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Claire Gilbert <C.A.Gilbert@btinternet.com> (15.12.2000)
I could only disagree with you, if you'd reviewed 'The River', which you haven't. A truly wonderful tune, completely at odds with his vision of America on the rest of the double album, never mind his catalogue. Or maybe I'm misinterpreting it, in which case I intend to continue doing so, just to appease my own sensibilities.
Didier Dumonteil <firstname.lastname@example.org> (11.03.2001)
Sorry George,I don't agree.B.S. is a giant of the seventies.He helped rock to find a way out of the would-be progressive rock ,and with his best albums (which reflected 5 major influences:Dylan,Guthrie,Orbison,Spector et Morrison (Van!)),he defined an epic sound with "escape " lyrics that evoked sometimes Del Shannon's paranoia ("strangers in town","keep searchin')
Margus Rikkas <email@example.com> (14.04.2001)
Actually it was interesting to read these comments, altough I dont agree with most of it. II suppose world - that is not only U.S.A. needs this kind of music. That is true that its mostly about the words - not the music, but I personally like hes "small stories". Maybe it is some kind of therapy, anyway a kind of healthy one compared with the most of crap offered daily. I think at least in US he has pointed out many problems with hes songs, the last one to mention was "41 shots". It would be interesting to read Your comments to Springsteens later albums as well, especially Tunnel of Love and The Ghost of Tom Joad, then again the last one is all about words, not much melody and so-on. It is true that the music has made him rich, which is creating in a way contovercy with the message most of its songs have, he has also admitted that in "Better Days" - "Its a sad funny ending to find yourself pretending A rich man in a poor man´s shirt". Anyway I believe he is one of the few artists who has managed to preserve honesty in expressing himself in his songs, the song which have very good lines.
I'm a Rocker <Im_a_Rocker@music.com> (29.05.2001)
I know exactly what your all about mr whatever-your-name-is. You must be one of those sad, middle class, middle-of-the-road, pseudo- intellectuals who think they understand western life & music....well you obviously don't understand American/Western culture & music, nor pure genius when you hear it.
You are obviously riddled with jealousy and envy, afterall how many great rockers or even musicians for hat fact have ever emerged from your part of the woods?.....Go on name one? :o)
I think your best bet is to carry on listening to those 2 sad, lonely croaking old jewish farts (Cohen & Dylan..who by the way is a complete & utter rip-off of Woody Guthrie & he has never written anything original or that hasn't already been done by all the delta blues men & guthrie) & leave the likes to Springsteen to people with fine taste in music & compassion in their souls.
p.s. Now let's see if you print this.....unedited
[Special author note: DISCLAIMER: I am actually posting this letter, unedited, specially since Mr "Rocker" has explicitly asked me to do so (I usually don't post anti-Semitic rants, you see), not because I have intentionally chosen it to represent the "outstanding dumbness of average Springsteen fans" or anything like that. I actually believe that the average Springsteen fan might be somewhat different, so don't relate this posting to my intro paragraph.]
Jeff <firstname.lastname@example.org> (21.06.2001)
I think you do need therapy. You obviously have a great deal of hatred towards Bruce. I am not sure what his music has done to irritate you this much. But your bile must be responded to.
One of your criticisms of Bruce is that Russians don't know anything about him. But you also state on your Who page that they don't know who they are either. What does this mean? I don't know; maybe Russians don't have a very wide range of rock and roll knowledge. But why is this a criticism of the Boss and not the Who?
So you believe Bruce sat on the floor looking at his record collection and thought, "Gee no one is making music for the utterly miserable. That could be a gold mine!" Amazingly everyone I know who is a Springsteen fan is a college graduate, and I believe most of us are as happy as can be expected. You say that others who frequent this site do not like Bruce, but judging by their guest profiles, most of them portray themselves as being quite miserable. Maybe the "utterly miserable yet quite intelligent" have another hero to look up to?
The Sinatra-Boss comparison is laughable. Nothing can be added to that.
I never get the feeling that Bruce is trying to be a hero or therapist to me. However, the passion, intelligence, and heart he pours into his music can be therapeutic to me just as all great rock and roll can be. The only album that sounds "heroic" at all is Born to Run. The others range from the wildly romantic to crushingly pessimistic. Obviously anyone who cites Born in the USA as a call for the oppressed to get out and have some fun (read your critique again) just has not been listening. Bruce is a giant because he writes music and words that resonate with most people's life experience. Wild romantic notions, increasing responsibilities, realizing all your dreams aren't going to come true, dealing with the father-son relationship, lust, marriage, divorce, dealing with your past, and stepping into the future all are themes in the various Springsteen experience.
Before this gets too long, let me say that it seems you had your mind made up before you reviewed the Boss that you were not going to like him. You even claim to want to put him in the roach section. Along with your abnormally high rankings of "artists" such as Ringo Starr and the Monkees among others, this would only serve to ruin your attempt at being a serious reviewer of rock and roll.
[Special author note: WOW! It gets hot. Oh those poor, poor Monkees. Mike Nesmith must be hiccupping in his sleep.]
well, now, i can't argue with you on brucie's output, but now have you ever heard a song by him &e-street called "Thundercrack"? now, damn if it ain't a whole different ascetic, in my humble opinion...
mark from frankfort
Juli <Woozl@aol.com> (26.08.2001)
First of all, I definately agree with your role for the Boss as a kind of over the top therapist. But I do think he's more sincere than you say he is. I'll admit I dont' know as much about the rest of the world as I should, I'm not even out of college yet. When I say this I'm not assuming you have no pride in your country, understand, but us Americans still act as if we became a country two days ago. We're still setting off fireworks, and not just on Independance Day. We think we're oppressed and unappreciated and people don't realize our potential. Which is why Springsteen is such a big deal to us.
We are completely obsessed with being larger than life, I mean read American novels and watch our movies, they're all about that whole ordinary man dreaming of the extraordinary. When someone like the Boss comes along and gives us that hope that not only can we be that way, we already ARE that way, it's easier to deal with our self pity.
And personally, I liked how you mentioned the analogy to Frank Sinatra (who I absolutely adore; I know he hated rock n' roll, but lets face it, rock did destroy his music, so I can accept his opinion, whether or not I agree with it is a different question. and in those later years he mentioned he was wrong). Frank was definately the Boss during the thirties and forties, but instead we called him the Chairman of the Board.
I guess it's just that Springsteen tunes are so refreshing to listen to now, since almost all modern rock is teen angst tunes. Springsteen wants us to rise above it and stop feeling sorry for ourselves. Rock music started out about rebellion and hope, a means of change in a "conservative" nation, and personally too much music just depresses me. I like the silver lining and hope that he gives us.
And now I sound like I think Springsteen is God, which he very well isn't. More than the happy endings, I like a dose of reality--not like, the world sucks, you suck, your mom's a whore reality"--more like "Positively 4th Street" reality, which is why I like Bob Dylan so much. Springsteen talks about that too, but he focuses more on hope.
