I haven’t liked Springsteen for long. Like many people I never even really thought about Bruce Springsteen. He was just a guy, maybe wearing denim, maybe playing powerful rock music. I knew he was Born in the USA but I didn’t know why I should care about that fact.
The first song that got me was obviously The River. I listened to it on my ipod, whilst walking home from work through the centre of Oxford last September. This is when my relationship with Bruce started and we’re still very much in our honeymoon period. I find everything he does astounding, adorable, admirable and just fucking brilliant. But I’m scared of stumbling upon anything that will lessen the intensity of our feelings for each other (my feelings for Bruce, he doesn’t know who I am). So I’m proceding with caution, taking things slowly. I started with just songs on the Best Of that I liked. I progressed to Nebraska, then Darkness on the Edge of Town. I’ve listened to half of The River but then I had to leave Michal’s house so I couldn’t finish it. I’ve got a cassette tape of Tunnel of Love on my bedroom floor.
Anyway, the point of all this is I assumed Bruce Springsteen was just some guy. But he really is, for me, one of the most moving and lyrical song writers. I did a project at University about folk music and how hard it is to define such a loose fitting category, such an all encompassing idea as the music of the people. But to me that’s what Bruce is all about. Music for and about the people. In a format that the people fucking love. With loud guitars and growling. And saxphones.
My favourite thing about Bruce is the way, througout the songs I’ve listened to, he holds dreams and dreaming in such high regard. Dream is an easy word for a songwriter. It sounds nice, it rhymes with stuff, its been in loads of songs so you people are ready for it. But I think the way Bruce uses that word is beyond the beyond. I guess he has the fact that he is writing for and about a nation that holds dreams in high regard. The American Dream is such a huge concept and its integral to Springsteen’s work. Some of his best song lyrics are the one’s that acknowledge the fundemental contradiction of The American Dream – its primacy in people’s lives and its ultimate unnattainability.
This line from The River is so beautiful and heartbreaking. It expresses all the betrayal felt by people who are brought up expecting more from life. It is scary to think that our dreams, those things that keep us going aren’t just a fabrication but the very thing that keeps us from happiness.
But my all time favourite Bruce lyric is this one from Born to Run:
I think this is the most beautiful approach to both the concept of dreams and the concept of love. What should loving someone mean if not the nurturing of the things that person holds dear – their dreams and vision. It is especially beautiful placed in the middle of this unbeleivably machismo and sexual declaration of outsiderness. The next line is “Just wrap your legs round these velvet rims/And strap your hands across my engines.” This blend of trashy teenage smut and profound and mature love is what Bruce is all about for me. The two lovers in this song are outcasts but if they guard and respect each others dreams, even if they are never fulfilled, they might find a happiness that is lost in The River.
In many ways Bruce is living the dream. I don’t just mean because he is rich and famous, although he is indeed that. But also because he exudes a dreamlike magic, the ludicrous grandiosity of 20 peice bands and 12 minute solos. He is creating and dissecting The American Dream with every album, each different incarnation of it. And every time I listen to Springsteen’s songs, so full of promise and regret, I remember the importance of dreams. I remember that I should guard my dreams and the dreams of the people I love, whether they are attainable or not. Respect them for what they are and acknowledge that a dream left unguarded can be a ruinous and terrible thing.
I realise these blogs tend to get pretty overblown in the latter paragraphs so I’m going to leave you with this quote :
“I want everything to be perfect. I’m opening a factory and factories provide three things this country desperately needs. Jobs. Pride. And material for Bruce Springsteen songs.” (Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock, 2012)