Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Springsteen’

Stuck In My Head: One In A Million

25 August 2010

After this song dropped on America like a two-megaton bomb of racist hatred and homophobic agitation, stories were required to explain its genesis and reason for being. The controversy over ‘One In A Million’ centered around two separate passages, one which used the derogatory term for African-Americans, and another that suggested “immigrants and faggots” were only in this country to spread disease and take it over. People were appalled that Guns ‘N Roses lead singer W. Axl Rose would dare use such words and express such sentiments. In the court of public opinion, he was branded a racist and a homophobe, and forced to explain himself.

Author Stephen Davis has Rose in front of a television, watching shock comic Sam Kinison, while gaining inspiration for the shrieking tone of this song. Anyone who saw Kinison’s act in the 80s remembers how stunningly raw and shockingly hilarious it was. His banshee death screams (“KILL ME…KILLLLLLLLLLL MEEEEEEEEEEE”) made you sit up and pay attention. The lyrics to the song reflected Rose’s arrival into a seedy Los Angeles of pimps, pushers, hustlers, con-men and thieves. According to him, the “one in a million” was a guardian angel of an older black man who pointed a hayseed country boy in the right direction and spared him a mugging. Whether or not you buy these explanations, it’s interesting that they needed to be made in the first place.

It’s unimaginable that authors or actors would ever be held to the same level of scrutiny for the characters they inhabit and bring to life. As far as I remember, nobody ever accused Anthony Hopkins of being a cannibal, even though he played a damned spooky one in Silence Of The Lambs (I’ll never think of fava beans the same way again). Far from the slings of anger and accusation, he was handed an Oscar. Author Bret Easton Ellis turned out one of the grossest books of my lifetime, American Psycho, about a brand-name obsessed, preppy cannibal. Ellis took a few tough questions, but rode them to a higher profile and a movie deal, his writerly reputation well intact.

And then there’s Axl Rose. He may very well be a racist and a homophobe – I don’t know the man, but from what little I’ve read about him, I tend to think he’s not. But I do know that ‘One In A Million’ is no more proof that he’s a hateful bigot than the works cited above are proof that Hopkins and Ellis are cannibals. So I wonder why singers and songwriters are held to a higher standard, and the only thing I can come up with is that we invest ourselves in music more than books or movies or paintings. Either that or Axl Rose isn’t taken seriously enough as an artist to be allowed the artistic license that others, like Robert DeNiro, Dennis Hopper, and Bruce Springsteen, enjoy. You can call it hate speech and possibly trump all of the above, but if our artists aren’t allowed to reflect the worst sides of ourselves, what kind of art are we left with?

Doubleshot Tuesday: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band/Surrealistic Pillow

6 April 2010

[Today: Talking overrated...]


I take a fair amount of heat in the comments section of this blog – most of it deserved, some of it semi-coherent, drive-by noise that goes on all over the internet. Certain posts have drawn sustained ire over the three-year run of this blog, most particularly those that aren’t kind (although none more than my selections for the greatest Hip-Hop albums – that post practically has gunshots ringing out in the comments section). I’ve come to expect and enjoy the inevitable friction that some of my opinions stir up, and I appreciate passionate fans speaking out, even when their passion is pointed angrily at me.

One of my early posts on this blog was a list of the most overlooked albums of all-time. As an addendum to that post, I included a list of what I considered to be the most overrated albums of all-time (now I would totally make that into its own post, but whatever…). The overrated list included Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run, any Jimmy Buffett (shudder), Dave Matthews (double shudder), The Eagles’ awful Hotel California and The Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness, which unbelievably is the best selling double-album of all-time.