I guess I just needed to spring to the Boss' defense there, even though you came close to nailing what he's all about, you sounded like you were trying to save your ass from all the complaints you're bound to get.
But anyways, I love your site, and I forgive you for not liking the Boss. You're entitled, even if you are A COMPLETE AND TOTAL TOOL WITH NO LIFE. Just kidding. I have no life right now at least, since I read your site all the time. I be I spend more time reading it and debating with your responses in my head than you do writing everything. Or at least I come close. hehehe.
Tony Souza <email@example.com> (16.11.2001)
There are some good points brought up in this introduction about Mr. Springsteen and I agree with what you've written. First, though, some things that I respect about Springsteen: He is a better musician than people give him credit for (especially on guitar). His live shows are excellent (despite the idiotic arena-rock poses). In the E Streets bands' prime, a 3-4 hour or longer show was fairly normal. The fans get their money's worth. Strictly from a songwriting and show-performing standpoint, he deserves the praise he gets. However, when it comes to his image and what he represents and how fans and journalists tend to view him as some kind of a saint, this is the point where I tend to have mixed emotions about him.
First of all, Springsteen's manager, Jon Landau is primarily responsible for Springsteen's image. At the time that> Landau met him, Springsteen was still a Dylan wanna-be that was at odds with his then-manager Mike Apel (sic). Landau took over and would help expand Bruce's musical scope. Landau's (or at the very least, Springsteen and Landau, never just Springsteen) the one who comes up with the ideas on what Springsteen should do musically and what to represent image-wise or at least what direction to take. Take Born in the U.S.A. At that time America was turning very conservative politically and Landau knew that the time was ripe for Springsteen to come out with "American" music (even though many misunderstood the title track, including President Reagen), complete with jeans and T-shirt as opposed to Born to Run, where his image was more street-wise or on Nebraska, where he presenting himself as a loner. Is any of this bad? No, but it is very calculating and it comes off as less than sincere as well as a little contrived, at least to me. Landau is very good at reading what's in the air musically and then mapping out Bruce's strategy so he can get maximum benefit out of it. There's nothing wrong with that. That's what a good manager does. But from listening to fans and the media over the years, they paint a portrait of Springsteen as this completely sincere, no-bullshit type of artist which I don't buy into. Most people also tend to believe that everything Springsteen has done over the years has solely been his vision, but that's not true either. Again, he's had help in that department. By the way, I'm not saying this because I'm a big fan of Landau's because I'm not (when he was the head of Rolling Stone's music reviews department, he used to give glowing reviews to bands that he was managing at the time. Not exactly journalistic integrity is it? On top of that I think he's an arrogant prick, but that's just my opinion). It's just that with Springsteen, there's more than meets the eye.
The other thing that never sat right with me was how he unceremoniously dumped the E Street band. He's certainly> entitled to go do different things, but he should have handled that situation much better. Of course, when his career took a decade-long slide, he got back together with the E Street band to give himself a boost. Not exactly the work of a saint, eh?
I tend to look at Springsteen as a good writer and musician who puts on a good show. Nothing more, nothing less. I used to have several of his albums (Born in the U.S.A., The River, Darkness on the Edge of Town) and I used to enjoy his music, but for some reason I just stopped listening to these albums and I have even less interest in what he's going to do.
Aaron Bennett <firstname.lastname@example.org> (02.12.2001)
i get the feeling reading your take on springsteen that his contrived-yet-paradoxically-sincere "working class" schtick has some kind of distinctly americana flavor that you find distasteful. or threatening. i can't tell. i think there's something cultural going on. your review reads like someone trying to find some "rational" reason for disliking springsteen. [Definitely right. I dislike Bruce's basic approach deep down in my heart, and this is the basic rational interpretation of this dislike. You take it or leave it - G. S.]
also, your "musical therapy" idea is totally stupid. what kind of music isn't "therapy"? the kind that teaches you skills? [No, the kind that doesn't pretend to be the ultimate solution to alleviating my troubles. Mind you. some musical therapy is good. Bruce's is more like "pseudo-therapy" - G.S.]
one more thing-- that part about you judging the music on its "formal elements"-- that's also baloney. of course you're using subjective feeling. how many of your reviews mention songs that make you cry? that's not the "formal elements" at work, those are feelings. when you say something like springsteen's "aesthetics" are "incompatible" with your own, that just means you don't like him. the idea of a music reviewer, a pop/rock reviewer being able to maintain some kind of objectivity is just dumb. not to mention undesirable. [Refer to Essay # 3 on this site - G.S.]
Chelsea Miller <CMiller@wshs.wrsd.ab.ca> (11.01.2002)
I agree with the fact that everyone should be able to express their own opinions. I myself largely disagree with your's about Bruce Springsteen. He's own of the greatest rock legends. I personally loved Born in the USA, 'Dancing in the Dark', and 'Thunder Road'. One of the greatest things about Bruce is that he puts all that he has in his songs, if you've ever seen one of his performances you would know that.
Peter Stern <email@example.com> (24.04.2002)
Wow ,after all these years of putting up with the die hard Buce fans I couldnt for the life of me figure out why I CANT SATAND THIS GUY! Dont get me wrong , I LOVE whining poetical folk rockers ie:Dylan, Petty, Young et al; howevever the Bruce idolotry always baffled me. Why was this man/band such a hit? Another Bob Dylan?(my ass! He couldnt shine Bobs snake skinned boots).I always saw the transparancy of his jingoistic working class perfunctory BULLSH--T. Hovever I Just wanted to commend you for eloquently stating what ive been feeling and been unable to articulate for all these years. You are truly a gifted man and even though I often disagree with much of your critiques ,i respect your opinions. BTW, you have the best reviewer web site on the net..keep up the great work
Luke Gamble <firstname.lastname@example.org> (25.04.2002)
I'm sorry Mr, but the introduction and for that matter the album reviews on Bruce Springsteen, left me absoloutely steaming and it seems like 90% of the people who have posted messages on here feel the same way, seems like your a bit wrong on this one. Where do i start? Firstly who the hell is Cohen? Never heard of him and as for Dylan, he has to be one of the most boring and repetitive artists i have ever heard. [I suppose after this particular phrase any further interaction between us two geezers is pointless, but then again, it might be fun - G.S.] How can you possibly accuse Springsteen of having no memorable melodies, when all Dylan did was strum along with a battered old acoustic [no, that's only a small part of what Dylan actually did - G.S.], how is Dylan's music full of melodies? When you reviewed these albums did you actually listen to them? Born in the Usa (The song) definately had one of the most definitive, all time memorable melodies and songs like 'Badlands' and 'Born to run' contained great great riffs, that after hearing once, i never ever forgot. Let me tell you, Springsteen is not just about Lyrics, he puts his heart and soul into the music [and so does Rod Stewart - G.S.].
