Bruce Springsteen - Classic or Dud ?

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I know he's bound to be considered a monstrous dud, especially with British folks and technoid types, but I'm especially curious as to why. Poor Bruce, he's gotta be more uncool than Richard Marx these days. Not that his 90s albums helped much.

Patrick, Friday, 23 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Yep, big fat dud. Always hated him. Crap songs that dominated 1984. Shit voice. The fucking E-street band. Never saw the point of Da Boss. It all when wrong early on when he was proclaimed The Future of Rock 'n Roll way back when. Okay so he wrote "Because the Night" and even that isn't too hot. Almost the perfect antipole of what I look for in music. Sorry, had to be predictable here.

Omar, Friday, 23 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

"Born To Run" is a classic, up there with Roxy Music as an early example of po-mo cut-and-paste kitsch pop.

I can't get worked up and annoyed about Bruce in the way I can about some other rockers. He has an ear for a great line (the opening of "Hungry Heart" for instance) and I can forgive him a lot for that. He doesn't resonate with me and like the Replacements I think that's a cultural thing.

I also - and this is totally subjective - never get the impression Bruce ever thinks he's particularly cool. Which is not something I can say of most other 'real rock'n'roller' types, mainstream or otherwise.

Tom, Friday, 23 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link


File under yet to be discovered. I was listening to an apologetic defence of his work from Sean Rowley on the radio the other day, and it got me wondering again. People of my generation's first real exposure to him was the 'Born in the USA' air-punching era and that obviously wasn't likely to engender much interest. Yes, I know it was all ironic.

What I have heard of his 70's stuff sounds like I might grow to love it. That midwest blue-collar world his songs inhabit seems harder to relate to than any other, but even in 1988, I had the feeling Paddy McAloon was missing the point with the song 'Cars & Girls'.

At the moment, I'm afraid the song of his I like best is a 90s one - 'If I Should Fall Behind', which I only know from the Grant McLellan cover version.

Badly Drawn Boy is a Springsteen obsessive, which I thought was quite cute.

Nick, Friday, 23 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

I guess if want a simple answer as to why he's treated with disdain by the certain people, it's his overwhelming aura of earnestness.


Nick, Friday, 23 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Paddy McAloon is an odd one, because he'd already missed a very similar point with "Faron Young", and then said in interviews that he'd missed it, and then proceeded to miss it again. I can't stand "Cars And Girls".

Tom, Friday, 23 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

i admit i don't like all of the boss's stuff. i haven't even tried to, really. but "nebraska" and "ghost of tom joad" are terrific records.

matthew stevens, Friday, 23 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Classic all the way as well. Soft-spot. As a youth I hated him (I was 7 in 1984 and "Born in the USA" was nowhere as fun as "Karma Chameleon" - I wanted to be Boy George, not some sweaty guy with a baseball cap tucked in his blue jeans). But in my teens I kept hearing fantastic pop tracks on the classic rock radio ("Badlands" for instance), and my English teacher once had us work on the lyrics to "The River" - the long live version with the speech at the beginning - so I went out and purchased a few Springsteen albums. For the record, there's always been City Simon who likes the Dead Boys and the Damned, and Countryside Simon who likes Ry Cooder and the Sundays, and somehow Springsteen linked these two sides of me beautifully. From "Thunder Road" to "Highway Patrolman" (I bought "Nebraska" after seeing Sean Penn's haunting "Indian Runner") to "I'm On Fire", Springsteen's songs have accompanied me through important journeys, love affairs and dry winters.

Simon, Friday, 23 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Yeah, same as Simon, I used to dislike Bruce too at first, in 1984. I was into British synth-pop at the time and to me, he was just some old guy making a comeback, like John Fogerty or something. And I definitely agree that "Cars And Girls" song makes that Prefab Sprout guy look like a pretentious little twit. I kinda get the feeling that a lot of people dislike him (Bruce) because he's never had much of a sex-and-drugs-and-darkness-and-destruction image (even though Nebraska is as dark as 10000 Trent Reznors).

Patrick, Friday, 23 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

DUDE! There is not excuse for even asking this, totally classic, baby. Born To Run (the album and the song) is one of the most glorious moments in rock-pop ever, out Spector-ing Phil Spector. His voice is only crap when he decides to pretend he's Bob Dylan, which is becoming frightfully more and more common. Sure, a lot of the Born In The USA-era stuff is dated now due to production value but it's still got some very solid songwriting.

And yes, Tom, he's got a very good ear for a line.

Ally, Friday, 23 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

I get to piss on the parade here. Yay me!

I heard the version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" when I was young and that is pretty spiff, I freely agree. Circa 1984, liking El Bruce was unsurprising for me as that was a pretty damn good radio year -- Chuck Eddy specifically called it as such in _Stairway to Hell_, and he was goddamn right. Thus liking all that stuff he made was a matter of course alongside all those singles from _Purple Rain_ and _Like A Virgin_ and etc.