But the two albums on that list that have earned me the harshest fire over the years are The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s… and Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow. The comments from incredulous Beatles fans are there for your enjoyment. I know it’s hard for some people to believe that I can simultaneously like this album and think it’s overrated, but that is the case. Sgt. Pepper’s was important because it elevated the LP to the place of art. The iconic cover image, the lyrics printed inside (the first album to do so), the “concept” behind it – all of this made people take music more seriously, which made musicians take themselves more seriously, which was both a good and bad thing. It’s a great album, but Sgt. Pepper’s is not the greatest album of the 20th century, which means it’s overrated by the army of critics who call it that.

Surrealistic Pillow‘s inclusion on that list has drawn little in the way of reader comments. Instead, it was a red-faced friend of my hippie uncle who lowered the boom on me for daring to besmirch the name of the Airplane. His voice rising an octave or two, he scolded me that they were “a great band that could tear it up on stage.” From there we quickly progressed to I’m-shaking-my-head-sadly-because-you’re-a-worthless-piece-of-crap-who-will-never-get-it. In the years since that conversation, I’ve spent more time on Jeff Air, and I’ve come to think of them as a band whose whole was actually less than its parts. Their stage harmonies were horrible, and they had no business out-selling SF contemporaries like Moby Grape and Quicksilver Messenger Service. But that said, Jefferson Airplane had a few great tunes and some charismatic personalities on board (I’m not crazy about Grace Slick’s voice, but she carried herself like a superstar), and they wouldn’t be on that overrated list if I were compiling it today. Sgt Pepper’s however, still isn’t the greatest album of the 20th century, so it stays put…

Doubleshot Tuesday: Suicide/Nebraska

23 February 2010

[Today: Darkness on the edge of town...]


During my middle school and high school years, friends and I enjoyed renting horror movies to try and scare the beejeesus out of ourselves. Friday The 13th (Parts 1 through whatever), Nightmare On Elm Street and Halloween were just three of the many, many titles we rented in the pursuit of cheap cinematic thrills (and speaking of cheap, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘s lo-fi terror resembled punk rock in that its supposed limitation – in this case amateurish cinematography – was actually its strength. But more on that later…).

Those movies were gory fun, and they never really bothered me too much. What did stick with me and haunt my thoughts were films like A Clockwork Orange, Bladerunner and The Day After – motion pictures that imagined a not-too-distant future where society has crumbled into a shell of itself. Maybe it’s just me, but being attacked with a chainsaw seems so farfetched as to be fiction, while a decaying world seems horribly inevitable.

Those two brands of fright are musically represented by Suicide’s self-titled 1977 debut and Bruce Springsteen’s 1982 minimalist masterpiece Nebraska. Suicide was a 1970’s NYC punk duo – singer Alan Vega and keyboardist Martin Rev – known for physically and musically assaulting slack-jawed audiences. Their 10-minute opus ‘Frankie Teardrop’ is a terrifying glimpse into cold-blooded murder. Twenty-year old Frankie can’t make ends meet at the factory and he’s being evicted from his home. So he buys a gun and shoots his wife and 6-month old baby before turning the gun on himself and going straight to hell. All of this is punctuated by Vega’s yelping, yowling and manic babbling.

In his book Songbook, Nick Hornby explains why he hasn’t listened to ‘Frankie Teardrop’ in decades. “Me, I need no convincing that life is scary. I’m forty-four, and it has got quite scary enough already – I don’t need anyone trying to jolt me out of my complacency.” I understand that point of view, but real life is so littered with things to worry about that a song like ‘Frankie Teardrop’ feels like a refreshing tonic. “Hey, my problems are nothing,” is the feeling I get after listening to it. Like a horror flick, it’s so over the top that it’s impossible to take very seriously or carry around for long.