Moving on, how is Springsteen possibly comparable to the likes of Frank Sinatra? [That's not MY comparison, buddy; I just thought it to be interesting - G.S.] I've never heard anything so daft in all my life. There's so much more to Springsteen, that there is artists like Sinatra. And to say Bruce is no David Bowie? Bowie (God bless the god damned raging Gay-Lord) couldn't write a proper hit if his life depended on it [and I suppose 'Fame' was written by Bowie's deceased body - G.S.], to the extent that he stole some of Bruce's songs early in his career ["early in his career" would mean from around 1965 to around 1970 - could you remind me of any Springsteen songs from that period? - G.S.]. Springsteen has the music, the words and is quite possibly the greatest songwriter of all time [No, that would be Bob Seger, who also puts all of his heart and more into his music- G.S.]. Now i'll give you one thing. 'Born to Run' (The Song) does promote a certain feeling of bigheadedness and heroism, but that's what the song is all about. This is therapeutic, but isn't all music? Otherwise what would we listen to it for? [See a previous response - G.S.]
Springsteens words are not just about what you believe them to be either. He is misunderstood, because he is such a good writer, the words have to be looked at and thought about very deeply, before fully understanding them. And to say The Boss is just about money? your review is a joke. [I never said THAT. If the Boss were all about money, he'd at least probably have a sense of humour about it - G.S.] Why don't you get your facts right before you start mouthing off? Bruce signed a contract with his first manager, Mike Appel, giving him and the band almost nothing money-wise. This went on for about 5 years. This is because Bruce wasn't concerned with money, he was only concerened with getting his music heard and realising a dream. You can't take that away from him, because everyone has a dream, and if you don't then where are you going in life? everybody has a target.
So in conclusion, you just could not be more wrong. It seems like your still caught up in a world of 60's rock and roll, and your not prepared to move on [and in what way, prithee, had Bruce "moved on" from the world of 60's rock and roll? - G.S.]. You have obviously had a hate of springsteen from the outset [from what outset? I didn't write these reviews before listening to the records! - G.S.], and you have no time to consider the man and his music, your just determined to put it down, whether it's good or not, for personal reasons. Whether it's because a real American hero (Ask any American) scares or upsets you, being a Russian, i don't know, but i seriously don't like your attitude. When it comes down to it, your just mocking him because you have a problem with him [okay, somebody has finally seen the light - G.S.]. Well as much fun as it's been mocking you in return [same here, buddy - G.S.], i must go now, i have better things to do than argue with a Bias, No-nothing, all afternoon. However i'll leave you with a few stats and this is fact unlike your garbage.
* Born In the USA = 17th greatest selling album of all time (10 million copies)
* Live 75-85 = 34th greatest selling album of all time
* 'Born To Run' voted greatest song ever by 'Radio 1' and 'The times' newspaper, (2 massive companies from England, so it looks like the boss is big out of the USA, contrary to your ideas)
* 'Born To Run' voted 5th greatest song of all time by VH1
* Bruce Springsteen inducted into Rock and Roll hall of Fame
* Bruce Springsteen inducted into songwriters hall of Fame.
[Hmm. Guess you're right. This obviously proves... that Michael Jackson is the greatest artist of all time - G.S.]
Tim Van der Mensbrugghe <email@example.com> (28.05.2002)
After reading your review of Springsteen's Born In The Usa, I read some (old supposes me) reader's comments. I must say I was kind of shocked by the, well, not so diplomatic language used. I was baffled by so much lack of respect for other person's opinions and other persons tout court. But on the other hand, the whole of the comment of that 'Luke Gamble', wíth your interpolations I mean, was hilarious.
For me, your site is the number one reviewing site on the web - I like your style far more than Prindle's - since you manage to be rational and personal at the same time. It therefore was kind of astonishing that there were people, native speakers of the beautiful English language, I suppose, who did not manage to understand that. It is a shame for those people, being native speakers, not noticing the subtilities of your opinions. Well, your statements are sometimes quite direct but you always give a somekind rational explanation for what you write, which some readers certainly could not.
Their remarks did not seem to be about the music of Mister Springsteen but about American patriotism. They obviously did not notice your site is about music and not about politics or stating opinions about the centre of the world, commonly known as The United States Of America. It is a pity people let their love for their country influence their love for the products of that country in a thoroughly irrational, almost fascist way.
But would you not been bashing The Doors too were you an America hater? I beg to differ but those gentle people supposedly have not remarked your reviews of The Doors yet.
Anyway, I just wanted to say that I for one like your work very much and appreciate the way you make your points, even though I am not always sharing the same opinions as yours (I like Gong's You above Angel's Egg for some mysterious reason). After reading your site, well, for almost more than a year and a half now, I am convinced that you are a most unbiased reviewer. Being a reviewer you are very critical in a way every reviewer should be. It of course irritates me that some people cannot deal with strong arguments and well constructed statements taken together with a pretty expressive language.
So, thank you for your interesting reviews and your convincible recommandations.
PS: Nice to notice you like Hammill above Born In The USA any time of the day. But I am afraid that if those all American boys do not even know who Cohen is, they certainly will not even know Hammill. Such a shame. They will never understand what Western music is about.
I totally agree with you on this one George. These people have to be honest with themselves, Bruce, although like you said, is a poet and is an icon for every workingman out there, isn't much musically. He puts tons of emotion into his concerts and you have to amend him for that one. His first three albums are his best, but everything after that, kind of gets a bit pretentious and weak. HIs stuff kind of gets a bit poppy and synthed in the end. I like how you compare him to Dylan. And the comments on your opinions are a bit viscous and it just makes them sound like idiots when they say such things like that. I mean, you have your opinion, and they have theirs. Some people just take this kinda stuff TOO seriously. Overall: Springsteen is an icon, however, he isn't a musician, he is a poet.
Steve Potocin <firstname.lastname@example.org> (14.12.2002)
WOW! The Springsteen fans are passionate!,but darn it, not half as rib ticklin funny as those wacky Zepp fans! I think Springsteen writes too many bloated, melodramatic, epic songs. That said I've bought his records. Why? Because the son of a bitch has written alot of damn fine rockin songs, ala Jonh Fogerty. 'Cadillac Ranch', 'Bobby Jean', 'I'm A Rocker', and i've gotta tell ya 'Meeting Across The River'= cool moody song. Of course The Hollies covered one of his tunes,so extra points for that!
David Dickson <email@example.com> (18.12.2002)
Usually I don't lose my smooth objectivity over such trivial matters as popular music, George, but let me be brutally frank here: You're wrong. Let me explain:
As you've admitted yourself, the primary reason that you love Dylan and absolutely detest Springsteen (yes, absolutely detest-- don't think I don't detect that creeping hatred beneath your carefully chosen phrases) is their respective musical philosophies. You'd rather somebody elucidate the desperation of life, the need to get out, than celebrate the joys of being. . . a blue-collar working class biker/average Joe. To you, "rebellion" and "desperation" are the only signs of great rock 'n' roll--that is, if we're talking about the singer/songwriter type that Bruce epitomizes. To you, he's nothing more than a flaming conformist, one who only does what the crowd wants and what the establishment flourishes in.
