Local heroes

 

Tonight I’m layin’ here
But there’s something in my ear
Sayin’ there’s a little town just beneath the floodline
Needs a local hero
Somebody with the right style
Lookin’ for a local hero
Someone with the right smile
Local hero local hero she said with a smile
Local hero he used to live here for a while

Springsteen, Local Hero

 

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In many ways, this blog is about dreams coming true. After finding each other in this vast ocean of humanity and then being forced to live a world apart for over five years, Jersey girl’s and my dream of being together finally came to pass last month.

And last night another dream came true.

As a special Birthday treat, Jersey girl took me to Asbury Park to see the world premiere of ‘Just Before the Dawn’, a new documentary about the history of the local music scene and in particular the jam club known as the Upstage.

After the movie (which screened at the Paramount theatre), there was to be an Upstage style jam session featuring some former E Street band members including David Sancious, Vini ‘Mad Dog’ Lopez, and Ernest ‘Boom’ Carter.

I was really looking forward to seeing these E Street legends play and was thrilled by rumours that Little Steven (Van Zandt) might join them up on stage.

We arrived in Asbury about an hour and a half before the show and, after a quick pit stop (burgers and a couple of beers at the Anchor’s Bend, conveniently situated in the Convention Hall), we joined the queue that was now snaking through the Grand Arcade. After a small wait, we got inside and took our seats in the balcony with a good view of the stage and screen. There was a lot of equipment on the stage and I realised this was going to be a bigger jam than I’d imagined; all the better.

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The movie was great. I’m not going to write a review but it was thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking in equal measure. I’ve covered many of the events that the movie focused on right here on this blog but this was different. These were the experiences of people who lived these events so it was fascinating for me to see how their recollections added to the historical tapestry.

After the movie, the thing we’d been half expecting was announced, “Little Steven is in the house!” Uproarious applause, then, “Southside’s in the house!”

I was ecstatic. Two of my idols! Then the curtain went up on the show and those in the know were already cheering with delight. Jersey girl was looking at a certain guitarist in the back behind Stevie. “Wow, he looks like – wait – is that?”

“SPRINGSTEEN!!”

The man himself – fresh from his well-documented celebrity cruise with the Obamas on Geffen’s mega yacht – had made it back to Jersey for this most special of nights. The crowd, predictably, went wild and we were treated to a night of raw musicianship from some of the very best in the business.

Highlights for me included a spirited rendition of The Band’s classic ‘Up on Cripple Creek’ and David Sancious and Marc Ribler executing a perfect performance of the Hendrix standard ‘Voodoo Child’. It turns out keyboardist Sancious can shred on a guitar like a boss.

The real Boss also managed some primo shredding and, though he chose not to dominate the proceedings, certainly made his presence felt.

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It’s obvious from the photos that we only had our phones with us to capture the event. Jersey’s phone is slightly better than mine and so the closer shots come courtesy of her.

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I’m sure that, in the days ahead, there’ll be a plethora of wonky videos shot on smartphones capturing every aspect of the evening. Like, for instance, these…

This night was a real ‘I was there when’ moment if ever there was one. Just one month in New Jersey and the magic’s already sparking.

Springsteen, Southside, Steven, Sancious, Mad Dog and more at Upstage Jam.

Words and images (with the exception of pics 6 & 7 by Jersey girl) are my own.

©2017

Come together

 

Men Without Women

On July 2, 2011, something really quite wonderful happened. A group of musicians – all renowned exponents of the vaunted Jersey Shore sound – came together at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ to perform a particular album in its entirety. The album was Men Without Women by Little Steven (Van Zandt),  his solo debut from 1982.

 

 

Men Without Women was to be the first toe in the water for Van Zandt’s solo career. He recorded it over two sessions (working on Born in the USA in between) and released it under the name Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul.

Steve would eventually leave the E Street band in 1984, unhappy with his role in Springsteen’s shadow and exhausted by the punishing marathon recording sessions that accompanied each album release by the band.

Van Zandt believed strongly that an album should be recorded in a few weeks or at most a few months but E Street recordings were dragging out to a year or more with ten songs written and recorded for every one that made the final cut. And the truth was, many of the rejected songs were, in Van Zandt’s opinion, superior to those that made the final sequence.

