So why the Springsteen obsession? Well, that’s a somewhat convoluted story. It probably began with my first visit to NJ. It’s hard to spend any time in the Garden State and not have that name constantly invoked wherever you go. Springsteen, in Jersey, is ubiquitous.
Don’t get me wrong, I already quite liked his less overtly bombastic stuff – by bombastic I’m talking more Born in the USA than say Born to Run – and I remember being pretty impressed by the maturity of his solo work in the nineties. However, it was spending time on his actual home turf that began to awaken something deep down inside me.
Then, along came something really unexpected.
Melbourne band Pony Face had been hanging around the periphery of my musical awareness for years. In 2008 (or thereabouts) I’d heard their single Warning bell and had found it genuinely intriguing. However, I didn’t really hear too much from them again after that and then – after my personal life took a few dramatic twists and turns – I just sort of forgot about them for a bit.
Had I bothered to go out and buy their album Bearded little girls back then I would have discovered two tracks in particular that were later to become very important to me. The first was the gorgeous original, Sea and the dunes and the other was an extremely atmospheric cover of Springsteen’s Nebraska (a song I was completely unaware of at the time).
Fast forward to 2014. I’m back in Melbourne after my third trip to Jersey and missing the hell out of my girl. I just want to be where she is, I just want to be home. On a whim, I decide to see if I can find out whatever became of that band with the longing in their music so in tune with what I’m experiencing in that moment.
I go online and quickly find a video on YouTube for their track Open all night. I have not the slightest clue that this is a Springsteen song, but it mentions New Jersey and my ears prick up. A Melbourne band singing about Jersey, what are the odds?
Pretty good as it turns out because unbeknownst to me, Pony Face – that intriguing band from years gone by – have recently released their own reinterpretation of the Nebraska album…the entire thing.
Of course, I have to go back online and find out what the Nebraska album actually is (I know, I hate me too), but once I ken the Springsteen connection, I get pretty interested.
I listened to that album pretty much nonstop for a month and then downloaded Springsteen’s original… then all his other albums. And, well, that was it really; obsession.
I knew I was never going to turn back again after that.
Once you’ve heard The Wild and the Innocent from start to finish, you’re not walking away.
Then, on my fourth trip back, Jersey girl and I spent a long summer’s afternoon in Asbury Park and that was really all she wrote Bob. It didn’t help that just four nights before; the man himself had played an impromptu two-hour set with his old pal Joe Grushecky at the tiny Wonder Bar.
There was something about knowing that it’s possible to go out for a drink in Asbury and end up within sweat-spray distance of Springsteen in full bar mode that kinda put the seal on it for me. In that moment’s realisation, Springsteen, Jersey, my girl and my future all got rolled up into one big ball of possibilities. The spell was cast. The music was here to stay.
Life was never really going to be quite the same again.
Words and image in this post are my own.