Waaaaay back in the 1980s I fell for an American bloke in scruffy jeans, a white t-shirt and a penchant for bandanas on stage. Duran Duran were discarded in his wake – callow youths in their flouncy shirts and frankly ridiculous trousers! Enabled by a babysitter, I discovered the albums beyond Born in the USA. That check shirted, stubble-chinned, guitar-brandishing New Jersey boy remains my favourite nearly 40 odd years later. I even managed to write a couple of essays about him in uni, and he was probably one of the main reasons I chose to do American Studies in the first place.
I am, of course, talking about the Boss, the one and only Bruce Springsteen. He of the E-Street Band. You know. Born to Run. Dancing in the dark with Courtney Cox. Cars and girls. Impassioned odes to blue collar America. Excellent counting skills.
Like all long-term relationships, it’s had its low points – his album, Western Stars, was definitely one of those. I listened once and then resolved never to speak of it again. Generally it’s been high points, though, and that seems to be what’s coming with his latest single ‘Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)’ which is the harbinger of a new album of soul covers called Only The Strong Survive and which is a proper joyous romp in the manner of the Seeger Sessions album from 2006. I’m very much looking forward to hearing the rest of it.
Here are my favourite Bruce albums, mostly in no particular order. With 20 studio albums, seven live albums and a stack of compilations and archival releases there are a lot to choose from.
- Darkness on the Edge of Town. I prefer this to The River. It’s wonderfully dark in places, with lots of excellent guitars and the E-Street Band very much on form. Highlights: ‘Candy’s Room’, ‘Racing in the Streets’. Actually, all of it. It’s my favourite.
- Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ. His first album. Completely different to his second, third and fourth albums. Practically jazzy in places. My favourites are ‘For You’ and ‘Lost in the Flood’
- Nebraska. Early solo effort. Recorded in his house – clearly a forerunner of the working at home thing. Highlights: ‘Highway Patrolman’, ‘Open All Night’
- Hammersmith Odeon, London ’75. The elegiac version of ‘For You’ is glorious, the rest of it is riotous. Especially ‘Rosalita’.
- Bruce Springsteen and the Sessions Band: Live in Dublin. Off the back of the Seeger sessions studio album (also worth a listen) this is someone having the MOST fun on stage with a bunch of his mates. Includes excellently bouncy versions of ‘Atlantic City’ and ‘Open All Night’.
- Born to Run. Must be listened to as a whole for the full effect. If you only have time for a couple of tracks, go with ‘Backstreets’, ‘She’s the One’ and ‘Jungleland’.
- Apollo Theater 3/9/12 – the first full show for Bruce and the band after losing Clarence Clemons. So good, and a warm up for the Wrecking Ball tour.
- The Promise More of a compilation, but basically the sessions and demos for Darkness. Different versions of things, and a great version of ‘Because the Night’.
- Born in the USA. Peak 1980s Bruce, and never fails to cheer me up. I want ‘No Surrender’ played at my funeral.
- The Wild, The Innocent and The E-Street Shuffle. From the year I was born. ‘Incident on 57th Street’ and ‘Rosalita’ – completely different, completely brilliant.
I love Springsteen’s talent for bringing the characters in his songs to life: Spanish Johnny and Puerto Rican Jane, Bobby Jean, Crazy Janey and Hazy Davy, partner-in-crimes Terry, Wayne and Eddy, Frankie and Joe Roberts, Jimmy the Saint. No one is perfect, everyone is human and fallible. Springsteen may not really be a blue collar hero but he certainly grew up around them and is a born storyteller.
I’m quite sure my Springsteen-loving friends will have their own top tens, but these are mine – let’s see if the new album can edge its way on.
Things making me happy this week (apart from Bruce):
- Cunk on Earth. I can’t decide whether the poor academics know it’s satire or not. Either way, it’s hilarious.
- A great day on Thursday focused on careers – New City College in the morning helping with mock interviews and a junior school in the afternoon for ‘Aspirations Week’.
- Toast with Marmite and butter. The perfect food for any time of day.
- New haircut.
- Going to Wales to see my cousins tomorrow! (I am writing this on Friday night. The magic of WordPress).
Also, these finishes…
See you next week!
What I’ve been reading:
Michael Tolliver Lives – Armistead Maupin
Dishonesty is the Second Best Policy – David Mitchell
Woodston – John Lewis-Stempel
Doctor Who: Eleventh Doctor Tales (Audible)