ Down,” “Livin’ in the Future,” or “Bobby Jean.”

What do you think? Is Third Eye Blind truly under the influence of Springsteen? Or are these passing coincidences?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Be Part Of The Legends Of Springsteen Army!

Hello loyal readers.  Today's post will be a slight departure from the norm.  You see, for over three years, we've been providing you with semi-regular Springsteen goodness, from covers to live performances, from album reviews to general silliness.  So, as we close in on our 500th post, I feel that we've earned enough creative capital to take a small moment to get on our knees and beg.

You see, like all amateur bloggers, we dream of a day where the majority of our daily hits don't come from random Russian websites.  Therefore, we rely on you, the reader, to help us out!  So, here's five simple ideas you can do that won't take up too much of your time and would generally help us out.

5. Use Our Amazon Affiliate Link.  This is very simple.  If you need to buy something on Amazon, simply click on the link in this bullet point, or on the Amazon advertisement on the bottom right corner.  Then, continue shopping as you normally would.  This price doesn't change for you, but Amazon will kick us back a small percentage of what you buy.  Now, I'd rank this as the least important way you could help us.  We are not in this for the money, I assure you.  However, Steve just recently had a baby, I am going to get married, and OB has....various hobbies.  So, any little bit that we make would be greatly appreciated.

4. Be A Follower.  While we may not have exhausted every facet of social media (who has the time, really?) we do have a Twitter account that you can follow.  Also, you can join the "Followers" section of our blog, which is located on the right sidebar.  These two options are the easiest, most passive thing you can do to help us.  Let's pump those stats!

3. Submit An Article.  This is easily the most labor intensive item on the list, so feel free to skip this one.  However, your three lovely writers must confess to having bouts of Springsteen-fatigue, and have occasionally taken breaks from the blog.  So, perhaps you, the reader, can help by contributing content.  We have had several guest posts in the past, which have been very well received.  There are tons of reasons to try your hand at writing for Legends of Springsteen.  Perhaps you have a unique perspective on Springsteen that we haven't tackled.  Or, you could have your own blog that you'd like to promote, and writing for us could help you attract more readers.  Or maybe you just want to have one idea that you are dying to share on the world wide web, but don't want to set up an entire blog of your own.  To submit an article, simply e-mail LOSpringsteen@gmail.com, and we will do all the editing and formatting for you.

2. Tell People.  Word of mouth is one of the most effective forms of marketing, so if you like what you see here, please spread the word!  You can share links to your favorite articles via all the tradition social media sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Reddit), or you can tell a friend, or you can shout "LEGENDS OF SPRINGSTEEN DOT COM" from your roof.  It's all good, baby.

1. Leave A Comment.  Truly, hearing back from our readers would be the greatest inspiration of all.  Unless you tell us that we suck, which would hurt.  However, if any article inspires you to add your own $0.02 for all the Internet to see, please do so!

So, that's your mission, should you choose to accept it.  I apologize for the interruption in our regularly scheduled posting, and promise to be back shortly with another post where you can just watch the YouTube video and ignore our writing underneath.



Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Cover Spotlight - "I Want You"



Today, let's spotlight this wonderful, high-quality recording from 40 years ago.  It's one of the most unique Springsteen covers I've heard, as he takes Dylan's "I Want You" and completely re-arranges it.  Owing a lot of its flavor to Springsteen's own "For You", this version's marked by a haunting violin and various tempo changes, giving it an ethereal feel.  It is a new front-runner for one of my favorite songs covered by Springsteen.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Counting On A Package Deal, Part 6 - Born In The USA

Now, loyal readers of Counting On A Package Deal may be asking, "Hey Goober, where's Nebraska?"  Don't worry, I have a very good reason for not covering Nebraska: I don't own it.  Seriously, I didn't buy any of these albums - they were all given to me by a family friend.  If you want to help my collection, I will gladly accept donations.  But, sadly, this blog doesn't quite pay the bills (yet!).


Born In The USA is easily Springsteen's second most famous album cover.  This photo by Annie Leibovitz was destined to become iconic, and it seems like the Springsteen album design department knew it, because check out the back of the record:

 
Yup, just the same image again.  I mean, come on fellas.  That's just too much butt.  It's the first, and as far as I know, only time that the front and back of an album have been completely identical.  It makes me wistful for The River's horror show photograph. 



The inside sleeve isn't as good as The River's was, but that was a tough one to top.  However, for the first time, each individual E Street Band member gets their own spotlight photo, with the largest photos going to Clarence and, surprisingly, Garry Tallent.  On the reverse of the sleeve, we get an in-color photo of Bruce - the largest color photo showing Bruce's face since Darkness.  This would've been perfect for the back cover!