In the end, Steve decided that the best course was for him to go it alone as Little Steven but this first ‘solo’ album features contributions from several E Street band members including (uncredited) The Boss himself.

The final result was an eclectic, energetic, and infectious record. Standout tracks included; Inside Of Me, Angel Eyes, When the Good is Gone (the two latter featuring backing vocals from Springsteen), and Under the Gun.

 

Some of the musicians who featured on the album were members of the Asbury Dukes (Southside Johnny included) and  The Miami Horns and they all obviously enjoyed their involvement because 30 years later they got together and played it again.

You have to understand that for an aficionado of the Jersey Shore sound, there can be virtually no greater confluence of utter cool than imagining Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes getting together with members of the Disciples of Soul at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park to play a classic album by Little Steven (also in attendance).

Fortunately, one doesn’t need to imagine it because it was all recorded for posterity. The subsequent recording has been put out by the Dukes as Men Without Women (which from a recording archivist’s perspective is a little confusing). And what a recording it is! If anything, the songs shine even brighter in this performance.

The tracks that really grabbed me were; Men Without Women, Until the Good is Gone, Lyin’ in a bed of Fire, Inside of Me, and Angel Eyes.

 

 

Johnny (Southside) Lyon was in terrific voice and the band firing on all cylinders. The sweat must have really been flying because they’re all giving 110% and the sounds coming off the stage are electric.

Southside Johnny is one of the most underrated performers out there. He has the voice of a true Soul Man and his stage presence alone should have catapulted him into the stratosphere. Alas, his rise to prominence was mirrored by a general decline in interest in the soul sounds of the 60’s. This was a crime considering the dross that now passes for music in the commercial arena.

However, for those in the know, The Dukes are a rare gem who have built their loyal following and continued to party live with their friends in both the US and Europe. And their careers have lasted just as long as those of their fellow Jersey brothers in arms the E Street Band. I would recommend the reader give their recent(ish) release Soultime a spin for confirmation that this band is still a hot property.

This recording of the gig at the Pony, to me, epitomises the very heart and soul of the Jersey Shore sound. The only way it could have increased its cool factor a few degrees would have been if The Boss could have been coaxed onto the stage. However, considering the fact that Clarence ‘Big Man’ Clemons had died just a few weeks earlier, that really wasn’t a likely outcome.

Had Springsteen been present, however, it probably would have looked and sounded a little something like this…

©2017

Outside looking in

 

The machinist climbs his ferris wheel like a brave
And the fire eater’s lyin’ in a pool of sweat, victim of the heatwave
Behind the tent the hired hand tightens his legs on the sword swallower’s blade
And circus town’s on the shortwave

Springsteen, Wild Billy’s Circus Story

 

 

So what is it I found in Jersey? Well love, obviously, but not just love. I also found a surprisingly deep vein of local folklore. Jersey is a mysterious place where many fabled events have transpired, events often so unusual and extraordinary, that they’ve become the stuff of legends; even mythology.

When the Hindenburg made its notorious flight across the Atlantic it was a stunt designed to showcase to the world the genius of Nazi technology and engineering. What amounted to a floating luxury liner made its way majestically across the pond, deftly avoiding the hazards of the fickle Atlantic weather by simply flying above it.

Proudly displaying the fascist emblems of Hitler’s regime upon her tail fins the great ship glided – near silently – over the skyscrapers of Manhattan drawing stares of admiration and dread from the crowds bellow. By any measure, it was a propaganda triumph for the Reich.

Then she arrived in Jersey.

Before the massive zeppelin had come within thirty feet of Jersey’s soil she met her end in flaming humiliation and the rest, as they say, is history. One of the earliest and most spectacular iconic newsreel images was born that day.

 

There were sadly no newsreels when George Washington, seeking to turn the tide of the revolutionary war, decided to cross the Delaware into Jersey and surprise the Hessians in Trenton, he did so on Christmas Eve in the depths of a frigid winter. This too created an iconic image, one of Washington standing in the prow of his little boat as his men struggled valiantly to propel it through the ice-strewn waters.

