Born to Run: Bruce Springsteen’s intentional masterpiece (review)

Born to Run: Bruce Springsteen’s intentional masterpiece (review).

This brings back memories. Did you see the concert for hurricane Sandy last night?

In the mid 1970’s Springsteen recreated a time I remembered from childhood. I remembered listening to New York AM radio in the early sixties when rock and roll was merging with soul music and girl groups dominated the airwaves (mostly produced by Phil Spector), Motown was just emerging and Chuck Berry was still charting. You know, the pre-Beatles days when Gary (US) Bonds sang about “Quarter to Three”. My beach memories were from Long Island and Rye, NY, however, not Asbury Park, NJ. Still, they were close enough to Jersey to understand Bruce’s world.

The first time I heard his name, I was on line for tickets to a different show at NY’s Bottom Line. I said to myself, “Who in the world is Bruce Springsteen”? Of course, being a New Yorker, I imagined that it was spelled “Springstein”, since, by this time the history of the Dutch was better known upstate than in the city or its suburbs.

The next thing I knew, a friend turned me on to Springsteen’s first two albums and then Born to Run hit like the proverbial ton of bricks. I was in Woodstock, NY and the posters were in record store windows and the album tracks were playing everywhere. I knew this was something I should pay attention to.

When I did listen to it I found that (like much of the music of the late sixties and early seventies that I enjoyed) it took me back to an earlier time, though not in an exploitative or overly sentimental way. Instead of saying, “Hey, let’s relive or replicate this experience”, it was saying, “This was good, but, it could have been explored another way.” And, it was still good.

Which brings me back to the 121212 concert (Hurricane Sandy relief). I thought Springsteen was most effective on Born to Run. Clapton was brave and interesting because he revived the power trio, playing only with bass and drums (in stark contrast to the millennial ethos of having an army of musicians and singers on stage). The Stones killed it with just two songs, including a most intense version of Jumping Jack Flash. Roger Waters’s set was sublime, Another Brick in the Wall, Money, Us and Them, Comfortably Numb. Who could ask for more? Well, maybe if Gilmour had joined them.  And the Who (or let’s be real, what’s left of them) were real crowd-pleasers. Full disclosure – I did not stay up for McCartney.

There is something to be said for memories. Some bash them as “no”stalgia, vapid, counterfeit dreams of an idealized past. Nevertheless, they represent times we have gotten through, overcome, transcended, and, thus they are triumphs and not obstacles to be overcome. Yes, challenging music can be good and has its place but comforting music also has its place.


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