And there's a lyrics sheet.  These are fine.  Can't really say much about these.

And, that's it.  We've reached the end of Counting On A Package Deal until I get any more albums.  But what's that you say?  What does the record look like?  Is it just another red circle?  Well, you asked, and I shall deliver:


Remember, you asked.

Want to start your own record collection?  Buy it on Amazon!

Past installments: 
Greetings from Asbury Park
The Wild The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle
Born To Run
Darkness on the Edge of Town
The River

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bruce Alert: Ricki and the Flash


Attention, attention. This August 7th you can see Meryl Streep cover a Bruce Springsteen song. It's part of the upcoming movie Ricki and the Flash in which Streep plays a cover band lead singer reconnecting with her estranged family. Entertainment Weekly reports the film will feature a variety of covers that also includes sounds by Tom Petty and Lady Gaga. The Bruce song is "My Love Will Not Let You Down," which is an interesting choice since it's a lesser known song off the Tracks album (although according to Greasy Lakes it's been played live more than any other Tracks song).

Will Streep perform it as a rockin' proclamation to a lover or a poignant appeal for reconciliation to her family? We'll have to wait and find out on August 7. The film is directed by Jonathan Demme - who filmed great musical scenes in Stop Making Sense and Rachel Getting Married - and the "Streep Summer Movie" is always good counter programming from Hollywood, so consider us interested!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Clarence Clemons on The Weird Al Show


As previewed in the recent Strand of Oaks article, the Legends of Springsteen editors are still coming down from the high of seeing Weird Al Yankovic perform at the Governor's Ball in NYC. Anyone who has had the fortune of seeing The Weird One perform live knows that he has a showmanship and unstoppable energy akin to our beloved Springsteen.

While we'll still have to wait for a Weird Al / Bruce duet, we can at least enjoy an appearance by Clarence Clemons on The Weird Al Show from back in 1997. The entire episode is available to watch on YouTube. Taking a look at it now, it's amazing to think this show even exists. Keep an eye out for Michael McKean, too.

Many thanks to the Backstreets archive for bringing this to our attention!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Cover Spotlight - "Used Cars" by Strand of Oaks



This weekend, I will be lucky enough to attend the Governor's Ball in New York City.  I will only be attending Sunday, as it has the one artist I need to see live once before I die: the legendary Weird Al Yankovic.  However, Sunday offers many other great artists, such as The War On Drugs, Noel Gallagher, and headliner the Black Keys.  However, if you show up early (which I hope to do), you can catch Strand Of Oaks, a singer-songwriter who I saw open for The Tallest Man On Earth a few years ago.  While his music is generally mellow (as you can see in his performance of "Used Cars" above), it will be interesting to see how he performs in front of a large festival crowd.  Personally, I think the man has some solid rock chops, as seen in his single "Goshen 97".  So, that's my humble tip for those going to Governor Ball early Sunday, although you can't go wrong with seeing most of the artists there.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Quick Hit - "America's Funniest Home Videos" by Bruce Springsteen, interpreted by Jimmy Fallon



It's been a while since Jimmy Fallon busted out his Bruce impersonation, but he rectified this long absence earlier this week in a round of celebrity impressions with Jamie Foxx.  Skip forward to the 4:48 mark of the video, and you'll hear JimmyBruce gutting out a rendition of the America's Funniest Home Videos theme.  I'd also recommend sticking around for Jamie Foxx's Doc Rivers impression.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Under the Influence - Bruce Springsteen!

The music world has been rocked by recent "rip-off" scandals, such as Sam Smith/Tom Petty, Robin Thicke/Marvin Gaye, and (after 30 years) Guns N Roses/Australian Crawl.  We here at Legends of Springsteen have previously chided artists for trying their best at aping Springsteen, too.  However, it is in this author's personal opinion that we shouldn't judge music "rip-offs" that harshly, as artists generally wear their influences on their sleeves.

So, today, instead of spotlighting an artist that Springsteen has influenced, we'll spotlight a few artists that have influenced the Boss.  There are obvious ones like Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, but this time, we'll take a look at some Springsteen songs that sound suspiciously like previous hits.  First up, let's take a look at some classics from Born To Run.

Bo Diddley Beat / "She's The One"





In "She's The One", Bruce uses the classic Bo Diddley beat.  This beat has been used in a ton of pop songs, but the ones I hear the most with just the beat are Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" and George Michael's "Faith".  It's an iconic beat, so it's no shame in Bruce stealing from the best (you can also sorta hear this beat on "High Hopes" as well).