[Special author note: well, no, I never admitted that was the primary reason. The primary reason is that I consider Dylan more musically and lyrically talented than Springsteen, not to mention more innovative. Naturally, then, I'm more inclined to pardon occasional "philosophical" slips on the part of Bob than the constant annoying display of the Boss's values. I also have nothing against celebrating the joys of being an average Joe; I'm against glorificating the joys of being an average Joe. If you don't understand the difference between these things, they're well illustrated by an opposition of, say, 'Ramblin' Man' and 'Born To Run'. And yes, "rebellion" is a necessary sign of great rock'n'roll - only "rebellion" doesn't necessarily mean an anti-establishment rant.]
News flash, buddy: He's not. Take a look at James Taylor, Neil Young, and Joni Mitchell on one hand, then the Stooges, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin on the other. Confessional pessimism to the left, absolute decadence to the right. That's White American pop culture for you at the crossroads of the early '70's. There was no "gold mine" to be hit upon. Think about what you wrote about Bruce's general aesthetic: "If you think your life is meaningless, you couldn't be more wrong. Your life is magic." THAT IS NOT CONFORMISM! That is almost the polar opposite of what the mainstream was telling people in 1974. The only positive message you could find were bland, unoriginal calls to "toke up" or "party down"--other than that, you had folkies, country-folkies, and rockers of every stripe grousing about how much their own lives sucked. And along comes the Boss, managing to be exuberant without being decadent, and driving it across in an intellectual way. If that's conformism, my name is Max Weinberg. Hell, Springsteen's the polar opposite of what the American mainstream says today: "They're trying to build a prison" (System of a Down). "We hope that you choke" (Radiohead). "Though it's been so long/I wonder what went wrong" (Trail of Dead). "You don't know what it's like to be me" (Britney Spears). "Do you have the time/To listen to me whine" (Green Day). "All I really want/Is some justice" (Alanis Morissette). "Guess what, I am dead/Dead to you as can be" (Eminem). Pessimism sells, and has sold since 1970. Optimism is currently the very height of non-conformism--why do you think so many punks and punkoids out there detest Creed? Considering the fact that you find the 1960's so overwhelmingly superior to the 1970's, I find it quite ironic that you would detest one of the few dollops of optimism present in that decade--and indeed in the entire pop mainsteam of the last three decades.
[Special author note: You're vastly underrating the selling of optimism here. The Seventies weren't relegated to Neil Young and Joni Mitchell exclusively. The Seventies were just as well - and on a commercial level, much more - the domain of the Carpenters, the Partridges, and the Osmonds, and of KISS on the "decadent" side. I would never deny that pessimism sells, but optimism has always sold much better, we're simply not looking at optimism when we're discussing rock music. If you're talking the post-Nirvana epoch, well, that's a slightly different matter - that was when record companies finally started making money on pessimism for what it's worth (and btw, that was also an epoch when Bruce's own records started getting gloomier... coincidence?). So no, "optimism" in the Seventies wasn't conformism in relation to the harder-hitting singer-songwriting stuff. It was conformism in relation to the average Joe philosophy.]
Additionally, you made the very shrewd comparison between Bruce and MTV, but then made the mistake of thinking that such a comparison can only apply to the Boss. Wrong again, boyo. Consider the following analogy: Watching MTV can make a kid think he is cool when in fact he is only a drone of society. Listening to Bruce can make a man think that he is heroic when he is only a normal man. Similarly, listening to Bob Dylan (this is actually a far more common phenomenon than the Springsteen one where I come from) can make a person think that they are "literate" or "deep" when in fact they are just pretentious dopes with no idea of what they are hearing. Dylan, Springsteen, MTV, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, communism, the war on terrorism--EVERYTHING, have their own respective "conformist" cults where joining is supposed to elevate your status somehow--God knows how many people I've had to tell that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden have precious little in common with each other, and gotten labeled "unpatriotic" for my efforts. No phenomenon is immune to such demagoguery--not Dylan, not Lennon, NOBODY. By condemning the Boss for having such a cult, I'm sorry to say, you also condemn everyone else. And by saying that such phenomenae preclude "progress, advance, and true creativity" you effectively paint the planet Earth as a dark place where such things do not, nor have ever, existed. When the Who sang "Meet the new Boss, same as the old Boss," they might as well have been singing about themselves. And believe it or not, that's not a bad thing. That's just reality. Those who rebel are doomed to later become something to rebel against. That's the laws of nature. That was the same group that recorded Quadrophenia two year later, by the way.
[Special author note: This is, I think, a prime example of how one can pervert every single idea in existence, so let's not get carried away. Obviously, music (and any kind of art) is primarily in the mind of the listener, and you can have examples of idiotic reactions to any work of art no matter what its original message ever was. But that's what I am talking about here, the original message. Springsteen's original message is pandering to the average Joe by glorificating him, like I already said. Bob Dylan's original message is not. Thus, I don't care if an average Joe listens to Dylan and gets all "puffed up" about his being so intelligent and deep because he's listening to Dylan - this is merely a side effect. In Bruce's case, it's not a side effect, it's the inevitable and much desired result. In other words, I'm not condemning the Boss for having such a cult; I'm condemning the Boss for intentionally establishing such a cult.]
So what I'm trying to say, basically, is that your main argument against Bruce Springsteen holds water about as well as a leaky faucet. Your central point, that he's a symbol of conformism and stagnation, could very well be applied to every other widely-imitated phenomenon out there. Your secondary argument, that he isn't as musically interesting as Dylan, is even more faulty: If you're looking for solid melodies from the man, on the same level as, say, "Just Like a Woman," look no further than "Mary, Queen of Arkansas," "Lost in the Flood," "For You," "Spirit in the Night," and "The Angel"--and that's just on his first album. If you're looking for musical diversity from the man, just look at the scope of his career--Dylanesque folk on Nebraska, jazz-rock on The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle, hard-rock bombast on Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town, unapologetic pop cheese on The River and Born in the U.S.A., modern rock on The Rising, and minimalist pop on Tunnel of Love. What's more, he shows immense diversity within albums, Greetings From Asbury Park, New Jersey, Darkness on the Edge of Town, and The Rising being prime examples. Dylan, on the other hand, doesn't have variety per se--he has "eras." The folkie era of 1962-64, the rock era of 1965-66, the country era of 1967-73, etc. While this does demonstrate some range, it kinda shows that he can't switch styles on a dime like Mr. Springsteen; he can just change gradually over time, like nearly every other long-lived artist. Not to mention the fact that he only has three decent albums out of forty-three that could be reasonably called "diverse"--Bringing it All Back Home, Desire, and Love and Theft.