Time went on and I proceeded to not care. I never cared enough to buy an album anyway, and the 'classic early singles' only made sense in my classic rock phase, which lasted about nine months in senior year.

Then I ended up in LA and encountered the first of Robert Hilburn's 345,234,843 printed sermons on How Bruce Springsteen Heals the Sick, Raises the Dead and Means More to Human Existence Than the Combined Efforts of Louis Pasteur, Billie Holiday and Charles Schulz. I encountered other blowhards. The music touched me with the impact of a dying flea. A roommate was obsessed with him to the point of near mania. I cried.

The end.

Frankly, the Walkabouts any day of the goddamn week, month, year, decade, century, etc. If the relative fame levels were reversed, I would cling to this assumption with even more deep, abiding passion because then I would have The People on my side. Even alone, though, it's comfy. And Frankie Goes to Hollywood's version of "Born to Run" is my fave.

Ned Raggett, Friday, 23 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

The Wild, the Innocent, and the E-Street Shuffle is a terrific album. Also the live boxed set. Also, The River. Also, hell. Also almost everything thru Tunnel Of Love. One of those artists who you need the right "mood" to get. Or, just to be driving a car.

Sterling Clover, Friday, 23 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link


i actually liked born_in_the_u.s.a when it came out at age 7, but later, i found it to be an obstacle in getting to love bruce, and i'm sure there are a ton of artists out there whose work at that time has kept people away from them.

as sterling said, it's funny what driving a car can do, especially when it's another dark and lonely night out on an empty anonymous new jersey highway and "born to run" comes on the highway. but i've been there, so i'll move on.

you can get by on the first five or so albums on the music and production alone -- unless of course you hate phil spector and are, therefore, destined to spend eternity in hell -- and the later stuff will stick if you find something in the lyrics that rings far too true. sure, he mines the same territory in a lot of his songs, but so do belle & sebastian and so did the smiths; except the kids in bruce's songs could kick the ass of their counterparts in the aforementioned.

ned, i think you have the same problem as tom: it's a cultural thing. ;)

fred from new jersey, Friday, 23 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Ooh. The dark and lonely highways of despair. *plays the violin*

It's not a cultural thing; I mean for god's sake Motorcycle Emptiness might as well be Bruce Springsteen on a literacy trip in terms of subject, and I know Tom likes the song, and I believe Ned does too. Whether that particular statement was tongue in cheek or not, it's a tired excuse and reasoning, one usually used by the saddest of Bruce Springsteen fans, the ones who "identify" with his sentiments, seemingly losing track of the fact that BRUCE'S CHARACTERS NEVER ACTUALLY MAKE IT OUT. Some positive role models to rock out to.

The thing is, I think it's the voice and the earnestness, which was already said. The stylistic values of it....the basic cultural and escape sentiments, lyrically, of Motorcycle Emptiness and Born to Run might be very similar in tone, but the style and vocalisings are entirely, 100% different. Bruce has a very sarcastic bent, a very dark bent, lyrically, but his style of music softens the blow and sometimes people just don't like it.

And those people are wrong, incidentally :P

Ally, Saturday, 24 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

2 albums are CLASSIX: 'Darkness on the Edge of Town' and especially 'Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ'.

Nebraska is half good but doesn't deserve the plaudits it gets as the Springsteen album it's cool to like.

The rest is pretty much DUD.

alex thomson, Saturday, 24 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

"Oh yes, he's a dud..."

Nevermind that Born in the USA was my first record not meant to be played on the Fisher Price record player (with the STEEL NEEDLE)

Nevermind Tracks Nevermind the fact that Born to Run is one of the best driving albums ever when your top is down and it's summer and the road between Ventura and home stretches out and empty at night with no cops...

Nevermind he has out Dylan-ed Dylan

Nevermind that he can outrage The Man as he pushes the dark side of life. (41 Shots)

Nevermind the line "The record company Rosie, JUST GAVE ME A BIG ADVANCE!"

Nevermind the Live box set, reminding us just how powerful he was

Nevermind Time and Newsweek

Nevermind Thunder-Fucking-Road

Nevermind The cover of Jersey Girl

Nevermind Tracks

Nevermind the MTV Unplugged set where he scrapped the entire notion of an acoustic show and just plugged in and tore down the house

Nevermind everyone on this list who called him a dud.

JM, Saturday, 24 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

"Nevermind he has out Dylan-ed Dylan"

well, Bruce isn't *that* bad! ;)

Omar, Saturday, 24 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

The entirety of the lyrics to Rosalita are a Great Rock Moment, Jimmy. Don't just single out that line ;)

Ally, Saturday, 24 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

I note your list, Jimmy, and yet, somehow, it makes no sense to me. ;- )

La Bruce just collectively calls to my mind a stunted bastard vision of music that presumes he was the sole carrier of the 'spirit of rock and roll truth' that the Beatles and Stones 'started' in the sixties. A CLAIM I HAVE ENCOUNTERED MORE THAN ONCE, though thankfully not here, and happily never from the man's own lips either, at least to my knowledge. Without that rhetoric I would just shrug and ignore him for somebody more interesting, but with it, frankly, he becomes a very very useful target to kick against. Perhaps only a straw man, but one I wouldn't mind seeing go up in flames.

