Almanac Music – Bruce Springsteen: arriving late, baseball and what is it with sportswriters?

Admission: until very recently (a mere year or three), I had no especial allegiance or affiliation to Bruce Springsteen. None. His work was peripheral to my existence, as musical and interested musically as I thought that I was. Limitations of age and circumstance meant that I was too young/ disassociated to appreciate that such a thing as a deeper meaning, or even irony, could be at play in his anthemic song: “Born in the USA.” Instead, in the song’s title, I heard what I thought at the time to be the triumphant wailings of a patriotic braggart. How wrong can you be?

Only in recent times did I notice that people whose opinions and thoughts interest me, have seemingly ALL spent effort and time somehow eulogising this Bruce Springsteen. And so I bought “Born to Run.” I’d never heard the album before. This may have been in the year 2013. (I’m late to this, I know). And then “Born in the USA,” now appreciating the sentiment; apologising for my younger self. And “Nebraska.” Maybe my favourite (though this changes).

BorntorunNebraska

 

A concert ticket is beyond my boundary presently. But I can listen to these songs now, at almost any time I choose. And that is a welcome addition to a life.

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In giving a speech at my 40th in the almost recent past, my bride quoted Springsteen, introducing a song quote with an interview quote of his: “I have spent my life judging the distance between American reality and the American dream;” “You ain’t a beauty, but hey you’re alright.”

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Usually I listen to music while running to/ from work. Discerning a Springsteen kind-of day, I set off, let’s say it’s a “Born to Run” kind-of day, winter air loaded with visible water droplets, each breath visible in front of me. Through the park, the optimistic piano of Thunder Road tinkles away. And another run sails by, carried on the wings of guitar, saxophone and possibility; the possible; however unlikely.

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I have wondered about the intersection of Bruce Springsteen and creative others. Industrious others. Who is in this Venn diagram? For it seems to hold a significant body.

Which authors? Richard Ford I know about, following his outstanding review of Springsteen’s book.

Which artists?

Which footballers?

Is there a classic vocation for Bruce Springsteen aficionados? Where do they all end up – leaning on coffee percolators/ vending machines/ pin-ball machines/ bars – at the end of their working days?

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In stumbling around in this fog of thinking, this nil-all zone of wonder and directionless blundering, I fortunately hit upon the great sportswriter, Joe Posnanski. Joe’s writing is almost always worthy of you finding a comfortable seat and environment in which you can ignore all other things for the period of the reading. And then for a bit longer afterwards. Here is “Baseball and Bruce” from 2012:

Baseball and Bruce

“Start at a field. The grass is sparse and burning yellow. The afternoon sun is low in the sky. Leaves crunch underneath. It is autumn…”

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And this interestingly cynical and welcome contrary view from Drew Magary:

Why do so many sportswriters love Bruce Springsteen?

“How did sportswriters become so utterly homogenous that they all have the exact same favorite musician?”

Groupthink concerns me. But a group can be right.

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And so, I have come late to awareness of Bruce Springsteen’s stories of hope and meaning. To his oeuvre. That’s alright. My journey is underway. And mine will be unlike yours, coloured as it is by everything else to have happened/ is happening/ will happen exclusively to the most vivid and important person in the world [me]. Or maybe that should read [you]. Which could well be a joker in the hand of Bruce Springsteen’s genius, or at least the left bower; his ability to place you (or me) in the song. In his song. And there he is, singing about you. Or an imaginary you. A you that drives a big car. Or a you who faces that familial trouble. That hardship. That test of another day.

The concerts will probably be terrific.

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I’ll keep my fingers crossed that he turns up unannounced for a quiet Thursday session at the Lomond Hotel. Imagine that.

 

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About David Wilson

Hit for a towering 6 by Mike Gatting at the Banyule Cricket Club, December 2002, theatrically attempting to reproduce the SK Warne delivery. The ball is yet to land. @e_regnans

Comments

  1. Better late than never, e.r. (that could almost be a line from a Springsteen song).

    I was always a fan of Bruce, since the time a high school friend played Born to Run for me. But as a lover of music, he was just one of many of my favourites.

    Nebraska has always been my favourite: so many stories, so many images, painted so vividly.

    Then I married a Springsteen fanatic. The two Bruce concerts we have seen together have been nothing short of wonderful.

    We are fortunate enough to be returning to Hanging Rock in February, with 18-y-o son #3 in tow – my wife hoping to induct him into the world of Bruce.

  2. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Good stuff ER. Bruce (No need for surname anymore) was a slow burner for me, too. I was 14 when ‘Born In The USA’ came out and what drew me were the lyrics along with Clarence Clemons’ sax play. A couple of years later I heard ‘Trapped’ for the first time. It led me to his earlier stuff and I haven’t looked back since.
    Bruce is one of the few artists who can propagate an ideal while questioning it at the same time. Sport anyone? It’s this reflective honesty that I find so illuminating, hopeful and troubling. Cheers

  3. All is forgiven. Dylan; Springsteen and Jason Isbell – my Holy Trinity. We are a broad church and welcome repenters.
    Recommended: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/07/30/we-are-alive
    Best piece on Springsteen I have read – long but incredibly worthwhile. By David Remnick – a biographer of Muhammad Ali – thereby proving the sportswriter link.
    Springsteen’s obsessiveness shines through. But always for a good purpose – fans; community; excellence; creativity.
    Shorter and more recent is the David Kamp piece about the Born To Run autobiography:
    http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2016/09/bruce-springsteen-cover-story
    Contains one of the great life metaphors that I have used countless times since with friends and clients:
    “I always picture it as a car. All your selves are in it. And a new self can get in, but the old selves can’t ever get out. The important thing is, who’s got their hands on the wheel at any given moment?”

  4. It really is a counter culture. This E Street Nation. I met a US navy grunt in London in ’85. He was from NEw Jersey. I was a fan of Bruce. When they announced the concert at the old Wembley Stadium. He told me we had tickets. I didn’t believe it. But he did. We went. I had probably the greatest day in my life to that point. I told him I had to pay him. He flatly refused. He said anyone who got the Boss from the other side of the world was good for him. Subject to US service pensions I bet Mike was at recent gigs in NJ.
    It’s not logical but it is a passion only other E Streeters understand.

  5. Charlie Wells says:

    Must be some Bruce in the Almanac drinking water this week. I just published a piece. “Im high on the hill looking over the bridge to the Springsteen G.”Met him in the late 90’s. Good bloke. Very unnafected by his fame. Told me a ripper joke. Enjoyed the read. Remember.”No one wins unless we all win.”

  6. Listening to the River prepping for the HSC. Nebraska when on the dole. Really liked Tom Joad, too. Human Touch and Lucky Town much better than the raves.

    85 concert in Sydney but still can’t believe he didn’t play Rosalita.

    They will play Stolen Car at my funeral, if it’s the last thing I do

  7. E.regnans says:

    PB – This week I (finally) read those David Remnick and David Kamp pieces you linked above.
    Outstanding.
    Many thanks.

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