The Boss Bracket

I have been following the Asbury Park Press‘s NCAA tournament-style bracket to decide the best Bruce Springsteen song.

The songs that advanced to the Final Four are:

Out of the “Thunder Road” region:

Out of the “Tenth Avenue” region:

Out of the “E Street ” region:

Out of the “57th Street” region:

Click here to see which two songs advanced to the finals.

*The Rising* at Fifteen

1573c-bruce-springsteen-the-rising

In honor of the 15th anniversary of the The Rising, I listened to Bruce Springsteen’s 9-11 album several times on my recent drive from Mechanicsburg to Princeton and back.

I have written about The Rising several times here at the blog.  Here are some of those pieces:

Rise Up: Springsteen in Pittsburgh” (September 13, 2016)

Why September 11 is About Vocation” (September 10, 2011 and September 11, 2014)

Bruce Springsteen’s Spiritual Vision for America” (March 6, 2012)

Many of themes I wrote about–vocation, calling, courage, faith, hope, community, loss and tragedy–continued to resonate with me as a drove down the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

“May your strength give us strength

May your faith give us faith

May your hope give us hope.

May your love give us love.”

Over at Salon, David Masciotra reflects on the 15th anniversary.

Here is a taste:

“The Rising” demonstrated that Springsteen, already an uncontested legend, and his band, already one of the best in rock history, were not merely a classic rock expression of nostalgia. They could adapt to a rapidly changing world and musical landscape, even in the worst of circumstances and with the most brutal of muses, and provide music that sounded and felt built for the present.

Springsteen has often explained that he aspires to write songs with “blues verses and gospel choruses.” “The Rising” maximized that formula. “Lonesome Day” — one of Springsteen’s best songs — rocks with abandon, even while integrating country elements into its introduction and musical break, to describe a scene of devastation. “House is one fire / Viper’s in the grass . . . ” Springsteen sings. The chorus offers a secular prayer of revivification: “It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright, yeah!”

The simplicity of Springsteen’s faith claim that somehow, even if it is hard to imagine, everything will turn out alright is another force allowing the record to transcend its historical inspiration. “The Rising,” an anthem of life, death and love giving an awe-filled depiction of how firefighters moved through what Springsteen calls “secular stations of the cross,” soon became the campaign theme for Barack Obama’s campaign. “My City of Ruins,” making great use of music similar to Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” describes communal destruction and individual despair before a chorus of “Come on, rise up!” Its message of social uplift caused it to resonate in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and Christchurch, New Zealand, after the city suffered an earthquake in 2011.

Before playing “My City of Ruins” at a benefit for 9/11 survivors and family members in Red Bank, New Jersey, Springsteen said, “This is a song I originally wrote for Asbury Park. You write songs, and you hope that they end up where people need them. So, this is a gift from Asbury Park to New York City.”

The man in the parking lot was right. It seems that people will always need the songs of “The Rising.” When a friend takes her last breath, when a spouse slips away, when a natural disaster leaves a city in ruins, or when the victory of an unqualified, bigoted demagogue turns a national election into a lonesome day, Springsteen’s exploration of human tragedy and triumph — from the funeral of a lover to the house party of a friend — will inspire those in need to drop the needle and pray.

After Springsteen sings “I drop the needle and pray,” near the end of “Mary’s Place,” the Alliance Singers, a New Jersey gospel choir formed in the wake of 9/11 and personally recruited by Springsteen for “The Rising,” shout with church fervor and ecstasy, “Turn it up!”

That’s as good advice as any.

Read the entire piece here.

Why Doesn’t Springsteen’s Post 1980s Work Get Any Respect?

Springsteen album Magic turns ten this year.  It’s a great album. I am listening to it right now.

Radio Nowhere” was the real pop hit on the album. It still has relevance a decade later.

“Your Own Worst Enemy” resonates with me on so many levels, but I have been turning to it more and more in the Trump-era.

So does “Long Walk Home.”  At the end of the recent River tour Springsteen played this song without the band and set it in the context of the Trump campaign. Here he is on 9-11-16 in Pittsburgh  (I was there and I wrote about it):

And I am still working on the way Springsteen uses Catholic imagery in “I’ll Work For Your Love.”