I’d be interested to find out what Hornby thinks of Springsteen’s Nebraksa, because in my estimation it’s a far scarier album than Suicide. Where Vega and Rev let loose with cartoonish violence, Springsteen tells understated stories of a society going to ruin, and reflects on some of the souls getting lost along the way. The undercurrent of doom and despair is strong, and it’s easy to get sucked into. Springsteen is a big fan of Suicide, and their music informed Nebraska. ‘State Trooper’ is more or less Part II of ‘Frankie Teardrop’, while his ‘Johnny 99′ could easily be linked to their ‘Johnny’. The Boss has played several Suicide songs in concert, including a notable version of ‘Dream Baby Dream’. An odd coupling to be sure, but even stranger is that Springsteen’s version of darkness on the edge of town is the one that really gives me chills…

Listen: Frankie Teardrop [Suicide]

Listen: State Trooper [Bruce Springsteen]

Listen: Johnny [Suicide]

Listen: Johnny 99 [Bruce Springsteen]

Buried Treasure: Love Is A Gas

29 November 2009

[Today: Paul K's dubious secret weapon...]

Paul Kopasz was born and raised in Detroit, attended the University of Kentucky as a member of their debate team, and ended up slumming around New York City, where he developed a heroin habit that drove him to petty crime and landed him in prison for two years. As Paul K, he’s used that checkered past to fuel his largely autobiographical songwriting. Part blue-collar Lou Reed, part cynical, low-rent Bruce Springsteen, Kopasz was primarily influenced by the late Townes Van Zandt, a personal friend who taught him how to keep his chin up when his records weren’t earning him even half a living. He confessed to Bang Sheet in 1998 that “If I hadn’t met Townes, I couldn’t still be doing this.”

All of Paul K’s records are dark, interesting, literate journeys to the wrong side of the tracks. His best, Love Is A Gas, was released in 1997, produced by ex-Velvet Underground drummer Maureen Tucker, and features his sometime backing band, The Weathermen. Stylistically it pinballs around from pop-ish new wave (‘Apple Of My Eye’) to ragged neo-soul (‘David Ruffin’s Tears’) to modern rock (‘Deep Freeze’) to a couple of offbeat covers that must be heard to be believed. On Stevie Wonder’s ‘Jesus Children Of America’, Kopasz drops the bottom out of the song, and sings as if the die is already cast and the children of America are doomed to the hell of suburbia. But even better is his version of Queen’s ‘You’re My Best Friend’, which is hidden at the end of the album’s title track. Here, Kopasz sings like he’s standing over his best friend’s grave, with a slow burn of emotion that doesn’t build, but simply dissipates into gray ether. It’s jaw-dropping stuff.

According to the 9th of Paul K’s personal 10 Commandments, “Going unnoticed may be a secret weapon.” Perhaps that’s true, but with an outstanding LP like Love Is A Gas under his belt, it’s a crime that Paul K is still going around unnoticed…

Listen: David Ruffin’s Tears

Listen: Jesus Children Of America

Listen: Love Is A Gas [w/ 'You're My Best Friend']

Weekend Playlist

23 November 2009

“The release date is just one day, but the record is forever.” ~ Bruce Springsteen


Townes Van Zandt | Flyin’ Shoes


Bar-Kays | Soul Finger


Ween | Chocolate & Cheese


Black Sabbath | Never Say Die!


Mylo | Destroy Rock & Roll


The Four Tops | Anthology


X | Under The Big Black Sun


Bruce Springsteen | Darkness On The Edge Of Town


Sweet | Desolation Boulevard


Jackie Wilson | My Way
[Album cover not pictured]


Nick Lowe | Pure Pop For Now People


Dead Can Dance | Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun


Lee Perry & The Upsetters | Double Seven


MC5 | Thunder Express


Neko Case | Fox Confessor Brings The Flood


Robert Johnson | King Of The Delta Blues Singers


Mark Lanegan Band | Bubblegum


Outkast | Stankonia


PJ Harvey | Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea


The Meters | Funkify Your Life: The Anthology


INXS | Underneath The Colours


Sly & Robbie | Sly & Robbie Present Taxi


Paul K & The Weathermen | Love Is A Gas

Weekend Playlist

20 July 2009

I’m more in love with Rock-n-Roll today than other things. It grows, you know?” – Bon Scott

