Friday, June 24, 2011

Contemplating Bruce ...

It's not because our Clarence died.

I'm sitting here, noticing the sun (which was gone all day), sipping some wine (should have bought the Cabernet), and contemplating Bruce (there's a lot to contemplate), because earlier today, my pal Aimes tagged me on Facebook, and asked me to name my favorite tune by The Boss.

You'd think I'd have a favorite. You'd think, given my love for the man. Given my collection. Given the number of times I've seen his shows. But a favorite Springsteen tune? One Springsteen tune that stands out above all others?

"I need parameters," I thought. "Favorite tune lyrically. Favorite tune to be performed live. Favorite album cut."

I was hedging. Favorite Springsteen tune. Whoever heard of such a thing?

The choice for Aimes is clear: "Thunder Road."

A great cut, sure. And who am I to disagree with her choice? I wouldn't. Why would I? That would be like telling someone that they're wrong about their favorite color.

But for me? Huh. I had no idea.

My first impulse was "Jungleland." But that might have been prompted by all the mentions it's been getting since Clarence died. His sax solo on that cut is legendary.

So then I thought of "If I Should Fall Behind": "We said we'd walk together baby come what may / That come the twilight should we lose our way / If as we're walkin' a hand should slip free / I'll wait for you / And should I fall behind / Wait for me."

Damn, those lyrics. They get me every time.

But then I thought of "Rosalita." If you've ever seen Bruce and the E Street Band perform "Rosalita," you understand.

But then I thought of "One Step Up." Though, really, my love for that song stems from a cover of it by Eddie Vedder.

Still, so much Bruce. So many reasons to love him.

I went to see him in Detroit the night before the release of "Devils & Dust." He opened the show with this spellbinding performance of "Reason to Believe." Seriously. I was transfixed. I remember realizing that I was holding my breath. How many artists are so extraordinary, they make you stop breathing?

I'm pretty sure I've breathed right through every other show I've ever been to. Well, McCartney. I may well have stopped breathing at McCartney. Just because I was in the presence of Paul McCartney.

But back to Bruce.

I hauled out my box of Bruce, to help me figure out what qualifies as my favorite Bruce tune ...

... and started flipping through discs. (Many of these were gifts. I have very kind, very generous friends.)

"Born to Run," obviously. But it's so obvious that I think everyone takes it as a given.


"Sprung from cages out on highway 9 / Chrome wheeled, fuel injected / and steppin' out over the line."

Did you just throw your fists up in the air and yell "WHOA!"?

If you've ever been to Bruce show, that's exactly what you just did. That's exactly what everyone does at every show, house lights up, 20,000 people on their feet.

So, "Born to Run." That one's a given.

That leaves, oh, this many.

Hell, I can't even get out of the As without picking four contenders.

For many, like me and my friend Jay, Bruce took on an entirely new level of relevance after 9/11. "The Rising" was a balm that soothed our stricken souls. "You're Missing" and "My City Of Ruins"? What else is there to say? I still cry every time.

"Born in the U.S.A.", the whole album, the iconic cover, brought a lot of people into the Bruce fold with its hits like the title track and "Dancing In The Dark" and "Cover Me," but "Darlington County," "Working On The Highway," and "Downbound Train" are three of my favorites of his, all in a row. And then he comes in with "I'm On Fire" and it's all over. God DAMN, I love that song.

Then again, I'll always remember looking in the rear-view mirror, watching one of my nephews, when he was much younger than he is now, bopping around in the backseat to "I'm Goin' Down." Bruce is beloved by all ages.

You know what? This post is fun to write. But it's hopeless. I'll never be able to settle on a single Bruce song. I love so many for so many reasons. I'm grabbing each jewel case and flipping it over, thinking perhaps I can pick my favorite from each album. But I can't even do that.

"Red Headed Woman"? Awesome.

The Oscar-winning "Streets of Philadelphia"? Outstanding.

"Cadillac Ranch"? Saucy. (See? So many words already, and I'm just now touching on "The River." There's just too much Bruce goodness!)

"All Or Nothin' At All"? Infectious.

"Badlands," "Adam Raised A Cain," "Prove It All Night," "Darkness On The Edge Of Town"? Those are on one album.

You see my problem.

"She's The One"? You always have to experience that song from the very beginning.

Bruce's re-imagined "Blinded By The Light" from "Live In Dublin" is one of the most outstanding things you'll ever hear.

"Outlaw Pete"? Fabulous.

"The Promise," the two-disc set of the lost sessions from "Darkness On The Edge Of Town"? You have to own that, of course. Though if you're a serious Bruce fan, you'll already own the "box" set, which isn't a box set. The whole release is genius.

So, Aimes, this was an exercise in futility. But it was a fun way to spend some time.

I've never left a Bruce show sorry that he didn't play a certain tune. He always makes sure to give his fans the meat of his catalog and he always dishes up a generous serving of sides. But now with both Danny and Clarence gone, I wonder if he'll tour with a remade version of the E Street Band. Maybe this time, the days of the E Street Band really are over.

But I'm sure Bruce will continue to tour. And I'll continue to go. And he'll never disappoint.


Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

Highway Patrolman

11:06 PM  

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