"Tiny Dancer" / "Jungleland"





Specifically, we are talking about the piano introductions on both songs.  I guess I kinda see this one, but it is fleeting.  The songs are just four years apart, so I'll leave it up to you to make the call.

"Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" / "Badlands"



The video above is just a small excerpt from Bruce's 2012 keynote speech at SXSW.  The first five minutes is dedicated to his love of The Animals, pointing exactly how they inspired him.  At the end of the video, however, Bruce clearly illustrates how "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" directly influenced "Badlands".  As Bruce says at the end, "Listen up youngsters!  This is how successful theft is accomplished!"

Now, you may be saying, "Hey goober, all these examples are from Bruce's early career!  Of course a young artist is going to rely a lot on his influences."  Fairly noted.  So, let's take a look at some examples from later on down the line.

"867-5309 (Jenny)" / "Radio Nowhere"



Hard to argue with this one - it's one of the more blatant offenders I've heard in the last ten years.  But kudos to Mr. Tutone for letting it go and not lawyer-ing it up.

"I Was Made For Lovin' You" / "Outlaw Pete"



We here at Legends of Springsteen are no fans of "Outlaw Pete", which has come up with a disturbing amount of frequency on this blog.  However, we have previously noted that KISS has taken from the Boss, so turnabout is fair play, I say.

"Small Town" / "Just Like Fire Would"





Ok, let's see if you can follow this one.  You have Bruce Springsteen, who inspired John Mellencamp.  Then, years later, Bruce Springsteen is inspired by a punk band called The Saints.  He covers the band, using an arrangement similar to John Mellencamp.  Can you really rip someone off who has been ripping you off?  Like the KISS example above, turnabout is still fair play.

So, there we have it.  In this humble author's opinion, I believe we need to relax whenever one song sounds somewhat similar to another song.  Often in these scenarios, people like to get on a very high horse.  Sometimes they'll criticize a particular artist mainly because they have an axe to grind against them (which happened a lot with Lady Gaga's "Born This Way").  More often, I've seen this old chestnut - "There's no original music anymore!"  Well, next time you hear some fuddy-duddy complaining about originality in music, please direct them to this post.  As you can see, every artist is guilty of being, let's say, "overly-inspired" by their predecessors.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Song Spotlight - "Bullets Fever" by Nils Lofgren



As documented many times in the past, I am a huge NBA fan.  We're at the half-way point of the NBA Playoffs, and my beloved team, the Brooklyn Nets, are long gone.  Now, I am going through the process every fan of a loser has to go through at one point - the playoff team adoption.  There are many factors to consider when adopting a playoff team that is not your own.  Do they have a rivalry with your team?  Are there any players on the team that used to play for your team?  Is your adopted team too popular?  It is not a task to be taken lightly.

This year, the Washington Wizards present a strong case.  First, you've got former Nets Paul Pierce and Kris Humphries.  Then, you've got a team that hasn't won a lot of championships.  Finally, you've got this rocking song by Nils Lofgren!  If there's anything wrong with music in this day and age, it's clearly the lack of novelty songs about sports teams.  However, there is something wrong karma-wise with adopting a team in your own conference, and, unfortunately, they are named the Wizards.  

Therefore, I will be hitching my wagon to the Memphis Grizzlies.  They satisfy the "former Nets" requirement (the beloved Vince Carter and the forgettable Courtney Lee), as well as the "not winning a lot" requirement.  While they don't have any songs about them (yet), I'll pretend "Walking in Memphis" is about them.  Plus, Marc Cohn kinda sounds like Bruce Springsteen.

Thank you for continuing to read this blog.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Counting On A Package Deal, Part 5 - The River


Today, on 5/5, we'll be examining Springsteen's fifth album, The River.  This package is full of tons of goodies, so sit back and enjoy a nice, lengthy article.  And, by that, I mean a ton of photos, because that's what you are really here for, right?  The cover is the simplest to date: Springsteenface.  Nothing to see here.  But the back?  Good lord.


This might be the first time I've seen the back of The River album, and goodness, what on Earth is going on?  There's creepy wedding decorations, and American flag with its own bald eagle, and various other party decorations like glitter, glue sticks, and cups.  I can see why the back of The River has never reached the notoriety of other Springsteen black-and-white photos, such as Nebraska.  This is downright scary and confusing.  I assume it has something to do with all the weddings discussed in songs such as "The River" and "I Wanna Marry You", but the overall effect is horrifying.  It's one of those images that, if you encountered at a very young age, would be forever burned into your sub-conscience.  To pacify myself, I'll say that, seeing the name "Charlie" in the background and the American flag/eagle combination, this photo served as inspiration for Charlie Kelly's "Rock Flag & Eagle" song.