Over at Pop Dose, Dw Dunphy wonders why Magic does not get more attention.

Here is a taste of his piece:

Magic (2007) was the first album of new music with the E. Street Band since The Rising (2002). It was also a period of unity for the band before drastic changes occurred, beyond anyone’s control — the deaths of Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici. There was some excitement surrounding the first single, “Radio Nowhere.”  According to Wikipedia, the album debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, becoming Springsteen’s eighth #1 album in the U.S. and selling about 335,000 copies in its first week. After falling to number two for one week, the album rose again to number one, selling about 77,000 copies that week. To put that into context, the power of music sales was already diminished and what constituted a high-selling album had already changed drastically, but Magic did quite well for itself. That it dipped down in sales but then resurfaced is alone a feat. Most often, once sales trend down, they stay down. That’s not a recent phenomenon — that’s a standard expectation.

But where is Magic now?

By which, I mean, where does it stand in the mix of Springsteen’s legacy of releases? The answer is hard to pin down. It certainly isn’t the fault of Sony/Columbia, his longtime label or Legacy, the label’s back catalog wing. Their investment is as steadfast as it ever was.

You can’t really apply the current pop radio data to this question. While Springsteen was the embodiment of a meat ‘n potatoes ethic of pop for a certain era, modern pop is defined by hip hop and electronica presently. This is an apples-to-oranges comparison. Yet on rock radio, and specifically classic rock radio which should be embracing this stuff for dear life and relevance, not so much. A couple of months ago, Popdose writer Ted Asregadoo noted the pitiful state of today’s rock radio, a classification so tired and worn that a blood transfusion would not help. He looked at the playlists of one in his region of California, and not one track on the list defied the stereotype. If you liked it in ’68, ’78, or maybe ’88, it was probably there. Anything after that is anyone’s guess.

Read the entire piece here.

Song of the Day

Badlands:

Lights out tonight,
Trouble in the heartland,
Got a head on collision,
Smashin’ in my guts, man,
I’m caught in a cross fire,
That I don’t understand,
But there’s one thing I know for sure, girl,
I don’t give a damn
For the same old played out scenes,
Baby, I don’t give a damn
For just the in-betweens,
Honey, I want the heart, I want the soul,
I want control right now,
You better listen to me, baby

Talk about a dream,
Try to make it real
You wake up in the night,
With a fear so real,
You spend your life waiting,
For a moment that just don’t come,
Well, don’t waste your time waiting,

Badlands, you gotta live it everyday,
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price you’ve gotta pay,
We’ll keep pushin’ ’til it’s understood,
And these badlands start treating us good.

Workin’ in the fields
’til you get your back burned,
Workin’ ‘neath the wheels
’til you get your facts learned,
Baby, I got my facts
Learned real good right now,
You better get it straight, darlin’
Poor man wanna be rich,
Rich man wanna be king,
And a king ain’t satisfied,
’til he rules everything,
I wanna go out tonight,
I wanna find out what I got

Well, I believe in the love that you gave me,
I believe in the faith that can save me,
I believe in the hope and I pray,
That someday it may raise me
Above these badlands

Badlands, you gotta live it everyday,
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price you’ve gotta pay,
We’ll keep pushin’ ’til it’s understood,
And these badlands start treating us good.

For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside,
That it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive
I wanna find one face that ain’t looking through me
I wanna find one place,
I wanna spit in the face of these…

Badlands, you gotta live it everyday,
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price you’ve gotta pay,
We’ll keep movin’ ’til it’s understood,
And these badlands start treating us good.

Little Steven Defends Mike Pence

Hard Rock Calling 2012 Day 2

Steve Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street band has taken to Twitter to condemn the cast of the Broadway musical Hamilton for the recent statement they made to VP-elect Mike Pence during a recent show that Pence attended.

Read Miami Steve’s Twitter account here.

The tweets were covered by the Asbury Park Press.  Here is a taste of that article:

Steven Van Zandt of the E Street Band, one who is not shy about making pointed political statements, feels the cast of Hamilton: An American Musical bullied Vice President-elect Mike Pencewhen a cast member addressed Pence from the stage at Friday night’s performance.