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Washington crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze

The history books also recount the grim tale of his small army, many without shoes, marching grimly through the snow, their cold blistered feet leaving a trail of frozen blood in their wake. And yet they marched to a decisive victory over the Hessians. If Washington had accomplished this feat in any other season but the dead of winter would it have achieved the same iconic, near mythical status? Doubtful I’d say.

The two incidents recounted above loom large historically speaking but there are many smaller instances of legends and myths that have sprung from the land of New Jersey.

There is an even more exotic example of the rich tradition of folklore that has contributed to Jersey’s mystique. For several centuries, the area known as the Pine Barrens (itself verdant with tales of the wild folk who live secretly in hiding there) has been host to the legend of a mysterious and terrifying creature called the Jersey Devil.

According to the popular folklore, the origins of the Jersey Devil lie with a Pine Barrens resident known as Mother Leeds. The legend states that Mother Leeds had 12 children and, after finding she was pregnant for the 13th time, cursed the child in frustration, crying that the child would be the Devil. In 1735, Mother Leeds was in labor on a stormy night while her friends gathered around her. In some versions of the tale, Mother Leeds was supposedly a witch and the child’s father was the Devil himself. Born as a normal child, the 13th child changed to a creature with hooves, a goat’s head, bat wings, and a forked tail. Growling and screaming, it killed the midwife before flying up the chimney and heading into the pines.

Some versions of the legend state that there was subsequently an attempt by local clergymen to exorcise the creature from the Pine Barrens, or that the creature proceeded to kill the local children.

~ Wikipedia

Even Springsteen has taken a run at this particular myth.

 

 

And speaking of Springsteen, few New Jersians have contributed more to the rich body of local folklore than the man commonly known as The Boss. Over the first three albums of his recording career, Springsteen created a rich tapestry of mythic figures and situations based around the small seaside town of Asbury Park NJ. The Boss had made that eclectic place his home and built his musical reputation in its clubs (particularly the Upstage club) and bars.

The history of Springsteen and the E Street Band itself is one of myths and legends. In particular, the story of how Clarence Big Man Clemons joined the band has been the subject of both tall tale and song.

The picture of a sax bearing giant making his way – unbowed by the lashing winds of an Atlantic storm – to the door of the Student Prince pub where the band was rehearsing, only to have that very door blow away with the wind like Dorothy on her way to Oz, is familiar to every true Springsteen fan.

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Asbury Park itself has an other-worldly feel to it. The amazing architecture of the Convention Hall at the northerly end of the shore front is complimented by the Nouveau elegance of the old heating plant tower and the baroque ornamentations of the carousel house to the south.  And in between, the fabled Asbury boardwalk which connects all three.

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mythology

Legend has it that the convention hall was the site of Jersey’s first Rock ’n’ Roll riot. Asbury park also suffered the blight of race riots in the early 70s, a blight from which it took decades to recover. As a direct result of these riots, the town began a long decline and for many years was a crime infested shadow of its former glory.

And whilst on the subject of crime, in the 1990s a mythical New Jersian found his way onto millions of TV screens. His name was Tony Soprano and his evil antics kept America and the world engrossed for many years. Soprano was the archetypal gangster for our times. Amoral, petty and manipulative, he and his gang were an instant hit; modern additions to Jersey Folklore.

So popular was Tony S, that when the actor playing him, James Gandolfini, passed away (during my very first visit to New Jersey strangely enough) People all over Jersey were asking, “did ya hear the news? Tony Soprano died”.

While still alive, Tony Soprano, like The Boss, was no stranger to Asbury Park. It was the landscape of his surreal fever dreams. Clearly, the show’s makers were only too aware of Asbury’s uniquely phantasmagorical aspect.

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Image: HBO

So much about Jersey – the landscape, the music, the personalities – evokes a dream-like otherness. I have certainly never known a place to match it. From its haunted asylums to the wilderness of the Barrens, it is a place with a plethora of intriguing sights and sounds.

I simply cannot wait to return.

Words and images (except where otherwise credited) are my own.