[Special author note: Well are we discussing music now? All these songs on the first album that you've mentioned don't have a single trace of a memorable melody (except for maybe 'Spirit In The Night'), they get by on mood and atmosphere. And whenever somebody starts proving to me artistic diversity by opposing 'hard rock bombast' and 'modern rock', I find it extremely fishy. This kind of diversity can be found for almost everybody. Here's to you - Blonde On Blonde, which you didn't mention, involves "carnival rock", "blues rock", "folk rock", "epic rock", "rock'n'roll", "balladry", and "pop". Now let's rip each other's throats out. I'm not arguing that Bruce doesn't know more than one style of music-making anyway, so what's up with the fuss?]
So there you have it: the ancient Springsteen/Dylan debate, stripped down to its bare essence. Mind you, I'm not saying that Springsteen's better than Dylan, just that he's not a hair worse. You, on the other hand, quite vehemently disagree--not so much because you adore Bob as beacuse you hate Bruce. And I think I know why. Now, I know I'm not exactly a cultural expert, neither am I Russian, and I know that it's not cool in this day and age to be politically incorrect. But I seriously think it's your Russian nationality talking when you dis the Boss as a symbol of "American conformism." You say that Springsteen's message is "quite different" from the typical Russian rock band. I believe it--of the dozen or so Russian pop songs I've heard, eight were viciously and sarcastically anti-government, and the rest were just viciously sarcastic. (No, I haven't heard the recently released "Putin" song yet.) That might be a result of the hard times your country's gone through--and indeed, from what I hear, is still going through. It only makes sense that the message of "Ballad of a Thin Man" would speak to you better than, say, "Born to Run." "Drive All Night"? Yeah, right! Most Russians don't even have cars!
[Special author note: This is close to several accusations of me not "getting" Springsteen because of a cultural barrier that I've received over time. Well, having lived some time in America and knowing quite a bit about the differences between Russian and American culture, I certainly agree that Bruce speaks to American audiences more than to Russian ones - in fact, that's what I've been talking about at the very beginning of this page. This, in itself, is neither good nor bad. The way he speaks to American audiences is what I personally find bad, and I know many an American who would agree with me on that. So don't take shots at me for my nationality, Mr Hotel-California-is-one-of-the-best-albums-ever! :)]
I know, I know--I'm speaking from a vantage point of extreme ignorance, here. But in a situation of extremely high property values and no bank loans, I don't think you can be blamed for being offended by the message of Mr. Springsteen. He asserts, quite insistently, that you don't need to change your world, just appreciate what you've got. Kinda like what the Brezhnevites said, eh? Hell, Dylan coulda been writing about the streets of Gorkiy in the '80's when he wrote "Desolation Row." But when you really think about it, putting two and two together--and this is what you really need to know about America, George--Springsteen's and Dylan's philosophies are two sides of the same coin.
Don't believe me? Consider the following: Springsteen's telling the public: "You think you are miserable, Mr. Working Guy? Take a look around you, life is beautiful." Here's the devastating truth: he's right. You almost hit the nail on the head when you mentioned the American social and economic situation in the Seventies--that's the key. Americans have long had the best possible living conditions in the world--we just haven't cared enough to appreciate them. We love to bitch about everything we don't have. My stepmom drives an SUV, has a manicure regularly, and has a daughter who's captain of the cheerleading squad, and you know what? She's constantly miserable. Similarly, the average American working man sees his life and regrets the fact that he didn't make it big. Malcontents System of a Down and Rage Against the Machine bitch about the "police state" of America and about how "corporate fascism" supposedly rules our country with an iron fist, and never take the opportunity to realize that maybe, just maybe, we might have it better than everyone else. When you really take the time to look around, as a white Anglo-Saxon American, no matter what income level you're at, you realize that you've usually got affordable goods, wages paid on time, freedom to travel, freedom to worship, freedom to say whatever the hell you want, and many other things that other folks in the outside world don't even hope for, much less have. So here's how the musical legends fit in: Dylan sings about the poor and oppressed, whereas Springsteen reminds those who aren't, that they really aren't, and that they shouldn't pretend to be. White America has it good--if its musical mainstream is "desperation," we've got a problem. Let those who deserve to (such as, say, Mr. Jones) complain. Rich folk and whining do not mix.
[Special author note: "Rich folk and whining do not mix?" Dave - that's exactly the essence of Bruce! Apparently, you misunderstood my summary of his message. Which isn't merely "folks, your life is opulent and beautiful, so be happy with it". That suits the Osmonds rather than Springsteen. It's more like: "folks, your life is a total mess, but just be proud of yourself because you're heroes anyway". If we're talking poor and oppressed, Springsteen sings about the poor and oppressed way more often than Dylan - in fact, in his key phases Dylan almost never sang about the poor and oppressed ('Desolation Row' has nothing to do with economic factors). But whenever he sings about the poor and oppressed, he displays such a disgusting streak of Messiahnism that I'd much rather hear Dylan sing about 'em. Like I said, it's all about glorification. Two sides of the same coin? Hardly. Dylan, at least, never volunteered for his position of an all-American icon, and he isn't - not for the common working man, he's not.]
In conclusion, Bruce Springsteen might not be talking directly to you, but that doesn't make him any less of an artist. It doesn't make him phoney, it certainly doesn't make him a "stabilising factor," and it definitely doesn't make him a roach. It just makes him someone you don't identify with--which, if you're Russian, I forgive you for. I see that I've gone a little long on this one, so I'll leave you with this parting shot: Here are my own personal ratings for Mr. Springsteen.
Listenability: 5/5. I'd be hard-pressed to find a Boss song that I wanted to skip.
Resonance: 5+/5. I'm an American. So shoot me.
Originality: 4/5. I have to dock a point in this category--Bruce didn't really invent a new style to rock and roll, he just combined several that already existed.
Diversity: 4/5. He's got variety, but not nearly so much as, say, the Beatles or the Pixies.
Adequacy: 5/5. He's the Boss, what can I say? * * * * * 4.6 stars out of 5.
Most revolutionary album: The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle.
Quintessential album: Born to Run.
Best album: The River.
Worst album: The Ghost of Tom Joad.
Thank you, and good night from Asbury Park.
jackassjenno <firstname.lastname@example.org> (05.01.2003)
Perhaps springsteen, just a problem when so many people love and follow him. Your review, was honest, but not neccesaraly true. I think I understand you. To me you seem to be saying; "I'm not going to hate him, I don't know if he's right or wrong, but don't ask me to love him." I think maybe I'd feel the same as you, if I was surrounded by people who loved springsteen. But I hope I wouldn't. I belive he loves the people he sees, sincerely. I also belive he's a lot closer to the early rock and rollers, mythmakers of america (someone mentioned Del Shanon) with their love for america and pathos for everyday struggles. I don't think springsteen says "stay where you are everything's ok, but he does say "look around at the people next to you, they're struggling too" But he also says, do it now, "don't wait for a moment that just don't come". Bruce's dreams are of people waking up to their feelings and lives and maybe breaking free. But also, if they don't make it, that it isn't the end. He's close to Guthrie, Orbison, and Tom petty and any other singers who tried to tell the truth about america the way they saw it and add to it's myths and stories. Did Joe Strummer (god rest his soul) have a point when he said: "If you don't like Bruce Springsteen, you don't like Rock&Roll"?
