not all about bruce but mostly…i promise
So I’m sitting here listening to The Promise which comes out on November 16. It’s the twenty-one “lost” Springsteen tracks he recorded during the Darkness On The Edge of Town sessions that never saw the light of day on a commercial release. It’ll be sold in a few configurations including a 3CD/3DVD box with an eighty-page book and an essay and god knows what else. Maybe he’ll throw in that car for an extra twenty-five grand.
I grew up in Philly which was almost close enough to Bruce’s Jersey base to qualify him for hometown status. There was a disc jockey named Ed Shiaky on WMMR-FM who played the hell out of him even before there was a record deal and Ed’s story is so damn sad I might take a moment here to mention it. He was one of the great ones with a deep voice, an encyclopedic mind and golden ears. He developed diabetes, lost a foot and two years later at age fifty-five died of a massive heart attack on the sidewalk of Penn Station in NYC after spending the weekend seeing Broadway shows with his wife. Like I said…damn sad.
It was hard in the early seventies to not hear Bruce’s first few albums in heavy rotation if you lived anywhere north of Baltimore and up through Connecticut. And I’ll venture to say that in those early years before the stadium shows and super duper fame he was a working class hero we all could associate with. Just a another kid with a garage band that played at small clubs for peanuts and prayed to hit it big. And he did.
The early Bruce was not so unlike the early Dylan in my humble and meaningless opinion, albeit from different geography and backgrounds. And frame of references. The eight year age difference between the two is a large enough gulf to say that they were like the same ships leaving different ports. Or not…I’m no musicologist but it has just felt that way to me.
If I had to choose between the two it’s always been Bob but today as I listen to these tracks I can remember the greatness of the early seventies when Bruce wrote and played songs like these and made it feel so natural and easy and intensive at the same time. Oh yes…there was some greatness in the seventies and much more than you may imagine if all you can think of is a yellow happy face and white powder behind the velvet rope.
These songs remind me of the Drifters and salt water taffy and High Hat Joe’s and cold beer and fried clams and cotton candy and pretty girls and the boardwalk and the roof. Up on one and under the other. Miami Steve before the Sopranos and Clarence blowing the hottest sax riffs on the beach. This was the point in time just before punk blew it all up and dope made it dark and darker until finally the darkness came.
I can’t watch Bruce live anymore because he seems to me to be just a caricature of the classic seventies arena rock star and he’s in too good of physical shape for any sixty-one year old man to be and that just makes me envious. And I don’t know what his status is these days among the hip or the kids, whether he’s considered an old man or still maintains a black leather jacket troubadour image.
For myself, I drift in and out of his music. Some songs I love and long to hear and others are so unbearable from overexposure and exploitation that I’d just as well listen to your fingers on a blackboard. But this record…the one I’m listening to now…thirty-something years later…it’s simply amazing.