Ned Raggett, Saturday, 24 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Springsteen is, doubtless, a spirit of a rock and roll truth, which he has a near monopoly on. I think, maybe, if I had grown up in a real city, instead of a tourist-trap disneyburb retirement town, that whole swaths of music wouldn't resonate with me. But there I was, and I don't know if you have to have that certain feeling to get Bruce. If you have to know that you're suffocating, that you'd rather die than stay, that the air was too think to dream in, if you have to have known that.

The boy has fallen off of late, but... I'm reminded of the Bangs article where he describes how he dismissed this Maoist band as sounding like Bruce, and the band replied "oh, good, the working class like that stuff" or something of the sort, and I'm reading this thinking -- no. no. no. The correct answer is "oh, good. Bruce fucking rocks!"

What I appreciate about Bruce is how he can capture the majesty of a major chord. How so many of his songs have the same progression, but you don't realize it 'till you try to play 'em yourself. How he can take gospel music and write it to a girl instead. And yes, more of them damn anthems.

I mean.. I know that anthems aren't an alien concept to the UK -- after all, The Who were full of them. But maybe British anthems are a different type a "get off of my cloud" or "sod off" type, more cynical and pissy than dreamy and wide-eyed. Maybe this is, after all, because America is The Big Country, The Great Bitch, et cet. Maybe to get America you have to get just how there's always somewhere you might go, maybe.

Along these lines, "Not Fade Away" which is a novel by Jim Dodge is a great rock road story, sort of like the lighter side of Richard Hell's "Go Now" or the more earnest(?) side of Bruce McCullough's "Doors Fan" sketch (on his album, Shame-Based Man). Yes. Get that spirit of the open highway.

Sterling Clover, Sunday, 25 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

A dud, but only because of unpleasant memories of listening attentively to my copies of *The River* and *Live 1975-1985* like a good rock-critic-in-training, and finding it impossible to feel anything about them other than apathy. He's done a goodly number of really great ones such as "Hungry Heart," "Dancing In The Dark," and "Racing in the Street" but he invariably makes my mind wander after more than a couple songs.

Michael Daddino, Sunday, 25 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

I have to say Classic, though I can see why some could argue otherwise. Looming large is the cultural gap, for our friends from the Eastern Hemisphere. Hard to tune in to what Springsteen has going on from there. But those first three records are great, still, and Nebraska is also excellent when you're in the mood. In 1984 I owned about 15 albums total, and even then I had Springsteen's entire catalog. So I'm definitely biased. All of Born in the USA is horrible now. That production really sinks it, even though half the songs are strong.

Mark Richardson, Sunday, 25 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

I should note that, being American myself, the Cultural Gap thing is rather overrated as an explanation. ;-)

I will say, though, that I do lack a car and have never had one. That might serve as a better explanation. ;-)

Ned Raggett, Sunday, 25 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Nah... I don't even have a driver's license and I love the man. Cars are my favorite place to listen to music though.

Patrick, Monday, 26 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

The Automobile as Stationary Listening Environment. How revolutionary.

I wish I wasn't misinterpreting.

Otis Wheeler, Monday, 26 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Uh... I meant when *someone else* is driving, Otis.

Patrick, Monday, 26 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Thank god, otherwise it sounds like something Thom Yorke would do.

Ally, Tuesday, 27 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Smashing, in loads of ways. You have to get used to REPETITION with the Boss - you have to get used to the idea that he is frequently writing pretty much the same song again and again, and is *not apologizing for it*. On Nebraska (yes, probably still the best LP, for my money; but I like lots of the others) he even repeats the same lyrics. The whole rock-writer idea of originality, uniqueness etc is just not in play with a lot of the Boss's stuff: to stretch a point, it's less like a load of individual songs, more like a single fabric that he is reweaving for as long as he likes. In that sense he's something akin to a bluesman, I suppose.

Inspirational in some ways. I have often felt that England needed a Springsteen, albeit not just a a copycat 'rocker'; I mean, someone who would write about all the lost and found small-town lives. But to be fair, I suppose there is already a UK tradition here: the probably Jarvis Cocker is a case in point.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 28 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Ah, but that's what you're doing yourself, Reynard :).

Robin Carmody, Friday, 2 March 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Dud. Never cared much for Brooce's brand of schlock n' roll....Heard "Greetings from.." and "Darkness at the edge of town" and they just sounded like MOR to me. "Nebraska" I do like however but thats even got "Used cars" on used cars are a symbol of poverty...pah!...There isnt too many highways in Ireland and if there was I wouldnt spend time listening to Springsteen...

