Feature: My Roots Are Showing – Bruce Springsteen

Posted: 05/07/2012 in Uncategorized

As published on State.ie on July 5th 2012

I have been a fan of Bruce Springsteen for as long as I can remember… except I can’t pinpoint exactly how it started. By the time I was born he had already released seven studio albums. He was never a prevalent feature on the speakers in our sitting room or the tape-deck in our car, both early-life outlets which led to my long-standing love for Fleetwood Mac, The Beach Boys, Neil Young and Dusty Springfield under the influence of my parents. My Mam says she remembers me at a very young age using a tennis-racket to play along to ‘Dancing in the Dark’ when it came on the radio or television – that sounds about right. But I think it was years later, when my Dad procured a massive mish-mash collection of vinyl discarded from a friend, that I truly discovered Bruce – sifting through them I found ‘Born to Run’, and kept it for myself. From then on, I was hooked. The record still has pride-of-place on display in my bedroom.

I had a lot of catching up to do, obviously… So I started out as a ‘Greatest Hits’ fan of The Boss, and as I got older and found myself with more money to indulge in albums I worked my way backwards. What a voyage of discovery that proved to be. The interesting thing is, Bruce Springsteen is from before ‘my time’, and a lot of his lyrics are not relatable to my own existence – yet musically, he just blows me away. Much to my parents’ dismay, he inspired me to ditch classical piano lessons in favour of trying in vain to work out the intricate piano intro to ‘New York City Serenade’, and in turn to teach myself to play guitar (a lot of my party-pieces are Springsteen tunes!) I’ll never tire of listening to his albums, and I can also recognise clearly how his influence has shaped the output of contemporary artists who I hold dearly, too – from globe-conquering acts like Arcade Fire to homegrown heroes such as Delorentos. If I HAD to pick a favourite Springsteen album it’d be 1973’s The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle (featuring my favourite songs ‘Rosalita’ and ‘Incident on 57th Street’), with Gary Tallant’s bass-lines driving the rhythm and Danny Federici’s organ making every chorus epic.  Darkness on the Edge of Town and Born To Run are in a constant battle for second place – I think I might just love them both equally.

Seeing Bruce Springsteen perform live is continually a thrill. I take it to fan-girl levels by booking the day of a gig off work in order to queue out from midday for a much coveted pit-band. Over the last few summers myself & my friends have had many fun times in those queues – meeting people from all over the world who travel especially to see The Boss in Dublin. But of course it’s the presence of the E Street Band which makes the live experience extra special – their on-stage chemistry together is awe-inspiring, something which I regularly re-live with viewings of their 2001 Live In New York City reunion concert DVD. There’s a quote from a book I read about Springsteen once that I just love: “Everybody always wants to know how I feel about the band – hell, I married one of them”. Of course they have evolved as a band over time, with huge voids left from the passing of Federici and of course the incomparable Clarence ‘The Big Man’ Clemons. I consider it an honour that in July ‘09 I got to witness ‘Jungleland’ performed live – Clemons’ legendary sax solo moved me to tears, without a doubt my favourite live music moment to date.

The wonderful thing is that Bruce Springsteen is still touring, and with very good reason – unlike many of his peers who ride the Greatest Hits money-train around the world, he has been continually releasing albums that command attention. The Rising, Devils and Dust, Magic and The Seeger Sessions have all been released within the past decade – all brilliant and diverse albums further adding to an already outstanding back catalogue. This year saw the release of his 17th studio album, Wrecking Ball. Whereas The Rising was born from Bruce Springsteen‘s reflections on the 9/11 atrocities, Wrecking Ball is reflective of a different type of disaster to have struck his beloved America – economic hardship permeates the record, The Boss’ anger at boiling point with the effects that the actions of a few have had on millions. Throughout his illustrious career, Springsteen has never lost sight of the very folk who worship him. This time around, he speaks to them via multi-genre-dappling grassroots rock n’ roll – it’s passionate, it’s intense, and it’s a firm reminder that in an increasingly competitive musical landscape, Springsteen as an artist is as relevant as he’s ever been. 

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