*****

AC/DC | Live From The Atlantic Studios
AC/DC | Live From The Atlantic Studios

Bob Marley & The Wailers | Buffalo Soldier [12" single]
Bob Marley & The Wailers | Buffalo Soldier [12" single]

Jorge Ben | Ben
Jorge Ben | Ben

The Jimi Hendrix Experience | Live At Winterland
The Jimi Hendrix Experience | Live At Winterland

Paul McCartney | McCartney
Paul McCartney | McCartney

Freddie Hubbard | Breaking Point
Freddie Hubbard | Breaking Point

The Kinks | The Great Lost Kinks Album
The Kinks | The Great Lost Kinks Album

The Police | Outlandos d'Amour
The Police | Outlandos d’Amour

Iron & Wine | The Shepherd's Dog
Iron And Wine | The Shepherd’s Dog

The Rolling Stones | Emotional Rescue
The Rolling Stones | Emotional Rescue

Led Zeppelin | Led Zeppelin II
Led Zeppelin | Led Zeppelin II

Paul Simon | Negotiations And Love Songs 1971-1986
Paul Simon | Negotiations And Love Songs 1971-1986

The Meters | Fire On The Bayou
The Meters | Fire On The Bayou

My Morning Jacket | It Still Moves
My Morning Jacket | It Still Moves

Gary Higgins | Red Hash
Gary Higgins | Red Hash

Traffic | Welcome To The Canteen
Traffic | Welcome To The Canteen

Eric B. & Rakim | Don't Sweat The Technique
Eric B. & Rakim | Don’t Sweat The Technique

Bruce Springsteen | We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
Bruce Springsteen | We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

Os Mutantes | A Divina Comedia Ou
Os Mutantes | A Divina Comedia Ou

John Prine | The Missing Years
John Prine | The Missing Years

Thin Lizzy | Johnny The Fox
Thin Lizzy | Johnny The Fox

James Luther Dickinson | Free Beer Tomorrow
James Luther Dickinson | Free Beer Tomorrow

Radio Birdman | The Essential Radio Birdman
Radio Birdman | The Essential Radio Birdman

Temple Of The Dog | Temple Of The Dog
Temple Of The Dog | Temple Of The Dog

Liz Phair | Exile In Guyville
Liz Phair | Exile In Guyville

The Juan MacLean | Less Than Human
The Juan MacLean | Less Than Human

G. Love & Special Sauce | The Best Of...
G. Love And Special Sauce | The Best Of…

Various Artists | The Sun Records Collection [Disc 3]
Various Artists | The Sun Records Collection

Steel Pulse | True Democracy
Steel Pulse | True Democracy

Otis Rush | Right Place, Wrong Time
Otis Rush | Right Place, Wrong Time

Easy Star All-Stars | Dub Side Of The Moon

Easy Star All-Stars | Dub Side Of The Moon

Masterpiece: Nebraska

1 May 2009

[Today: The Boss takes a hard look at America...]

Bruce Springsteen | Nebraska

One of the most bleak, barren albums ever released on a major label, Nebraska isn’t just about the 37th state of the union – it tracks the failure, despair, and criminal activity of folks all across this great country. These songs reveal a landscape where factories are closing down, people are becoming desperate, and killers roam the streets. The title track opens the album with the story of Charles Starkweather, who in 1957 took his 14 year-old girlfriend along on an interstate killing spree that left 11 dead. Singing from the killer’s point of view, Springsteen says simply “Well sir, I guess there’s a meanness in the world.” It’s a meanness that runs the length of Nebraksa.