Michael Bourke, Sunday, 4 March 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

three months pass...
A part of the reason he's not being taken too kindly by them there "hip" folks is:

1. they don't understand that he's actually not as "pro-america" as they might think he is

2. they don't have as close a connection to "old school" code (which includes "old school" rock)

3. they are mostly college kids on their way up to some office job or whatever that is removed (if not far removed) from the "underworld" (the "blue collar" or "real" world) to get the lyrical sentiments

4. well, and...sometimes people just don't like something 'cause they just don't like it

I, however, do not apply to any of those 4. For I actually do "get" some of the appeal of Bruce (albeit, it took my until my mid or late twenties to get there). Sure, his overly sentimental (downright broadway or maudlin) look at the working class can be a bit (or a bunch) too much. And sure, his music can be too simple and/or too derivitive. But, that's a part of the whole. Familiarity in both music and lyrics, is a large part of the appeal of his stuff (and those like him, ala Mellencamp, etc). He just had the concept to put nearly a whole career on the working class/blue collar life like no other has (not in such a wide reaching broad sense, at least - other than Mellencamp, but Bruce did it a bit better and first).


Having said all that, 'Nebraska' and 'Ghost of Tom Joad' are the only two full albums that I would declare anywhere near a "classic" state of existence (with 'Nebraska' being the one clear-cut vote). Many of the rest of his 70's and 80's albums have some good solid worthy singles on them, but. I can't go so far as to get 'The River' (for example) anywhere near a "classic" nod. That one, in particular, I find to be overrated (though still having the wonderful track "Stolen Car" and the title track deserving of 'Nebraska'-like attention).

michael g. breece, Sunday, 1 July 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Wow. I'm digging this message board "I Love Music". To think one would find a mention of Bruce McCulloch 'Shame Based Man' in a Bruce Springsteen thread, ahhh...the possibilities.

Anyways, I forgot to mention to huge (to the point of shadowing) element as to one of the why's (or why not's) of enjoy/appreciating Bruce. Which is: DRIVING. Cars and driving is such a central and/or reoccuring figure/subject in his work that...I can't believe I forgot to touch upon that (only after reading some of the others posts, darn it). But yea, I do LOVE to drive. Which also helps to explain the appeal of Springsteen (to me, at least).

*By the way, I do own that McCulloch album 'Shame Based Man' it (some really funny stuff and one of the very rare comedy albums worthy of many plays - if not it's own discussion here on "I Love Music"...anyone?). Every single one of my girlfriends (one present, others past) hated it. "And if (after torching the stolen car) you can still hear the Doors playing...then you have become...a DOORS...FAN!" I'm not a Doors fan, however.

michael g. breece, Monday, 2 July 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

MG Breece (hey, sounds like a car): I wonder whether you agree with me that a large part of the point of the Boss is repetition - the fact that he does the same thing over and over again?

the pinefox, Monday, 2 July 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

six months pass...
I listened to Born To Run riding the bus to work today. This is the first CD I ever purchased, back in 1985 (I'd already bought a few LPs), and I still have my original copy. Don't believe that business about CD rot -- it's doing fine.

I hadn't listened to this record in a couple of years, but god, it still sounded great. Actually, I kept getting shivers down my spine when it was playing and it had me close to tears a few times (mostly on "Thunder Road" and "Backstreets.") Listening to this today finally settled an ILM debate for me: Music can never affect me quite as much now as it did when I was a teenager. No record I've heard in the last few years, including Loveless, has had as much affect on me as Born to Run did this morning, and I know it's not just because Born to Run is such a great album. This is a record that got to me when I was young and emotionally vulnerable in a way that I'm not anymore, at the age of 32. I still feel music very deeply and appreciate and enjoy a wider range of music than ever, but music doesn’t completely overpower me the way it did when I was 15. Oh well.

Springsteen is still a big classic, by the way, despite all the incredibly corny lines on Born to Run.

Mark, Thursday, 24 January 2002 01:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I like how he lets the words of "Born to Run" tumble out of his mouth, like a horse taking a dump.

DeRayMi, Thursday, 24 January 2002 01:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I like how he lets the words of "Born to Run" tumble out of his mouth, like a horse taking a dump.

So much for my epiphany...;0)

Mark, Thursday, 24 January 2002 01:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Anyway: classic, though not a personal favorite.

DeRayMi, Thursday, 24 January 2002 01:00 (nineteen years ago) link

nine months pass...
I finally bought a Springsteen record! (The G Hits, even though I know it's got lots of shite on, cause I like owning G Hits). It's pretty great up to the point at which it isn't. Let's talk about Bruce again!

