Saturday, 29 April 2017

Born To Run, by Bruce Springsteen

So, this afternoon I was listening to Bruce Springsteen (Devils And Dust), as I have been doing since round about 1975 - and I remembered that I hadn't written about his autobiography, which I read a few months ago. He's amazing, Bruce. Even when he's singing about sad things, as he often is, he never fails to lift the heart and set the feet tapping.

As I said, it's a while since I read it, so I can't go into a lot of detail. But it's a fascinating book. Bruce - may I call you Bruce? I feel as if I may - Bruce tells it all. Well, obviously not all, but certainly a great deal. He starts by writing about his family and the small town he came from - a setting which is clearly the bedrock for most of his songs. At first, you can imagine that the teenaged Bruce and his pals, determined somehow to get into music, with no money, no knowledge of the industry will surely sink without trace as so many other would-be young musicians do. But of course he doesn't. And though he doesn't brag - far from it - you see why: he is utterly determined, he works incredibly hard, and he is a poet. He's someone who just never stops creating. He describes here how it feels when he and his band finally get a record deal:

We'd climbed to the heavens and spoken to the gods, who told us we were spitting thunder and throwing lightning bolts! It was on. It was all on. After years of waiting, of struggling toward that something I thought might never happen, it had happened.

He tells the story behind each record, explains what he was trying to do, what the concept was. This I found fascinating: I'm not knowledgeable musically, I just like to listen to the songs. But when you see how much thought and energy went into the records, you get a glimpse of why they work so well.

You get the sense of a person who is driven, but who is also kind; who knows that he wants to be the leader of a band, not just another member, yet is not arrogant. He writes about his demons - and with an intense creative drive such as he has, it's not surprising that he has them - with honesty and pain. I think he set out to tell the truth about himself, as much as that's possible, and he makes a really good job of it.

Favourite song? The Queen of the Supermarket, from the album Working On A Dream. It's a beautiful song. A perfect little story of love that will probably never be requited, sad and pure - and it all takes place in the unromantic setting of a supermarket.

And while we're on the subject - why do they never use any of his songs on Strictly Come Dancing? Perhaps he won't let them. I can see it's not very rock'n'roll. But my goodness, with their emotional punch and powerful lyricism, they would inspire some stunning routines.


  1. He sounds like he's passionate about his work. My brother attended one of his concerts here, at the Showgrounds years ago. It went for four hours! No support acts. Four hours. Wow!

  2. It comes across in the book how much he loves touring and performing live - he really feeds off the audience; they give him energy.

  3. The first time, long ago, I heard 'Born in the USA' , I consigned Bruce Springsteen to the box marked rubbish, anthemic, American stadium rock. Just awful. I hardly bothered to listen to the lyrics, poetic or otherwise. Slightly concerned that I had turned into some version of the record shop staff in Nick Hornby's 'HIgh Fidelity', I've just wiki'd up a little on Springsteen, and found that lots of people formed a similar view, for the same reason.

    I read a couple of years that he wrote 'Because the NIght', decided against recording it because it was "... just another love song.." Patti Smith was nearby, worked on the song some more, and it became one of her best known songs.

    But he's sold squillions of records. Much loved.
    It can't all be rubbish.
    Can it ?

    I think what I'm trying to say is I that I appreciate why a writer would enjoy his words. It's just that musically I find the songs uninteresting.

    Different tastes.

  4. As you say - different tastes! A musician friend said something similar not long ago. All I can say is that I've enjoyed his music - very much - for about 35 years; not every song, of course, but a great many of them. Have you listened to the album he produced as a response to 9/11? I think it's called Devils and Dust. It's thoughtful and moving - it gets into the effect of what happened on the lives of individuals and families. And then there was a very jolly little album which was a tribute to Pete Seeger - quite different from anything else he's done. But each to his/her own!

  5. I'm not well up on Pete Seeger, other, obviously, than his songs that made it over to the UK. 'Where Have All The Flowers Gone', 'If I Had a Hammer', Kisses Sweeter Than Wine'... So I had a listen to some of the Sessions album, on tour. ( Haven't had a chance to listen to the Devils and Dust recording ).

    The Sessions are certainly jolly. However, for me, they come across as a big cheery, knees up kind of a hootenany. Not sure that the songs travel well. Seeger wrote none of them. Here's one he did...., it's about Vietnam, CBS refused to air it.

  6. Yes, I'd go along with that - I think it was a recording of a live session - just a bit of fun.