The album doesn't unfold ala Born To Run, but each album comes in its own sleeve.  These sleeves are amazing.  Presented, in order, are album one's sleeve and album two's sleeve (both sides of each).  Please, take your time to absorb these all, I'll still be here when you are done:






Go back and look one more time.  Tons of classic, old-school photos of the Boss and crew in their primes.  The E Street Band had been missing from Bruce's album packaging since The Wild, but they make up for lost time here.  And, guess what?  There's more!




Like Darkness, The River has a separate sheet for Springsteen's lyrics.  Unlike Darkness, we get more photos of the band (plus some funky used car art).  

Overall, I absolutely love the packaging for The River.  This is exactly what I want to compliment the music I'm listening to: pictures of the band that performed it!  The only thing that can make this better is if they varied the record label, right?  I mean, it's been four records in a row of the same red circle?  Surely, with two records, they will HAVE to change it!  I can't wait to see what they went with!


...I brought this upon myself.

Want to start your own record collection?  Buy it on Amazon!

Past installments: 
Greetings from Asbury Park
The Wild The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle
Born To Run
Darkness on the Edge of Town

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Album Review: Devils & Dust


Today marks the ten-year anniversary of the release of Springsteen's 13th studio album Devils & Dust.  Usually, I start these reviews with my persona relationship I had with the album at the time it was released (such as my love of The Rising and my hatred of Working On A Dream).  However, this is an album that never quite left a mark on me in any direction.  I was out of the country when it was released, and subsequently never saw any of the shows on the Devils & Dust Tour.  Basically, before going into this album, I remember just having a generally positive attitude about this album.  And, after a couple of listens recently, that's about all I'm left with: a generally positive attitude.



Devils & Dust is a difficult album to review.  While it generally gets lumped in with other acoustic albums like Nebraska and Ghost of Tom Joad, there are much more instruments than the guitar integrating into these songs (when perhaps they shouldn't be).  In fact, many of these songs were old songs Springsteen had written that were cleaned up and recorded, making the album much more like High Hopes.

There are some good songs, but they never quite reach "great" status.  There are some bad songs, but nothing that can't pass as adequate filler.  It wouldn't be fair to call it "average", but it isn't a classic either.  In fact, I think the album is best summarized by it's title track above.  "Devils & Dust" is a protest strong that has held up fairly well over the years, with its evocative lyrics and stark atmosphere.  However after a strong opening minute, it gets bogged down by overproduction, adding in strings and piano.  It doesn't make the song unlistenable, mind you, but it holds it back from being an all-time Springsteen classic.



While the name Devils & Dust invokes a dark, somber attitude, the best songs on this album are actually Springsteen's love songs.  "Long Time Comin'" is one of the strongest songs on the album, both musically and lyrically.  Invoking the name Rosie again (instantly recalling the classic "Rosalita"), Springsteen weaves a great tale of failed relationships with the hope of working to make the future different from the past.  "Leah" is little love song that has always stuck with me.  While it is very similar to "Long Time Comin'" musically, the "li-li-li's" give it an classic 1960s pop feeling.  "All I'm Thinkin' About" completes this love song trilogy.  Here, Springsteen challenges himself, singing in complete falsetto.  It's a risk that pays off, as it makes the narrator sound breathless, overtaken with his love.



The rest of the songs have one or two things that help them stand out.  You've got "All The Way Home", the random hard rocker on the album that stands out like "Open All Night" on Nebraska.  You've got "Reno", the hooker song.  "Maria's Bed" is a twangy song, with "woos" similar to "State Trooper" and the smiling skull ring from "(Further On) Up The Road".  "Matamoros Banks" is another slow lullaby that ends the album, which seems to be Springsteen's specialty ("My City of Ruins", "Terry's Song", "Dream Baby Dream", etc.).

 The problem is that all of these songs are different thematically.  The album doesn't have the driving direction that helps the other Springsteen work stand out.  You've got anti-war songs, love songs, songs about boxers, songs about cars, etc.  The sound isn't acoustic, but you also don't have the E Street Band, either.  With all that being said, I'd rate the album a three out of five.  It's got a handful of songs that I'd love to see in concert (and a couple I think could be revamped with a full band, such as "Black Cowboys").  Many of the songs have great elements, but they don't quite stick the landing.  Much like this review, which I'm not sure how to end.

Please share your thoughts/stories about Devils & Dust in the comments below!