Tom (Groke), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 23:18 (eighteen years ago) link

the new one that ponefix and dq agreed on is unfortunately quite boring as to its actual like, er, sound – hence i only played it once so far, curse you persuasive fellows

"candy's room" is the grebtest song ever written about being in love w. a prostitute when you sound a bit like david bowie

mark s (mark s), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 23:22 (eighteen years ago) link

Tom if you ever feel like owning a whole album I have you pegged as a River man. At what point does G hits peter out?

Mark (MarkR), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 23:25 (eighteen years ago) link

"My Hometown" is the first one I didn't really enjoy. "Brilliant Disguise" sounds laboured. After that I don't 'get it' yet (or it sucks).

Tom (Groke), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 23:29 (eighteen years ago) link

(It's obviously my Mark Pitchfork day cos I also bought Vision Creation Newsun!)

Tom (Groke), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 23:31 (eighteen years ago) link

"candy's room" is the grebtest song ever written about being in love w. a prostitute when you sound a bit like david bowie

Is this a new genre? Cos that'd be fucking incredible.

I still love Bruce Springsteen. Put on Rosalita and you will see me go insane.

Ally (mlescaut), Wednesday, 20 November 2002 03:01 (eighteen years ago) link

So will I.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Wednesday, 20 November 2002 03:23 (eighteen years ago) link

Right, so next time you are in NYC, that's what we shall do.

Ally (mlescaut), Wednesday, 20 November 2002 03:24 (eighteen years ago) link

Meat Loaf almost makes me want to like him.

sundar subramanian (sundar), Wednesday, 20 November 2002 03:24 (eighteen years ago) link

I didn't explain exactly WHY I would go insane, but hey.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Wednesday, 20 November 2002 03:34 (eighteen years ago) link

I didn't need to ask ;)

Ally (mlescaut), Wednesday, 20 November 2002 03:39 (eighteen years ago) link

All is well. ;-)

Ned Raggett (Ned), Wednesday, 20 November 2002 05:21 (eighteen years ago) link

"Candy's Room" was the first Bruce song I wuvved.

alext (alext), Wednesday, 20 November 2002 11:58 (eighteen years ago) link

Is the war here the Vietnam War?

the pinefox, Tuesday, 1 June 2021 15:25 (three weeks ago) link

I was thinking the other day: as a big lover of the Boss, I'm not convinced that his melodies are often great.

I tried to think of good Boss melodies. I thought:

1: The River
2: My Hometown
3: There Goes My Miracle (The novelty of including a late / recent song in the pantheon!)

But actually, I think the keyboard part of 'Born in the USA', and the melody working against it, are as melodically memorable as anything he's done. (And would have been lost if he'd just stuck to the NEBRASKA version?)

the pinefox, Tuesday, 1 June 2021 15:27 (three weeks ago) link

Bearing in mind that I know nothing about music and wouldn't know a melody from a hole in the ground, I think I agree with you about his melodies often being lacking, or maybe he just loses some of his interest in melody around Born in the USA? "Thunder Road" has some lovely melodies jostling around in it, "Incident on 57th St" ditto, and I suppose "Independence Day" has a strong enough melody for Jakob Dylan to rip off for "One Headlight."

A lot of his songs that aren't obviously variations on each other have similar melodies: "Western Stars," "Letter to You" and "Land of Hope and Dreams" are all pretty close to one another, for instance. There's a video somewhere of him playing "Linda Will You Let Me Be The One" and "I Wanna Marry You" back-to-back and then realizing as he's doing it that they're actually the same song. "Janey Don't You Lose Heart" and "Dancing in the Dark" also seem like maybe they share a common ancestor, but I'm not as sure about that one.

But then Bruce also has a lot of songs where I wouldn't think there was enough of a melody to work with but he manages to sing them and make them sound good. I was just thinking about "Backstreets" and how cool it is that the verses are pretty much in Hiawatha meter, barely singable, more a chant than a song, and then it suddenly lifts off into the chorus.

Lily Dale, Wednesday, 2 June 2021 00:28 (two weeks ago) link

Or "She's the One," which is also kind of a simple repetitive thing which somehow never fails to end up epic and awesome.

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 2 June 2021 00:37 (two weeks ago) link

I also think it is super cool how minimalist and repetitive the chorus of "I'm Goin' Down" is:

I'm goin' down, down, down, down
I'm goin' down, down, down, down
I'm goin' down, down, down down
I'm goin' down, down, down, down

The same word sixteen times, and almost always on the exact same note; you'd think it would be boring, like how the hell is that a chorus? But instead I find myself waiting for that eleventh "down" to come along and break the monotony, and every time it comes there's more of a reward, until finally he starts breaking up the whole damn thing with nonsense syllables and it brings such a sense of freedom with it, like he's created this 4x4 grid of chorus just to scribble all over it.