©2017

84. The waiting

 

I woke up in the darkness scared and breathin’ and born anew
It wasn’t the cold river bottom I felt rushing over me
It wasn’t the bitterness of a dream that didn’t come true
It wasn’t the wind in the grey fields I felt rushing through my arms
No no baby it was you

Springsteen, Valentine’s day

The wait to hear news from the US Government as to my visa status has me on my last nerve. It literally feels like we’ve been stuck in this holding pattern forever. I find myself running through every imaginable negative scenario in my anxiety riddled mind and so today I’m going to write about my favourite day in Jersey to keep my spirits up.

My favourite day was one I spent with Jersey girl on my fourth visit. Now, it’s not at all a simple matter to reduce all the amazing times we’ve shared down into one perfect day (I’m not even claiming that Jersey girl and I share the same regard for this particular one) but after much weighing up, I’m pretty certain this is mine.

My fourth visit was my second summer spent in Jersey And so, of course, we had a trip to the Shore planned. Though I’d managed to be in NJ three times before this, I had only visited the much vaunted Asbury Park once…at night….in a storm. We’d had a great meal at a cool Cuban restaurant (which we’d had pretty much to ourselves because – storm) but all I’d really seen of note was the squat outline of the Stone Pony directly across the way from the restaurant.

I’d wanted to go in, but there didn’t seem to be much happening (again, really bad storm) so I missed out on getting a genuine Asbury Park experience then. This time would be different.

The moment had come for a proper expedition. I wanted to see what the heartland of the Jersey shore sound was really all about. Unfortunately, there weren’t any Jersey shore bands actually playing that month* so our plan wasn’t so much to see a band as, to get to know (at least in my case) the landscape that had informed the music of legends like Springsteen and Southside Johnny. I wanted to tramp the streets that were so familiar to them and which permeate much of their music.

We arrived on a pretty perfect sun-drenched afternoon and parked about a block from the Stone Pony. We decided to head south down Ocean Ave first, taking us past the door of the Pony (which gave every indication of being closed) I was struck again by how very unattractive the building is. The impression I’d gotten on my first sighting of it over a year earlier had been of a bunker that someone had painted white. It was a little less stark in the bright light of a summer’s day but only just.

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I had a particular destination in mind for our first stop, the famous carousel house. I’d seen online pictures of the ornamental ironwork that bedeck it and was keen to get some shots of my own. I wasn’t disappointed either, it’s a fine example of the early twentieth-century obsession with mythological subjects.

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I know I’ve covered this ground before in a previous post but what I didn’t go into then was just how amazing it felt to be doing it all with this gorgeous woman I call mine. Every aspect of that day was made a hundred times richer simply because she was there experiencing it all with me. This is true anytime we do something together but especially true for this particular day; my favourite day.

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My girl has New Jersey in her blood. She is the very embodiment of the Jersey spirit. Some people try to deride New Jerseyans, make risible everything about them that makes them unique. To those people, I would offer a heartfelt go fuck yourself (yes, that Jersey spirit is contagious).

NJ is the state that gave the world the Ivy league Princeton University (where the great refugee from tyranny Albert Einstein found a home) as well as the attitude that informs TV shows like The Sopranos. And both of those disparate elements are seemingly present in the DNA of the average New Jerseyan.

This dichotomy is also at the heart of Jersey girl. She constantly surprises and continually delights with her mercurial shifts, like cloud shadows moving fast across a landscape.

This particular day was full of smiles and easy laughs. As I took my time over the images of the carousel house and the adjacent ruin of the old casino, Jersey girl watched on with her wistful smile and patient contentment. That’s the word for the mood of that day, contentment, we were both feeling it and it was blissful.

When I’d captured all the images I could find, we wended our way back north up Ocean. I kept stealing looks at her as we walked. I doubt a day will ever dawn where I look at her with anything less than wonder. And I will never understand why she chose me.

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Our wanderings took us past the tiny Wonder Bar and we commiserated with each other over the fact that we’d missed (by just three days) Springsteen’s surprise two-hour set with Joe Grushecky and his band at this very club the previous Saturday night.

