It occurs to me that in my post Reason to believe I demonstrably failed to deliver on my opening statement. Instead of explaining the why of my obsession with Springsteen, I really just told the how. I intimated that it was all jumbled up with my feelings about my girl and NJ, but that’s only part of the story.
What does Springsteen represent to me? On what level does his music inform me? How does his message impact me emotionally? These questions are at the core of my love for this prolific artist; this favourite son of New Jersey.
Now that I’ve reached my fifties, it would be fair to say that my tastes in music have undergone several evolutions over the years. My earliest memories are of my childhood in the sixties and those days were drenched in Sydney sunshine and the sounds of The Beatles. I had several teen aunts and uncles at the time and they were all huge Beatles fans. My very first trip to the cinema, at age five or six, was to see HELP with my teenage Aunty and my Saturday mornings were spent in front of the TV watching the Beatles cartoons. I guess they might qualify as my earliest musical obsession.
My transition into early adolescence was soundtracked by the likes of Kate Bush (definitely an obsession, musically and otherwise), Blondie and T-Rex. Later came a dalliance with pomp rockers Queen (I know, but hey, it was the times). My serious years were all about Bowie, Lou, Iggy and their illegitimate children New Order, The Smiths, The Cure, The Banshees. I even liked (and still like) the early U2 albums.
In my twenties, I formed a band of my own, but that really didn’t go very far (if I’d had the benefit of Springsteen’s influence then, maybe my songwriting would have been better).
I was aware of him in those days, but his entire output had been tainted for me by the stadium rocker Born in the USA and the sappy (or so I believed at the time) Dancing in the Dark.
I’d always loved I’m on fire and The River, but considered them nothing more than anomalies. I should have dug deeper, I’d never even heard Born to Run.
Over the years; the wage slaving, child rearing, house buying years, I kept astride of the music that was coming out. I loved Nirvana and Radiohead, Pulp, Blur and Massive attack.
I should point out there was a whole slew of Australian bands* I also got into; Nick Cave, The Saints, The (early) Models, The Go Betweens, The Triffids, Hunters and Collectors. And later Something for Kate (Paul Dempsey of SFK is the only Australian artist I would put on a par with Springsteen and Bowie).
So that’s my musical lineage. It will disgust some and delight others, but it’s mine and I’m ok with it. Where then does Springsteen fit in? What is the quality that has, over recent years, raised him up so high in my estimation?
It’s the passion; the unwavering passion. And it’s the way he conveys that passion through songs that can make a grown man weep. Strong songwriting has always been a lure for me, but with Springsteen, there is often so much in between the lines that it’s almost what he doesn’t write that is what grabs you by the throat.
It takes a consummate craftsman to say so much in the spaces. If you want examples of what I’m talking about, I suggest you listen to The Wall, You’re missing, Into the Fire or If I should fall behind. Each of these tracks have brought me to tears at one time or another. I don’t mean to imply that sadness is the emotion at the core of all these songs; sometimes he makes you weep with joy or sheer empathy for others.
And empathy seems to be an important word here. Springsteen’s music just resonates with it. Even in the times when his actual life seemed devoid of empathy for others, his music never did. That’s a rare gift.
And there you have it. Perhaps I have rectified the lapse in my previous post here; perhaps not. Maybe you’re none the wiser. It’s a tricky thing explaining how something as delicate as music touches an individual soul. Maybe it’s beyond my meager skills as a writer. I’ll leave it for whoever reads this to make that call.
*One of the things that really impressed me about Jersey Girl when we first began, was her familiarity with so many of my favourite Australian bands. She had followed nearly all of them in her college days.