Lily Dale, Wednesday, 2 June 2021 00:46 (two weeks ago) link

That’s funny, I was just about to remark how I feel like a lot of his melodies sort of work alongside the lyrics, to thematize them – the tightness and constraint of “I’m on Fire” or “Tunnel of Love”; the repetition of “Workin’ on the Highway”; the tension of “The Rising”; etc.

like a d4mn sociopath! (morrisp), Wednesday, 2 June 2021 00:52 (two weeks ago) link

It helps that he’s often singing about people with constrained lives, trying to break free…a small melodic gesture breaking a repetitive melody, as Lily describes, can go a long way.

like a d4mn sociopath! (morrisp), Wednesday, 2 June 2021 00:54 (two weeks ago) link

Another little vocal moment I think is super cool: in "Wild Billy's Circus Story," when he sings

Oh, and a press roll drummer go, ballerina to-and-fro
Cartwheeling up on that tightrope

He hits the word "cartwheeling" with such sudden and unexpected force that it sounds like he's throwing all his strength behind it, and it's always struck me as the perfect vocal impression of a gymnast launching themselves into a skill. Like, lots of people can show you the grace or the daring or w/ever of a circus act; Springsteen makes you feel how much physical effort goes into it.

Lily Dale, Wednesday, 2 June 2021 01:33 (two weeks ago) link

He just wants to hear some rhythm

maf you one two (maffew12), Wednesday, 2 June 2021 01:38 (two weeks ago) link

I have to hand it to poster Lily Dale for that hyper-formalist analysis of 'I'm Going Down'. I didn't think anyone could make that chorus so interesting!

the pinefox, Wednesday, 2 June 2021 07:37 (two weeks ago) link

I've just thought of a rare great Boss melody:


Relevantly, it's a fairly uncharacteristic song in sounding like some kind of ... relatively "glossy MOR pop-rock"? I have loved it since TRACKS came out and I suppose the tune is a big part of that.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 2 June 2021 07:39 (two weeks ago) link

I could be misremembering, but I could have sworn that "I'm Going Down" is one of the few songs that Springsteen himself has sort of dismissed. Maybe because it's so repetitive? Looks like he's played it only 47 times since the 1999 E Street reunion, which is not that much, for a single! I dunno, I think it's a fun song, with, like the best "fun" Springsteen songs, just enough of a current of darkness to give it a surprisingly cutting edge.

"Sad Eyes" is a lovely song. If you want full MOR, Enrique Iglesias actually recorded it and released it as a single, replete with sexy video!

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 2 June 2021 11:10 (two weeks ago) link

Yeah, Springsteen doesn't seem to think much of it but he is WRONG, it is GREAT! I don't think he understands what he did with that chorus, though, because when he plays it live he usually introduces more variation into it right away instead of making us wait for it.

Lily Dale, Wednesday, 2 June 2021 14:54 (two weeks ago) link

There is also some awesome controlled repetition in the verses:

I used to drive you to work in the morning
Friday night I'd drive you all around
You used to love to drive me wild
But lately girl you get your kicks from just driving me down

Ok yes it is Bruce Springsteen singing the word "drive" four times in a row, but look what he does with it! He gives the meaning a twist halfway through the verse; we go from literal to figurative and from him driving her to her driving him. And every time he sings the word it comes a little later in the line, until with the last line, when we know the word is coming, he breaks the meter, draws out the line and makes us wait for it.

Lily Dale, Wednesday, 2 June 2021 15:23 (two weeks ago) link

Darkness album release was 43 years ago today ( i heard someone say on radio)

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 2 June 2021 21:04 (two weeks ago) link

More great close reading from poster Lily Dale.

the pinefox, Thursday, 3 June 2021 23:18 (two weeks ago) link

Get one Candy’s Room!

AP Chemirocha (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 3 June 2021 23:23 (two weeks ago) link

Lily Dale is definitely bringing it

portmanteaujam (Ye Mad Puffin), Thursday, 3 June 2021 23:28 (two weeks ago) link

I guess I wasn't expecting this:

Bruce Springsteen will return to Broadway this summer for a limited run of Springsteen on Broadway performances at Jujamcyn's St. James Theatre. Shows begin Saturday June 26, with additional performances taking place through September 4.

I wonder if he will change anything? I also wonder if, being several years older, he will be any changed? It's been 3 years, more or less, right?

Josh in Chicago, Monday, 7 June 2021 17:15 (two weeks ago) link

(FWIW, "Audience members will be required to provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination in order to enter the theater.")

Josh in Chicago, Monday, 7 June 2021 17:15 (two weeks ago) link

Just saw that! I have been wondering the same thing (will he change anything, I mean). I would imagine he'd at least talk about the past year and a half. Not that there's much point in my speculating, because I do not have the budget for Springsteen on Broadway tickets plus a flight across the country.

Lily Dale, Monday, 7 June 2021 17:32 (two weeks ago) link

At minimum he'll need to make an update or two (specifically the references to the dumpster fire that was the Trump administration), but it'll be interesting to see if he swaps out any songs, etc.

birdistheword, Monday, 7 June 2021 18:40 (two weeks ago) link

I mean, when I saw it he didn't even mention his kids or family, which I thought was weird for a show that focused so much on his own childhood and his parents and family.