My Springsteen obsession is a source of constant amusement for her but she gets it and loves the passion it invokes in me.

We then wandered past the Paramount theatre and into the Convention centre. By this point, we were ready to imbibe and settled onto a pair of stools overlooking Asbury beach on the veranda that houses the famed Beach Bar.

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Had to step out of this perfect moment to get the shot.

As I mentioned, the day was warm and beautiful and the beach before us was packed with sun worshippers. Sitting there with the love of my life on the shore of an ocean that has nothing to do with where I come from, I found myself marvelling at the twists and turns of my life.

I don’t think I even realised in that moment that I’d kind of been here before. I’d watched an important dream sequence (who doesn’t remember Big Pussy the talking fish?) play out on this very spot in an episode of the Sopranos years before I knew Jersey girl (or Asbury Park) even existed.

We sat there enjoying the view until we grew hungry and then decided to drive up Cookman Avenue to the commercial district and, after a little wandering, found the best Italian restaurant I’ve ever eaten at. This is saying a lot because Melbourne’s Italian restaurants are world famous but this one had them all beat.

Cibo e Vino on Mattison Avenue is simply sublime. Though it was a little early for dinner, we’d worked up quite an appetite in our wanders and so were in a kind of ecstasy at the quality of the food that was served up.

All of this, I got to do with her. It may not seem like such an amazing day when it’s written down like this but there were so many more layers to it than can be told. The entire day has lived in my memory ever since and always brings a dopamine flood to my joy-starved brain.

So there it is, my favourite day. This blog post was just the shade of an impression, a thumbnail at best but I hope I’ve given at least a sense of it for you.

This is why the wait is interminable.

*Except for Bruce frickin’ Springsteen that is.

Words and images are my own.

©2016

The line between two points.

Just a wee reblog while I work on my David Bowie top 20.

Runaway American Dream

I wanna be where the bands are
I wanna be where the bands are
Where the bands are
I wanna be where the bands are

~ Springsteen, Where the bands are.

 

There are more than a few iconic buildings in Asbury park. The Convention Hall, the old heating tower, the Stone Pony (to name but three). They cluster around the boardwalk, hunkered down against the often inclement (if not outright hostile) attentions of the Atlantic ocean. If you listen hard, these buildings will speak to you. And if you have the patience, they may tell you something of beginnings and of endings.

Two buildings connected by such a tale can be found on Ocean Avenue. At its southern- most point, by Wesley lake sits the famous Carousel house. Once, as its name implies, this building housed a classic 1930s era carousel. Sadly, the gaily, painted collection of horses…

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Happy Independence, Sandy

 

Because you know why….

 

Sandy the fireworks are hailin’ over Little Eden tonight
Forcin’ a light into all those stoned-out faces left stranded on this Fourth of July
Down in town the circuit’s full with switchblade lovers so fast so shiny so sharp
And the wizards play down on Pinball Way on the boardwalk way past dark
And the boys from the casino dance with their shirts open like Latin lovers along the shore
Chasin’ all them silly New York girls

My Springsteen top twenty part 2

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Image: Danny Clinch

So, I’m beginning with a cheat for number ten. The truth is, it’s impossible for me to separate these two songs, either thematically or emotionally and so equal tenth spot goes to…

  1. Wild Billy’s Circus Story / Mary Queen of Arkansas

And circus boy dances like a monkey on barbed wire
And the barker romances with a junkie, she’s got a flat tire,
And now the elephants dance real funky and the band plays like a jungle fire
Circus town’s on the live wire

Mary queen of Arkansas, your white skin is deceivin’
You wake and wait to lie in bait and you almost got me believin’
But on your bed Mary I can see the shadow of a noose
I don’t understand how you can hold me so tight and love me so damn loose

From The Wild the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle and Greetings from Asbury Park NJ,  these intertwined tracks from some fever dreamed alternative Asbury Park are works of poetic genius (how’s that for an overcooked sentence?). This is Bruce the wordsmith at the height of his powers. Channeling Dylan via Joyce, these lyrics take you on a journey you’re only partly prepared for but leave you at the end wide eyed and mesmerized.