Recorded by Springsteen in January of 1982, with just an acoustic guitar, harmonica, and 4-track cassette recorder, these songs were never intended for public consumption. They were cut as reference tracks for an album Springsteen attempted to record with the E Street Band, but when those recordings didn’t match the power of the demos, The Boss was eventually convinced to release those demos. This was easier said than done, as the original recordings were of poor enough quality to require extraordinary mastering to make them fit for release. Enter engineer Chuck Plotkin, who figured out how to clean up the tapes, earning a shout out in the album credits for “his help in the completion of this record.” Considering that these songs were recorded in Springsteen’s bedroom on rudimentary equipment, the sound is remarkable. Much of the album is sung barely above a whisper, lending undeniable intimacy to the proceedings – there’s nothing between you and the characters depicted here except the man who’s conjuring them.

‘Atlantic City’ tells the tale of mob violence in a gambling town, related by a man who’s so down on his luck that he’s ready to put all his chips on the table against one spin of the wheel. ‘Used Cars’ comes from the point of view of a kid watching his dad haggle with a car salesman, while he dreams of better times ahead. But his big talk only reinforces the cold, secondhand reality of his present life. Scratch the surface of any song here, and a deeper theme reveals itself – justice, religion, fate, family, reincarnation – you name it. The album closes with ‘Reason To Believe’ and its snapshots of someone poking a dead dog with a stick, an old man dying in a shotgun shack, and a groom left alone at the alter. Springsteen sings “At the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe” like a man who doesn’t quite understand how or why they do it.

Listen: Atlantic City

Listen: Used Cars

Listen: Nebraska

*****

Nebraska has inspired some eloquent reviews. Here are two of my favorites:

Nebraska Album Reflection And Review, by Anthony Kuzminski

Rolling Stone review of Nebraska (October 28th, 1982), by Steve Pond

A Dozen Albums From The Edge Of Folk

30 April 2009

Because it intersects with so many different kinds of music, Folk is difficult to define with any real accuracy. In its broadest meaning, Folk is traditional music that’s been passed down through the generations, and is played acoustically. But Folk influenced so many musicians during the 1960s that hybrid forms of it started to appear, and other genres of music began to absorb elements of its sound and style. Here are a dozen (or so) albums that live on the fringe of Folk, but probably wouldn’t be recognized as such by the purists…

Graham Parker | Howlin' Wind
Graham Parker | Howlin’ Wind – Parker’s debut lives at the crossroads of Punk and Folk, and is the kind of music that Bob Dylan might have made during the 70’s if he’d gotten hooked on the Ramones instead of religion.

Listen: Howlin’ Wind

tom-waits_nighthawks-at-the-diner_1975
Tom Waits | Nighthawks At The Diner – Waits perfected his drunken piano man/beat poet routine during the 70s, before turning to darker subject matter in the next decade. Recorded live in the studio, Nighthawks… is the zenith of his Beat phase, and songs like ‘Putnam County’ and ‘Big Joe And Phantom 309′ represent a unique – and very inebriated – brand of Folk.

Listen: Big Joe And Phantom 309

Iron & Wine | The Shepherd's Dog
Iron & Wine | The Shepherd’s Dog – Sam Beam released three albums of relatively straight-ahead acoustic Folk before unleashing this shimmering, kaleidoscopic jewel. The Shepherd’s Dog is rooted in Folk, but built upon layers of sound that would make Brian Wilson and Phil Spector smile.

Listen: Boy With A Coin

Los Lobos | Kiko
Los Lobos | Kiko – One of Folk’s dirty little secrets is that by definition it includes only European or North American-based songs. But I for one don’t buy that country club-style exclusion – Los Lobos have been crafting soulful roots music for decades, and with Kiko they made an album that carries itself like a smart, serious, and sometimes sentimental Folk record.

Listen: Kiko And The Lavender Moon

Bruce Springsteen | Nebraska
Bruce Springsteen | Nebraska – Originally recorded as the demo tracks for an album The Boss planned to record with the E Street Band, these stark songs tell the stories of sympathetic losers stuck in a world beyond their control. The sleet grey horizon pictured on the album cover sets an appropriate tone.

