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I was born at a relatively young age. Growing up consumed the better part of my childhood. As a young man I chased a lot of girls. But they kept getting away. Then I got older and even slower, so I got married. I've lived in New York City almost since before I moved here. I summer in Manhattan, which is like New York City, but with more humidity.

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SOD: Same as the Old Boss
Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The word “legend” gets tossed around casually these days. Actually a lot of words get tossed around casually; it’s an awesome trend. But musician Bruce Springsteen really is a legend. By which I mean, stories and anecdotes and rumors about his performances have sprung up over the past 30 or so years, and become a mythology around him. It is almost impossible to know where truth ends and mythology begins; this is the stuff of legend, in the way Paul Bunyan was a legend.

Me, I never really “got” Bruce. I’ve always liked his work, but it doesn’t speak to me in the way it speaks to—- well, those people it speaks to. I’m not Catholic, I don’t drive, I got along with my dad, my home town was actually pretty posh. He just isn’t singing my song.

But he did take a sound—- the “Jersey shore sound,” a sound that evokes calliopes, the boardwalk, the beach—- and branded it to rock’n’roll, creating something that was wholly new and visceral and exciting (although not without precedent; for example Del Shannon's "Runaway," Gary US Bonds, and much of Dion.) The sheer sound of it was thrilling; “Be True,” “Sherry Darling,” “Rosalita,” “Prove It All Night.” All bells, piano and sax; a very brassy metal thing.

His first three albums are supposed to be the classics, but to my ears he had not found his voice on Greetings From Asbury Park or The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle. The songs on these records have too damn many words crammed into them. Too much new Dylan.

But in 1975, with Clarence Clemons on board, Miami Steve in the band, and Jon Landau behind the knobs, Springsteen bet it all and won big. On Born to Run he wanted to sing like Roy Orbison, write like Bob Dylan, and sound like Phil Spector. The result was a dramatic lightning-in-a-bottle moment in rock history. I still think Darkness on the Edge of Town is the better record, and I see Born to Run as the beginning of a trilogy that proceeded with Darkness and culminated with The River. But this was where he found his voice, where atoms collide and the Jersey shore sound first takes full flight in this configuration, where the bells and the sax and the piano make the hairs on your arms stand up. The two records he made earlier were leading up to this one; in a way every one since lives in its shadow.

Today Sony releases the thirtieth anniversary edition of Born to Run. I don’t have mine yet. The album has been remastered, and this set includes a documentary on the making of the album, plus a live DVD of a concert from the period (Hammersmith Odeon, 1975). The buzz is that you want it for the concert footage. Not surprising. This is how the Boss lives in our collective unconscious—- him and his boys against the world; young, scruffy beard, leather jacket, Clarence has his back. Glory days indeed.

Hear it again, as they say, for the very first time. And so the SOD today is Night, <- (click that) off Born to Run.

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Posted by: --josh-- @ 9:44 AM  


1 Comments:
At 11/16/2005 1:00 PM, Blogger minty said...   

I did not know that the new 30th anniversary edition of Born to Run was about to come out, last week when I pulled my old copy out to listen to, after who knows how many years. But man, it took me right back to sitting in my room with the headphones on, absorbing every detail of the gatefold sleeve of the album, listening over and over--and of the three times starting that year and ending in 1980 that I saw Bruce in concert, which all still rank among my top 10 if not top 5. Even after all these years, I still remembered every lyric, every vocal inflection, every sax solo.

I don't "get" Bruce anymore--starting with "Born in the USA" or thereabouts--but '70s Bruce was one of my first true musical loves.

Plus, he's my cousin. I have the DAR family tree records to almost prove it!


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