Josh in Chicago, Monday, 7 June 2021 19:16 (two weeks ago) link

Maybe, but I thought the section on him and Patti was enough.

birdistheword, Monday, 7 June 2021 19:25 (two weeks ago) link

I would be surprised if he didn't include one of the mourning-lost-friends songs from Letter To You.

Lily Dale, Monday, 7 June 2021 19:27 (two weeks ago) link

xp There's a lot he didn't include from his memoir. A good chunk of the book is a depression memoir, but that doesn't really come into the show iirc, at least not explicitly.

Lily Dale, Monday, 7 June 2021 19:31 (two weeks ago) link

Forgot, there's also his Dad's visit right after his kid's birth, and how that definitively headed off whatever troubles that would have been passed down.

birdistheword, Monday, 7 June 2021 19:34 (two weeks ago) link

(I should clarify, I meant that was in the show too.)

birdistheword, Monday, 7 June 2021 19:34 (two weeks ago) link

When you put it that way it does sound silly, but I can see how if you had fears of carrying on a cycle of abuse, that sort of gesture could be very reassuring.

That bit in the show always reminds me intensely of a not-very-good Kipling poem called "The Rabbi's Song," but for everyone's sake I will refrain from quoting it.

Lily Dale, Monday, 7 June 2021 19:57 (two weeks ago) link

Yeah, I actually hesitated to put it that way because it really does make it sound silly and pretentious - it definitely does not play that way when you see the show. But ultimately I just wanted to identify that specific scene in the easiest, most direct way.

birdistheword, Monday, 7 June 2021 20:36 (two weeks ago) link

I don't think there's anything wrong with putting it that way - it highlights something that comes through for me in a lot of Bruce's stories about his dad, which is how very hard he's trying to get something positive out of this, because not forgiving his dad is just not an option.

Lily Dale, Monday, 7 June 2021 20:40 (two weeks ago) link

The story in the book about his dad taking him on a janky fishing trip in a little boat in the middle of the ocean at the height of Bruce's fame was a good one.

Josh in Chicago, Monday, 7 June 2021 21:39 (two weeks ago) link

i love that story <3

terminators of endearment (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 7 June 2021 23:19 (two weeks ago) link


He has the whole of WESTERN STARS to draw on now - one of his best LPs.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 8 June 2021 05:49 (two weeks ago) link

Back to my question about the Boss and melody, I kept coming back to thinking that the WESTERN STARS melodies were among the best. Which fits with my general admiration for that record and sense of how crafted it is. He seems to have artfully worked on the tunes in a way not evident on LETTER TO YOU.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 8 June 2021 05:51 (two weeks ago) link

if thats how you feel about it sure, but those two albums are coming from very different places & the crafting of Western Stars was trying to fit with a tradition of melody vs Letter To You going for more early days E Streetness

terminators of endearment (VegemiteGrrl), Tuesday, 8 June 2021 06:12 (two weeks ago) link

They are -- that's why I feel so different about the two!

But is LETTER TO YOU really like *early* E Street? I feel that the early (say first 3) records are more musically diverse, ambitious, unpredictable, not very Rock on the whole, and LETTER TO YOU is more straight modern rock like, say, THE RISING ... with some exceptions of tone like 'If I was the priest' where the dense lyrics do recall an early Bruce.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 8 June 2021 06:40 (two weeks ago) link

I feel that the early (say first 3) records are more musically diverse, ambitious, unpredictable

Landau gets a lot of blame for that: soon after he appeared on the scene, no more “Rosalita”s or “Jungleland”s.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Tuesday, 8 June 2021 12:07 (two weeks ago) link

Bruce has consciously embraced or returned to various Bruce-isms over the years. For example, "Mary's Place" from "The Rising" was hailed/received has a return to form, not in the "he's finally good again" sense but in the sense that it consciously recalled some of his early rave-ups (albeit with its personality somewhat squished and steamrolled in the studio). He's done it a few times since, too, where he brings back some of the hallmarks of prime Bruce. "Letter to You" (the album) perhaps does it more and more consistently than most of his later output. Iirc he actually told Roy and Charlie (who replaced Danny) to play more "E Street" kinda stuff, and it's those elements - glockenspiel, the pounding Bittan girl group piano nods - that most blatantly signify "Springsteen" as much as anything else, in his music and in that of others (Arcade Fire, The Killers, etc. ). Though of course there are lots of acts that recall the spirit of Springsteen as much as the sound, in his vocals or lyrics or other references (Gaslight Anthem, Hold Steady, the National, etc.). Springsteen himself has seemed kind of mired in studio mush for too long, searching for perfection in music that does not demand it or really even benefit from it, which could be why something like "Western Skies" (which I admittedly found underwhelming) and "Letter to You" (which I really like) were received so well, as both were more or less recorded live, or at least the latter was.