Listen: Nebraska

Michelle Shocked | Short Sharp Shocked
Michelle Shocked | Short Sharp Shocked – The dividing line between folk and country is particularly foggy, but Michelle Shocked deserves consideration for the former category because of the literate, humorous, and warm nature of her music. If Woody Guthrie were to make a sudden, dramatic recovery from death, I have to think he’d be a big fan of her music.

Listen: Vx Fx Dx

Dave Alvin | Public Domain: Songs From The Wild Land
Dave Alvin | Public Domain – Dave Alvin is the heir to Folk gods like Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, who could take any song and make it a Folk tune just because they were so damned folksy. Here he dusts the cobwebs off 15 traditional songs, restoring their natural sparkle for all to enjoy.

Listen: What Did The Deep Sea Say?

Lou Reed | New York
Lou Reed | New York – Yeah, I know – Sweet Lou would probably punch me in the face for daring to brand him a folkie, but dude has a way of telling the stories of the down and out. With New York, he spun cryptic tales of life in the Big Apple that were full of greasy, troubled, and colorful characters who wouldn’t otherwise have their say. He might not like the designation, but Lou Reed keeps it as real as any folksinger.

Listen: Dirty Blvd.

John Martyn | Solid Air
John Martyn | Solid Air – Martyn was a pure folk singer for his first few albums, but by the mid-70s, he was adding such heavy doses of jazz, world music, and electronic effects, that his music could only properly be described with the help of many hyphens. Still, beneath all the jazz phrasings and echoplex feedback beats the heart of a real folksinger…

Listen: Over The Hill

Grateful Dead | Reckoning
Grateful Dead | Reckoning – Forget the drugs and the dancing bears, Reckoning most definitely is a folk album. It consists of acoustic renditions of both traditional and Dead songs that were recorded in New York City and San Francisco in September and October of 1980. These are fine, understated performances that reveal the folkies behind all the psychedelia…

Listen: Deep Elem Blues

Alexander 'Skip' Spence | Oar
Alexander ‘Skip’ Spence | Oar – Fractured folk from a fragile mind that was slowly losing the thread, Oar features meandering, broken melodies, cryptic lyrics, and songs that fall apart in midstream. This is where Folk enters the dark halls of the asylum…

Listen: Little Hands

Dino Valente | Dino
Dino Valente | Dino – This feedback drenched record by the would-be and future lead singer of Quicksilver Messenger Service only passes through the most remote corners of Folk. But with ‘Me And My Uncle’ – a chilling portrait of robbery and murder – Valente created a Folk masterpiece that still sends off heat waves.

Listen: Me And My Uncle

Steve Earle | El Corazon
Steve Earle | El Corazon – Dadgumit, if Steve Earle didn’t sound like a guy from Texas, he’d probably get a lot more consideration as the rabble-rousing folkie he really is. He’s certainly got the moral compass, soapbox personality, and storytelling genes that mark the best folksingers.

Listen: Christmas In Washington

*****

A Dozen (or so) More Albums That Might (or might not) Be Folk

M. Ward * Transfiguration Of Vincent
Terry Allen * Human Remains
Calexico * The Black Light
Kris Kristofferson * Kristofferson
Johnny Cash * American Recordings
Syd Barrett * The Madcap Laughs
Joni Mitchell * The Hissing Of Summer Lawns
Willis Alan Ramsey * Willis Alan Ramsey
Beck * One Foot In The Grave
Dock Boggs * His Folkways Years (1963-1968)
Bob Dylan & The Band * The Basement Tapes
Tony Joe White * Tony Joe White
Joao Gilberto * The Warm World Of Joao Gilberto

Super Boss

2 February 2009

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band | Super Bowl Halftime Show

Historically the Super Bowl has delivered less than spectacular football games, and the same could be said of its ham-fisted halftime shows. Viewers of the first Super Bowl were treated to the no doubt scintillating spectacle of the University of Arizona and University of Michigan marching bands, and the performers rarely rose above that level for the game’s first three decades. But within the last ten years, the Super Bowl has produced some great action on the field, as well as the halftime stage.