Similar tracks: Santa Ana, The Angel

  1. Rosalita (come out tonight)

My tires were slashed and I almost crashed but the Lord had mercy
My machine she’s a dud, I’m stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of Jersey
Hold on tight, stay up all night ’cause Rosie I’m comin’ on strong
By the time we meet the morning light I will hold you in my arms

This was always going to make the cut. One of the wildest rides you can take on E Street, this song is passion, autobiography, and most of all, unrelenting fun. More than most, Rosalita is a window into what a Springsteen concert is all about.

Similar tracks: E Street Shuffle, Spirit in the night

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Carousel House and Heating plant, Asbury Park (Image is my own).
  1. 4th of July Asbury Park (Sandy)

Sandy the fireworks are hailin’ over Little Eden tonight
Forcin’ a light into all those stoned-out faces left stranded on this Fourth of July
Down in town the circuit’s full with switchblade lovers so fast so shiny so sharp
And the wizards play down on Pinball Way on the boardwalk way past dark

Another one of the great poetic, autobiographical songs that helped put Asbury on the international map. Summer in Asbury Park is magical, even today, but the magic in this song is of the truly mythic variety. Listen to its wistful, wishful guitar, swirling organ, and melancholy accordion and just try to resist the pull towards the boardwalk and “them pleasure machines…”

Similar tracks: Kitty’s Back, Growin’ up

  1. Lost in the Flood

and Bronx’s best apostle stands with his hand on his own hardware
Everything stops, you hear five, quick shots, the cops come up for air
And now the whiz-bang gang from uptown, they’re shootin’ up the street
And that cat from the Bronx starts lettin’ loose
but he gets blown right off his feet

I came very close to making this equal seventh with Hard to be a Saint in the City, but I suspect that would have been pushing my luck. This track is EPIC! Even cotton balled within that painfully subdued production which almost derailed the first two albums (it’s a testament to the power of Springsteen’s writing that the material rises above the constraints of the recordings); a tale of outlandish grandiosity, writ large and bloody on the outlaw streets of New York. This live interpretation is my personal favourite but, let’s be honest, this song cannot be anything but great.

Similar tracks: It’s hard to be a Saint in the City, New York City Serenade

  1. Promised land

I’ve done my best to live the right way
I get up every morning and go to work each day
But your eyes go blind and your blood runs cold
Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode
Explode and tear this whole town apart
Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart
Find somebody itching for something to start

OK, now things are getting seriously serious. This track is, like virtually all of its album-mates, so nuanced, so prescient that it is impossible to listen to it without bias. The emotions are dialed up to ten and Springsteen never gave more of himself than he did right here. Quite simply, this is rock n roll perfection from the album that Richard “Jim” Steinman shamelessly plundered to give Meatloaf his entire musical career.

Similar tracks: Streets of Fire, Adam Raised a Cain, Badlands

  1. Jungleland

Outside the street’s on fire in a real death waltz
Between flesh and what’s fantasy and the poets down here
Don’t write nothing at all, they just stand back and let it all be
And in the quick of the night they reach for their moment
And try to make an honest stand but they wind up wounded, not even dead
Tonight in Jungleland

This is considered by many to be Springsteen’s greatest song of all time. I love it mightily but it is only my fifth favourite. It has so many wonderful elements and puts Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody to utter shame in the rock-epic stakes. The story it weaves is probably the ultimate pinnacle of Springsteen’s Jersey/NY mythos arc. After this, he moved on to a very different vision. The reaction of the crowds any time it’s played, however, shows the place it has in the hearts and souls of Springsteen’s ‘Tramps’.

 Similar tracks: New York City Serenade, Meeting across the river, Incident on 57th Street.

  1. Racing in the Streets

But now there’s wrinkles around my baby’s eyes
And she cries herself to sleep at night
When I come home the house is dark
She sighs “Baby did you make it all right”
She sits on the porch of her daddy’s house
But all her pretty dreams are torn
She stares off alone into the night
With the eyes of one who hates for just being born

Let me make this very clear up front, I do not give a toss about cars, drag racing, engines, or testosterone. That said, this song about cars, drag racing, engines, and testosterone is one of the all-time Springsteen classics. Why is this? Because Springsteen is a poet and he can take a subject you have absolutely no interest in whatsoever and make you weep over it. That’s talent. There are two versions of this song, the second is quite different to the first both lyrically and arrangement wise. Both, however, are excellent.