Greg Perryman <email@example.com> (20.01.2003)
Here is my impression of the average response to your Bruce Springsteen article:
Well, I'm American. And while I may not know what the hell a liter is, I do know that foreigners and Jews just don't get the Boss. You see, these worldwide minorities are just jealous that Americans have someone like the Boss. Have any rock gods come from any other country? I surely doubt it. You see, when Bruce created music, he knew that only Americans would be able to understand his immaculately crafted lyrics and euphoric saxophone solos. Then, when he went on to give birth to Jesus Christ, he also knew that everything you said (which I will twist dramatically so I can argue with it) was wrong. Therefore, America RULEZZ!! P.S. - I can't spell "you're."
Now, what I really think: As an American, I should say that we are all not like this. I am not a fan of Bruce Springsteen (at all, possibly disliking him more than you do). Many Americans I know are not Bruce Springsteen fans either. I do not argue with poor logic when people dislike one of my favorite artists. I do not make horrible statements about Russians being jealous because they do not have anyone like "The Boss" to look up to.
George, I'm sorry about what my fellow Americans have put you through, even after you mentioned that you did not want them to flame you, but to THINK first.
Robert Smith <RustWillNeverSleep@webtv.net> (01.03.2003)
You know, I just got done watching Springsteen in concert, and I must say you have the guy all wrong...Man, does this guy have passion! I don't appreciate you referring to humble men as dirty, smelly bikers...We don't have to be great and grandiose to be heroes...Why does it offend you to have someone speak out for the simple man? I'm sorry if rich Dylan asking me how it feels to live on the streets a little disheartening? It's a very conformist view to put Dylan over every poet...Dylan had too many "psycho-rambling" songs which obviously didn't come from any feeling, while Leonard Cohen (My personal favorite) and Springsteen deliver equally impressive songs...Springsteen also had many great melodies...I'm sorry...Plastic Ono Band? Melodies? Oh yeah...We can't trash on Lennon, can we? (I personally love that album.) Springsteen's melodies were catchy (making them more endearing) and Lennon's were raw, and not always sticking in your head...Oh well...It's just an opinion.
Jon Calhoun <firstname.lastname@example.org> (30.03.2003)
Springsteen is the greatest solo artist in rock history, Born to Run the greatest album, and 'Born to Run' the greatest song. It is what rock music is about- longing, love, passion, rebellion and redemption. It is about real human emotion. To say his music is only an accompianment to his lyrics is laughable. His music is actually rather sophisticated, and he may be the most underrated guitarist in rock history (See the entire Darkness on the Edge of Town album, especially the jaw-dropping solo on the live rendition of 'Prove it All Night'. Most people that aren't truly familiar with him are unaware of his fretboard prowess. To say the guitar only part of his image is ignorant, and even you must admit to that). Referring to his his music as only an accompianment to his lyrics is unfathomable. As of right now, he's bigger in Europe than ever, because in the ever-changing global environment his message is more revered than ever.
I suppose you and I have a fundamental difference when it comes to "artistic values". Creativity isn't about making the most bizarre sound you can and still call it music just for the sake of being "creative". That's not creative, its pretentious, its snobbish, and it makes for stiff, lifeless music. Being creative is about taking an emotion and making it sing, making it soar, making into something that touches people and changes lives. That's what Springsteen and Born to Run have done to countless people, myself included. Also, saying Bruce's music is calculated to tap into some middle class "gold mine" is ridiculous and insulting. Springsteen has never accepted coprorate sponsorship or licensed his music to advertisers (unlike Bowie and many others) even when upwards of 14 million dollars have been offered for a single commercial. If Bruce truly was about "gold mines" he would be a far richer man than he already is.
You'll never find an artist more "about the music" than Springsteen. I love Bowie, but please, his substance is based on image. Springsteen's image is based on substance. To reduce his work to "musical therapy" is ridiculous. Saying that his music is "pointless" because one "doesn't require it" just demonstrates a lack of emotional depth and understanding on your part.
You say that you dislike Bruce because (according to you) he thinks the answers to all life's problems lie a few miles down the highway. They don't, and he never said that. 'Born to Run' (and this is a paraphrase of something Bruce said himself) is about searching for the answers, even if you know you many never find them. He says everything he's done since theb has been about exploring the (in my opinion) greatest line in the history of rock that ends the second verse of 'Born to Run' - "I wanna know if love is wild/I wanna know if love is real". Bruce's music has NEVER, EVER been about glorifying the life of the "average Joe" (and to how anyone could say it is is totally beyond me). He's never "intentionally created a cult" (please, you must admit, the cult comment was rather childish)- he simply made music with a message that spoke to people. Everything he's ever done has been about rebelling against "average Joe" values in pursuit of something more substancial (see 'Born to Run', 'Thunder Road', 'The Promised Land', 'Badlands', 'Racing in the Street', 'The Promise' and many others). He doesn't write music for the "average Joe"- he writes it for the person that wants something more, something deeper, something more meaningful, something better, and will either get it or die trying.
P.S. This is not a flame, by the way. Its an intelligent resposnse to your article on Bruce and I hope you treat it as such.
[Special author note: Jon - thanks for your intelligent response, all the more impressive when coming from an - obviously - diehard fan of the Boss. Allow me to retort, then, even if I probably won't be saying anything new that hasn't already been expressed in a different way on this page (then again, neither were you, weren't you?):
"Rock music" is about a lot of different things. Yes, a lot of rock music is about longing, love, passion, rebellion and redemption, and that may be the way rock music started out, but my enormous respect and love for rock music primarily stems from the fact that rock music, simply put, is about everything. It does not limit itself in any way. Within rock music, you can find albums and compositions grounded in completely opposite values, and all of them will be "rock" - maybe some of them will not be "true" rock to you, but that is your problem, not the problem of the music; if you want to put limits on music, that doesn't mean everyone else has to do likewise. In this respect, creativity is about making the most bizarre sound you can just as it is about taking an emotion and making it sing - and if you listen carefully and attentively, sometimes you can find music that does both things at the same time. What may seem "stiff, lifeless music" to you will seem the most emotional thing ever to other people.
In this respect, when assessing Mr Springsteen from a less limited perspective - the one that counts him as just one artist in a million different ones - I find myself bored with the man more often than not. Underrated guitarist? I never said he couldn't play his instrument. He can; from a purely technical point, he does it better than a lot of other guitarists, and worse than a lot of others, too. If he does a good solo from time to time, I'll be the first to admit it. It's just that ninety percent of guitarists I've heard have done at least one jaw-dropping solo in their career, and many have done more. Where Bruce differs from the crowd is in his use of the guitar as a visual accessory - and that's unmistakably part of the image, not part of the substance.