“It was the most respectful, benign form of bullying ever. But bullying nonetheless. And by the way, human rights must be won, not asked for,” said Van Zandt in a series of tweets on Saturday. “When artists perform the venue becomes your home. The audience are your guests. It’s taking unfair advantage of someone who thought they were a protected guest in your home.”

Read the entire article here.

Rise Up: Springsteen in Pittsburgh

It was the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks and Bruce Springsteen was playing a show in Pittsburgh at the Consol Energy Center.  I wanted to see Bruce one more time on his current River tour and the Pittsburgh show was the only one I could make work with my schedule. I took my daughter Caroline to the show.  I think it may have been her third or fourth Bruce show.  Not bad for a fifteen-year-old.

Apparently Bruce’s next album will not feature the E Street Band so this may be the last time we see Little Stevie, Mighty Max, Charlie, Suzy, the Professor, Nils, and Gary W. for awhile.  (It was announced today that the band is heading to Australia in January).

Bruce did not speak about 9-11.  He let the music do the talking.  Though he has been leading off this leg of his U.S. tour with “New York Serenade,” the final track from The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, it was particularly relevant on this night.

He followed “Serenade” with four songs from his 9-11-themed album The Rising: “Into the Fire,” “Lonesome Day,” “You’re Missing,” and “Mary’s Place.” Later in the show he played two more songs from The Rising: “My City of Ruins” and “The Rising.”  I was disappointed when most people in my section sat down for “My City of Ruins” despite the powerful refrain to “rise up.”

After his early musical tribute to the fallen heroes of September 11, 2001, Springsteen took us back to his first two albums–Greetings From Asbury Park and The Wild, the Innocent, & the E Street Shuffle.   The next eight songs came from one these early 1970s albums.  During this stretch, which included “Growing Up” (the first time I have ever heard it played in concert), Springsteen regaled the audience with stories from his high school days and his first record deal.  It was obvious that Springsteen was giving the Pittsburgh audience a foreshadowing of his forthcoming memoir Born to Run. Caroline was not entirely familiar with these early songs so I am glad I played both of these albums in the car on the drive to the concert.  This kind of pre-concert prep has become a stable in the Fea household.

From our seats behind the stage (Section 118) I was able to get a very interesting perspective on the political dimensions of the concert.  For example, when Springsteen played “41 Shots,” a song commemorating the 1999 New York shooting of Amadou Diallo, it seemed like more people than usual decided that it was a good time to get out of their seats and grab another beer or take a bathroom break.  As Marc Dolan recently told us in Episode 9 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home podcast, not all Springsteen fans appreciate this song.

In another revealing moment a fan in the front row threw a copy of the United States Constitution onto the stage.  Bruce picked it up and showed the crowd that it had the words “F… Trump” written on it.  The crowd cheered and the woman next to me lifted her hands in agreement, but a significant number of people in my section began yelling similar derogatory things about Hillary Clinton.  Despite Springsteen’s outspoken progressive politics, his fans remain a politically eclectic bunch.

And of course what would a Springsteen concert be without this:

It was a great night!

 

 

 

The “Born to Run” Book Tour

BornBruce Springsteen’s memoir Born to Run is almost here.  Today he announced the stops on his forthcoming book tour:

Sept. 27 — Barnes & Noble – Freehold, NJ
Sept. 28 — Barnes & Noble – New York, NY
Sept. 29 — Free Library of PhiladelphiaPhiladelphia, PA
Oct. 1 — Elliott Bay Book Company — Seattle, WA
Oct. 3 — Barnes & Noble Events, The Grove — Los Angeles, CA
Oct. 4 — Powell’s City of Books — Portland, OR
Oct. 5 — City Arts & Lectures — San Francisco, CA
Oct. 7 — The New Yorker Festival — New York, NY
Oct. 10 — The Harvard Coop — Cambridge, MA

As some of you know I was in Pittsburgh last night for the 9-11 show.  If time allows I hope to post something soon.