Similar tracks: Darkness on the edge of town, Something in the night

 

  1. The River

Now those memories come back to haunt me
they haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse
that sends me down to the river

I was going to make Atlantic City number three and then I realised I’d left out the first Springsteen song I ever loved. This is one of the perfect folk narrative songs ever written. Springsteen drew from the experiences of his own sister to create one of the most moving and genuinely universal ballads of all time. I literally get chills each and every time I hear the opening harmonica wail.

Similar tracks: Stolen car, I’m on fire

  1. Thunder Road

You can hide ‘neath your covers
And study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers
Throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a saviour to rise from these streets
Well now I’m no hero
That’s understood
All the redemption I can offer, girl
Is beneath this dirty hood

It took a superhuman effort of will to not make this track number one. There is so much here to love. In many ways, this song was the template for a great many other Springsteen classics. Girl next door meets desperate rev-head in Everytown USA. This song is irrepressible and near unassailable. Just listen to the Boss duet with Melissa Etheridge if you doubt what I’m saying.  Thunder Road would probably be Springsteen’s greatest achievement were it not for my number one.

Similar tracks: Born to run, She’s the one

  1. Backstreets

One soft infested summer me and Terry became friends
Trying in vain to breathe the fire we was born in
Catching rides to the outskirts tying faith between our teeth
Sleeping in that old abandoned beach house getting wasted in the heat
And hiding on the backstreets, hiding on the backstreets
With a love so hard and filled with defeat
Running for our lives at night on them backstreets

Slow dancing in the dark on the beach at Stockton’s Wing
Where desperate lovers park we sat with the last of the Duke Street Kings
Huddled in our cars waiting for the bells that ring
In the deep heart of the night to set us loose from everything
to go running on the backstreets, running on the backstreets
We swore we’d live forever on the backstreets we take it together

Endless juke joints and Valentino drag where dancers scraped the tears
Up off the street dressed down in rags running into the darkness
Some hurt bad some really dying at night sometimes it seemed
You could hear the whole damn city crying blame it on the lies that killed us
Blame it on the truth that ran us down you can blame it all on me Terry
It don’t matter to me now when the breakdown hit at midnight
There was nothing left to say but I hated him and I hated you when you went away

Laying here in the dark you’re like an angel on my chest
Just another tramp of hearts crying tears of faithlessness
Remember all the movies, Terry, we’d go see
Trying to learn how to walk like heroes we thought we had to be
And after all this time to find we’re just like all the rest
Stranded in the park and forced to confess
To hiding on the backstreets, hiding on the backstreets
We swore forever friends on the backstreets until the end
Hiding on the backstreets, hiding on the backstreets

I’m not going to try and defend this choice. I’m sure some of you will be appalled; I don’t care. For sheer emotional impact, this track cannot be surpassed. I have blogged about what this song means to me before, here and here and most of what I have to say about it is already expressed in those posts. This is the one Springsteen song I absolutely cannot imagine never hearing again; simply superb.

Similar tracks: Pretty much the entire Darkness on the Edge of Town album.

Songs that should have made the cut: Atlantic City, Badlands, Stolen Car, Point Blank, The Loose End, E Street Shuffle, Used Cars, Into the Fire, Open all Night, Highway Patrolman, and The Ghost of Tom Joad.

OK, that’s it.

Nooooooooo, you scream. Nothing off Nebraska, Born in the USA? No Tom Joad?! I wish I’d opted for my top forty instead of twenty, but I set myself this challenge and I tried to be as honest about my choices as I could. These are my favourites, they squeeze in past others by a bare whisker but they are the ones closest to my heart.

I hope you enjoyed our little jaunt. I’ll be doing more pieces like this in the near future.

Update: Over at The Music Enthusiast, Jim has posted his own Springsteen top 20. It is, of course, excellent and as one would expect, quite different to mine.

©2016