Springsteen’s “House of 1000 Guitars”

Letter to You is here. My favorite song so far is “House of 1000 Guitars”:

I am sure people will interpret this song in different ways, but my interpretation starts with Springsteen himself. Here is a taste of Brian Hiatt’s recent Rolling Stone piece:

The album’s only actual reference to current events is in one line, a glancing reference to a “criminal clown” who “has stolen the throne” in a song that otherwise transcends politics, the sweeping anthem “House of a Thousand Guitars,” in which [Roy] Bittan’s E Street-redux piano looms large. That song, which paints a beguiling picture of a rock & roll heaven on Earth, a place “where the music never ends” and fellowship reigns, a destination not far from his “Land of Hope and Dreams,” is important enough to Springsteen that he dashes into the house and grabs his MacBook so he can listen to it again before we discuss it.

Once he’s back at the table, he plays the song over the computer speakers, eyes shut, head nodding to [drummer Max] Weinberg’s beat. “It’s about this entire spiritual world that I wanted to build for myself,” he says, “and give to my audience and experience with my band. It’s like that gospel song ‘I’m Working on a Building.’ That’s the building we’ve been working on all these years. It also speaks somewhat to the spiritual life of the nation. It may be one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written. It draws on everything I’ve been trying to do for the past 50 years.”

I disagree with Hiatt. This song doesn’t “transcend” politics. It’s all about politics. It is about a politics of hope. It is about citizenship in an alternative political community that speaks power to the “criminal clown” who “has stolen the throne.” This prophetic community is defined by friendship and fellowship and beauty and art and the search for meaning and the things that bind us together.

Springsteen is telling us not to worry–“it’s alright yeah it’s alright.” He urges us to keep announcing this community of hope from the small town bars and the large stadiums, or wherever you have a platform and voice.

Right now we “tally” our “wounds and scars,” but we belong to a place “where the music never ends.” There is a “now” but “not yet” quality to the song, not unlike the way Christians understand the Kingdom of God.

The song goes very well with “If I Were a Priest,” a song that chronicles Springsteen’s call to forge such a community among his followers.