U2 solidified the trend towards serious, non-lip-synced performances with their halftime show in 2002. In the last few years The Rolling Stones, Prince, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers have turned the intermission into an epic mini-concert, and this year’s performance by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band continued this pleasant new tradition. It used to be that you could safely run to the bathroom and load up on snacks during the halftime break, but no more.

“Ladies and gentlemen for the next 12 minutes, we’re going to bring the righteous and mighty power of the E Street Band into your beautiful home!” Springsteen shouted like a country preacher. “I want you step back from the guacamole dip! I want you to put the chicken fingers down! And turn your television all the way up!” The Boss is a joyful performer as a rule, but he seemed especially pumped up yesterday, bounding around the stage, tossing his guitar in the air, and at one point sliding across the stage on his knees and crashing into a TV camera before smirking like a misbehaving teenager.

The band led with the one-two punch of ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze Out’ and ‘Born To Run’ (both from the breakthrough 1975 album Born To Run), before finishing up with ‘Working On A Dream’ (the title track from Springsteen’s latest, complete with gospel choir) and a ‘Glory Days’ with lyrics altered for the occasion (the baseball player with a speedball was benched for a football player with a hail mary). Meanwhile, the large crowd on the field couldn’t have been more animated if they’d been bussed in from Jersey for the event.

All in all it was a performance worthy of the considerable Super Bowl hype, and a nice reminder that superstars – football and otherwise – often save their best stuff for the biggest stage.

Listen: Tenth Avenue Freeze Out [from the album Born To Run]

On The Fence: Born To Run

29 April 2008

Holy hell, yesterday was so much fun that I’ve decided to do a double shot (as KZEL-FM in Eugene would have put it back when I was in high school) of On The Fence madness.

Today, I dare to question one of rock’s holy scriptures, Born To Run. Not an album I grew up with, or ever really lived around, the importance of this LP has always eluded me. I’ve heard it in fits and starts over the years, and listened to many people expound on its brilliance, but it still just… well… read on…

Born To Run - album

THUMBS UP: Forget my faint praise, AllMusic.com saysBorn to Run was an intentional masterpiece. It declared its own greatness with songs and a sound that lived up to Springsteen’s promise.” Pitchforkmedia.com saysBorn to Run lies entirely on the dreamy and reckless side of maturity and is all the better for it.” Rolling Stone named it the 18th greatest album of all-time, and said that “In his determination to make a great album, Springsteen produced a timeless, inspiring record about the labors and glories of aspring to greatness.” Amazon.com editor Daniel Durchholz wrote that “When Born to Run was released in 1975, it earned then-unknown Springsteen the rare honor of simultaneous covers on both Time and Newsweek. The attention was warranted then, and it still is now.”

THUMBS DOWN: I have a ton of respect for Bruce Springsteen as an artist, and I dearly want to enjoy Born To Run as much as everybody tells me I should. I actually get jealous when people tell me how much this album means to them, because I love music, and love finding albums that are meaningful. But Born To Run is partly undone for me by its breathless reviews – no album could possibly live up to the hype that’s been bestowed on this. And more importantly, this album has always sounded overwrought to my ears – like bad high school drama. If such thoughts make me a heretic, then so be it, but every time I listen to Born To Run, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m hearing a pretty good bar band taking 8 minutes to play 3 minute tunes.

[This is the place where I would normally invite you to share your opinion, but today I'm not even going to bother. The mob of angry Springsteen fans is already forming outside my front door...]

Album info:

Release date
August 25th, 1975

Producers
Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau, and Mike Appel

Label
Columbia

Side One
Thunder Road
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Night
Backstreets

Side Two
Born To Run
She’s The One
Meeting Across The River
Jungleland


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