His music is sophisticated? Just because he employs a big band, wasting (sorry) the talents of many gifted players by giving them no memorable melodies to play? Maybe, but what makes it more sophisticated and deserving of interest than the music of Steely Dan or Frank Zappa? Not the melodies, not the notes - the vibe, primarily. And here we come to the "message" again. He simply made music with a message that spoke to people, you say. True. And that message is about glorifying the life of the average Joe, no matter what you say. Maybe you just don't grasp what exactly it is I mean when saying that.
Well, I've said it times and times over again - Bruce is finding poetry and inspiration directly in the life of the average Joe, elevating the primitive to the level of the, well, elevated. If anything, rock music in its original incarnation was so miraculous simply because it managed to speak of the primitive in similarly primitive - and thus completely adequate - terms. Chuck Berry told simple life exactly as it was. Another "working class hero", Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy fame, did likewise. When Bob Dylan introduced complex imagery and non-trivial lyrics to rock, he did not do it from a messianistic point of entry like Bruce did - he did that in a sarcastic, almost post-modern way, as if mocking himself along with everybody else. His ability to be serious and non-serious at the same time is what makes him great. As for Springsteen, he blows things tremendously out of proportion. Springsteen's "music" is a hundred percent "redneck-ready" - simple, understandable, and "elevating". It's also false and hollow when you get to the bottom of it, and that's coming from somebody who's never denied that Bruce actually has talent.
Personally, I don't want to seem smug or anything, but I do want "something more, something deeper, something more meaningful, something better". Not always - sometimes I just want the Ramones! - but I am on this quest, just like you are. You seem to have found your solution in Springsteen; I just can't find anything "deeper" in Bruce because I see nothing but instantly obvious shallowness in the man. I can find "deeper" things in Dylan, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, hell, classical music, if you wish. I just have no need for somebody like Bruce in my life, and I believe I am not just speaking for myself when I say that. I can, and will, respect your views and wishes, not to mention your courteous style of writing compared to some other people on here, but in this particular question, I simply represent the Bruce-disliking percentage of the population, however small, or big, it might be (numbers don't really interest me here).]
Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (31.03.2003)
Exhauasting to read these comments and the replies, George! I personally like a lot of the Boss's music, but he has to be THE most overrated American rocker ever. I couldn't get why in '75 everyone (including Time and Newsweek) fell for this "great American rock n'roll Messiah" thing that was totally contrived and orchestrated by Jon Landau. And all his rock critic buddies fell right in line, inspiring some of the most pretentious hero worship of any rock star and his bakd. ("Danny Federici [E Street organist] plays his keys like Indiana Jones unlocking the keys to an ancient treasure" -- yes,that's a real quote from an interview). I couldn't get it, because while he was always a good-to-excellent songwriter, his earliest records are sloppily played, sung and produced. It was only starting with The River that he began to develop a consistently good, disciplined record from beginning to end. And he is one performer whose vocal style has actually improved over time (although I haven't heard The Rising yet).
However, I was convinced to go to Springsteen show on his 1978 comeback tour, and I must say that did to an extent convert me -- on the most energetic, and fun, live performers ever. On that basis, I could see why the guy inspires such adulation. But I somehow distrust, again, people falling for this working class spokesman thing. He may sing about the concerns of the little guy stuck in nowhere land, but I'm not too sure he inspired people to DO anything about it. Still, I can overlook my irritation with this becuase he has done a lot of good stuff. I even picked up that Tracks boxed set, and I just feel so-so about the guy!
Fidel Saúl Juárez Guzmán <email@example.com> (02.05.2003)
It's very simple to reckon Springsteen's unmemorable melodies. Take, for instance, "Start me up", or (Dylan's) "I Want You". One can go back to certain passages, e.g.: the you make a grown man cry/dead man cum chorus; the lines about the dancing child with his chinese suit, and so.
NOW, take "Thunder Road". Anything stands out from the body of the song? Anything comes to mind? Do the lyrics in the middle part instantly pop? Nah. You have to begin from the beginning: through the corny harmonica intro and Bruce's melodramatic rendition.
Slightly better are "Streets of Philadelphia" (slightly, I said) or "Born to run". However, since "Thunder road" is the masterpiece of a song that everybody loves... well.
Wanna test my theory? Sing "Thunder Road" but think about "Start me up"; do it the other way (sing "Start me up" and think about the other tune.) Got carried by one of these?
This to me is a touchy subject. Anything you say bad about the boss is certainly to offend the masses like no other. For those who are our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, let me explain: you see, Springsteen is really like a god over here. Never has there been a spokesman for "America" if you will that has had a bigger impact than Bruce. Take for example his latest album The Rising, which deals with the tragedy of 9/11. All throughout, the theme of moving on and we will get through this is predominant. The public so embraced this album, it won a few grammy's and was nominated for album of the year. My point is that no other artist could have released this kind of album and had that kind of response of understanding the reassurance given, than Springsteen. When Bruce says everything will be alright, somehow it just feels alright. So when people here of Springsteen, being knocked, they take it as a personal attack on America and they lose their fucking minds. Just goes to show what I've always said that music will start more arguments than politics or religion ever could. Springsteen does sing about the working man, but to me George doesn't grasp the message. He sings that there is a better life out there such as in 'Thunder Road': "it's a town full of losers and I'm pulling out of here to win." Or in such lines as "mister I ain't a boy, no I'm a man and I believe in the promised land." Springsteen's cast of characters don't accept their lives, they detest them and want nothing more than to better themselves. In Nebraska for example: "I swear I'll never ride in no used car again." George correctly points out that rebellion and desperation make for great rock and roll. But one important ingredient also sweetens the pot is nostalgia. In The River, Springsteen's character gets his girlfriend pregnant and then watches his life change. Gone are the freedoms he once knew, and he spends the rest of his days longing for the past when he and his Mary were wild and free. Brilliant in my opinion. It must be pointed out that while I view comparisons to other artists work to be nonessential (let the work speak for itself), I feel the Dylan comparrison to be justified in this case. The reason is that the same person who discovered Dylan is the same person that discovered Springsteen. His name is John Hammond and he invisioned Bruce as a laid back folkie like that other guy he signed. To his shock and horror, Bruce showed up to record his first album with a full band and the rest is history. My opinion of Dylan is rather personal, I simply don't care for him. While I recognize his gift for lyrics, I do not consider him to be a good singer or performer. I have seen Dylan in concert, and it was amusing to see his guitarist bandleader occasionally stepping up next to him to remind him of the proper tempo. Springsteen's live show is something everyone should see once in their lives. No one puts on a better show, and no one puts more heart or energy into their performance. To say that Bruce has never created memorable melodies is just plain silly. The Pointer Sisters took 'Fire' to the top ten, and Patti Smith did the same with 'Because The Night'. Even John Lennon said in an interview that he respected Springsteen as a songwriter and had many kind things to say about 'Hungry Heart'. I should know...I've got the interview on tape. How can you not tap your foot when Rosalita comes on? Again, it's a matter of opinion. To me personally, Springsteen speaks to me far better than Dylan ever could. I could listen to Jungleland and the exploits of Magic Rat over and over again. Even Dylan himself paid tribute to Springsteen on the Traveling Wilbury's cd. The song 'Tweeter and the Monkey Man' contains numerous Springsteen references. Mutual respect in the music business is very nice to see. Maybe it is all local. Maybe we Americans have annointed Bruce as our musical foreman. Whatever it is, I'm glad he's here. While most rock stars seem "untouchable" and "ego crazed," Bruce is one of us. Just a poor kid from Freehold, New Jersey that somehow learned that life can get better. Get out and do something about it. He passes that lesson onto us even still. "For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside, that it ain't no sin, to be glad you're alive," I'll take that advice anyday. God bless Bruce and the E Street Band.