As is my wont, I asked my guitar teacher at my last lesson about Springsteen (he's a fan) and melodies. He admitted it's nothing he'd ever really thought of, but broke down a few songs, playing the melody on guitar, and yeah, there's not often a lot of real movement, though there are hooks and whatnot throughout. He brought up in response a band like the Eagles (he is not a fan) and showed how a lot of their songs kind of sit in place melodically, too - Hotel California, Life in the Fast Lane - which actually makes them weirdly tough to sing if you don't have the right voice for it. It did get me thinking that this is all something I've never, well, thought about that much, because just sticking with someone like Don Henley, a lot of his songs (that I know) do kind of hover around the same melodic range, with a couple of big exceptions (Desperado, the chorus of Boys of Summer or Heart of the Matter).

Don't really know why I'm talking about Don Henley or the Eagles, sorry! Waiting for my coffee to kick in.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 8 June 2021 12:08 (two weeks ago) link

I suppose it is telling that a lot of the stuff that sounds like Bruce does in fact recall *Bruce* and not the stuff Bruce himself was referencing. For example, the beginning of Mellencamp's "I Need A Lover." It doesn't sound like girl groups or Dylan or Duane Eddy or whatever, it sounds like .... "Jungleland."

Or "Tunnel of Love" by Dire Straits. Yeah, that's Bittan on the piano, and it's all it really takes to recall Bruce:

And then there's this, possibly the most Bruce of all non-Bruce songs:

Again, it comes down to the "She's the One" piano a lot, but this one also has sax and slap-backy vocals and guitar that make me think of Bruce specifically, and not just "'50s rock and roll" or whatever.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 8 June 2021 12:34 (two weeks ago) link

Don't really know why I'm talking about Don Henley or the Eagles, sorry! Waiting for my coffee to kick in.

DON: Springsteen's arrival in LA back in '75 was a real Sea Change. We caught him at the Whiskey--checking out the competition as it where. He was impressive, perhaps the final push we needed to go full epic 'Hollywood' in our own songwriting: making movies in our songs the studios were too scared to touch.

GLENN: We were down with that 'New Kid In Town' as long as he got us up close and personal with Mary, Wendy, Candy, and Rosalita!

DON: Well, yeah.

blue whales on ambient (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 8 June 2021 14:51 (two weeks ago) link

"i know a pretty little place in southern california down san diego way / there's a little cafe where they play guitars all night and all day / you can check out any time you like..."

fact checking cuz, Tuesday, 8 June 2021 15:59 (two weeks ago) link

Dire Straits' 'Tunnel of Love' is Bruce-like as well as sharing a name with a later even greater Bruce song? I hadn't really thought that.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 9 June 2021 13:28 (one week ago) link

For example, "Mary's Place" from "The Rising" was hailed/received as a return to form

You CANNOT BE SERIOUS. That's practically his worst track of the 21st century. I can even remember it being actively badly received at the time!

the pinefox, Wednesday, 9 June 2021 13:29 (one week ago) link

That album has a few contenders.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 9 June 2021 13:34 (one week ago) link

xpost I specifically said was hailed/received as a return to form ****not in the "he's finally good again" sense but in the sense that it consciously recalled some of his early rave-ups."**** That is, the song is six minutes long and features lots of different parts. Live it would often top 10 minutes. I never liked it myself.

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 9 June 2021 13:55 (one week ago) link

I do know one critic who singled out "Mary's Place" as one of only two highlights from that album...Jim DeRogatis.

birdistheword, Wednesday, 9 June 2021 16:12 (one week ago) link

In a brand new interview Bruce revealed he is working with Brandon from the Killers on a track, and sings on a few songs on Mellencamp's upcoming album. Also that they have been working on numerous things from the vault, or at least more the one project.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 10 June 2021 19:28 (one week ago) link

The Killers track is OK:

I am curious about the upcoming 2022 Bruce tour. I last time I saw him with the band a couple of times, on The River Redux tour, was the first time I noticed his voice struggling at all. And that was, incredibly, five years ago. I saw him on Broadway after that, but that was more mumbly speak-sing most of the time, no barnstormers. Now, he sounds pretty good on "Letter to You," but I wonder if he can handle a three hour show, or how he might fare doing some of his tougher (but impossible to skip) songs every night. Of course, I know better than to doubt the Boss, but everyone gets old, and he more than most of his peers seems to recognize he's in a different stage in his life.

BTW, went on a road trip with my daughter the other day, and she let me blast the whole "Born to Run" album for that stretch. Even better, she seemed to enjoy it.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 17 June 2021 13:13 (five days ago) link

He should skip some "impossible to skip" songs if necessary. He has enough other ones to play.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 22 June 2021 12:36 (eight hours ago) link

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