Music is a champion to all. With good musicianship, deep questions and anger, and lyrical ability, a song can become a beloved anthem to how you feel. As such, it becomes personal. You respond to it. It connects to your heart, your soul, and your mind. And you never forget it. Bruce Springsteen was the quintessential soul that possessed an undying anger, a need to escape, and deep reflection on the things that plagued us. Allow me a moment here.
With Springsteen’s first two albums – Greetings From Asbury Park, and The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle – you had a man who escaped a mundane life in a small town. Burying himself into the crowded streets of a big city, there was a sense of fun, enjoyment, love, and devilish behavior. Both are filled with dreams and intent. Both are filled with hope and desire. And both resonated with me as a younger teenager in a small town. I needed to escape the town. I needed to become myself. I needed romance and a beautiful companion. Springsteen knew me and spoke my thoughts exactly.
Born To Run exploded with a collection of songs that corralled romance, hunger, desire, and a need to be free of the hometown that you found yourself back in into a batch of highly potent and fiery stories that mimicked my 17 year-old frustration. Life needed to be taken by force. And Born To Run was the map I needed. But three long years moved along. Born To Run stayed with me that entire time. Until Darkness On The Edge Of Town released.
Darkness on the Edge of Town was a dark album. It had nothing but raw anger, deflection, frustration, horror, need, and desire buried deeply within the album’s ten songs. Not only were the lyrics a direct line to what I thought and feared, but the music and vocal delivery were even angry. That fed me. Springsteen summed up life in a line – “Poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king, and king ain’t satisfied ’til he rules everything.” That told me that an escape didn’t exist. Instead, you either merged into society or languished. You could be angry but it gets you nowhere. “Factory” told a horror story of repetition. “Adam Raised A Cain” expressed anger at the whole thing. “Badlands” told you that you get your “facts learned real good right now”. “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” told of the expected results of living in the old town.
The River arrived two years later and began to change my perspective of Bruce’s acceptance. I began to step back from “trivial” tracks like “I’m a Rocker”, and “Cadillac Ranch”. Nevertheless – for me – there were varying degrees of the same Springsteen but they were tempered by a lack of anger, and heightened by sadness. I wasn’t there yet. I was still angry. Now, don’t get me wrong. The songs are crafted well. But he was beginning to lose me.
On Born In The USA, Bruce was now full into a married life and domesticating. There were streams of anger and desire. “I’m On Fire” is timeless and never fails to get my attention. But now that attention is from another angle. This is the same for Tunnel Of Love, Human Touch, Lucky Town, The Rising, and other albums. Again, don’t get me wrong…Bruce is a great lyricist and can craft a fine song. But albums after Darkness On The Edge of Town did little to capture my attention.
This is not a discussion on hating Springsteen or any of his albums. If they work for you, then that’s great. I want Bruce to succeed. But for me, I felt abandoned and not because Bruce didn’t ride the same rails as I did. I felt abandoned because I no longer had a hero who felt like I did.
This has nothing to do with The Boss. It has everything to do with me.