Mauricio de Souza Fonseca <Mauricio.Fonseca@desenvolvimento.gov.br> (12.05.2003)
Sorry, George, I agree with you in some parts, but I think you forgot something about Bruce Springsteen: his live peformances. Whatever are the intentions or the meaning behind his lyrics and music, live he and the E-Street band are simply a superb rock and roll machine, energetic, sometime even aggressive, with highly skilled and professional musicians that fought a lot before being famous.
John Cerra <firstname.lastname@example.org> (12.06.2003)
The nature of your comments remind of a person I came across in college in NYC around 1980. This person was from a far more rural area than NYC, and in coming to college, had to be both trendy and over intellectualized at the same time. So, as a writer on the college newspaper, he felt his column had to 1. Rave about the band of the week on the punk rock circuit in NYC, 2. bash Springsteen as the antithesis of what he wanted in a band. The band of the week changed every week, but the comparison vs Springsteen never ended.
Around 1985 my brother and I were leaving a Springsteen show at Giants Stadium , when in front of us , we saw this gentlemen, jumping around, extremely excited. My brother, who also wrote for the college newspaper, asked him the obvious question. The response was quite telling: "A friend dragged me to a show last year, and now I can't get enough of him." A lesson here is that Springsteen isn't the most comfortable artist in the "album" concept. To understand his appeal, you need to see him live. You don't have to like him, but then you can see what his fans see. That would also explain why his hard-core fans seem to rarely listen to the studio albums, but are addicted to live bootleg albums.
Another side to this is that several musicians and "serious" music fans that I came across in college who were into ELP, Genesis et al had the same point to make about Springsteen as the gentlemen above, except now the theory was that all the energy took away from the "seriousness" or technical craft of the music. As above, I wondered why Springsteen was the comparison.
What I get from his music: commitment, intensity , sincerity and honesty. If Dylan is the "mark" then please note that I am a big fan of his also --- but I attended several concerts of his when he mailed it in, especially in the late 1980's. I have seen Springsteen play in stadiums and impromptu jams in the Stone Pony, about 60 times in 25 years. He has never mailed it in.
Jim Casey <email@example.com> (27.09.2003)
Just stumbled upon your website within the last week, and already it has become a favourite, but I have to admit I think your bias against Bruce Springsteen seems less than reasonable. I read with interest your lengthy introduction, and though I disagree with much of it, at least you attempted to elucidate your negativity towards him in a reasonable manner...I personally find much of Springsteen's catalogue to be GENUINELY pessimistic and fail to see where he's offering any real answers or hope within the songs. I don't even think he's offering any kind of philosophy for us to consider, either. His songs are more like mirrors held up to middle class America, reflecting not only it's hopes and dreams but also it's shortcomings and failures. Personally I like Springsteen more than Dylan (who I also greatly admire) because of his directness and to-the-point manner. Darkness On The Edge Of Town was my first Springsteen record, way back in '77, so perhaps I've always been locked into the darker element of his music, but I maintain that even in the most joyous of his songs you can find that darkness lurking. At any rate, I love your site and plan to spend much time perusing your reviews, whether I agree with them or not...after all, anyone who has Bloodrock and Magma in their list of bands reviewed is on top of things, as far as I'm concerned (I can only wonder why NEKTAR is nowhere to be found...)
Glenn J. Wiener <firstname.lastname@example.org> (30.09.2003)
No bones about it, I do like the music of Bruce Springsteen very much. Many of his songs display a lot of emotion. His words tug at your heart and soul and his music is oh so deep. Whereas the majority of his songs and CD's are excellent, the Bruce man has taken a few missteps particularly on the Human Touch record. The River is a little hit and miss and you have to be in the mood for dreary tunes if you like Nebraska. But Born To Run, E Street Shuffle, Born In The USA, Greetings, and Darkness are all bona fide winners.
Furthermore, I would like to comment on the narrow minded comments of the individual who goes by I'm A Rocker. There are many Jewish people(myself included) who adore Bruce Springsteen and there are non Jewish people who dislike the man's music. It's a crying shame that on a music review site someone has to pollute it with derogatory comments. Whereas I appreciate your comments scolding this hateful commentary, it might be best served to remove this comment from your page as it is truly inappropriate.
Richard Nightingale <email@example.com> (06.10.2003)
I agree with almost everything you say about Bruce Springsteen.You give many of his albums very low ratings, fair enough!!.However this is not reflected in your overall artist rating.Why have you given this guy a 3???.Is Bruce springsteen better than Neil Young,The Grateful Dead, Buffalo Springfield, Jefferson Airplane, Love, Hell even The Monkees!?
I think not!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And I think you don't either.You slag of albums like Born To Run and Born In The USA and quite rightly so. My opinions on Neil Young are very much in line with yours but I still think he deserves a 3. Bruce Springsteen never recorded an album as good as On The Beach or Rust Never Sleeps. In fact Springsteen is a very limited songwriter and deserves no more than a 2. Your artist rating for Bruce is very confusing and i am curious as to how you arrived at the number you give him.
UGot Robbed <firstname.lastname@example.org> (08.10.2003)
I really enjoyed reading a lot of your reviews but your Spingsteen page is just sad. No matter what you write about his music, you always repeat the same stuff and none of it is about the music. OK, so you don't like the guy for personal reasons. Then just don't review his work pretending like it's actually the music you're talking about. Delete the whole page and simple write : I am incapable of thinking about these albums because the guy pisses me off too much. That would at least be HONEST.
Robert S. Jurczyk <email@example.com> (24.10.2003)
For years, I never liked Springsteen. Still don't. And after reading your essay, I'm beginning to understand why.
First of all, you say he is very local. The implication is that that locality is the US. However, I believe the locality is smaller than that. That is what the reference to Sinatra is all about. Both are from New Jersey. New Yorkers and New Jerseyites see the world in their own terms and this may be part of why I can't stand Springsteen. It could be that I ascribe the 'the world is as we (New Jersey/New York) see it' view to him subconsciously.
You juxtapose the Boss with Dylan. Being from Michigan (here's MY parochial bias) I would rather the juxtaposition be with Bob Seger. Everything Springsteen did, Seger had already done before Springsteen even thought of it. And he did it without getting people ticked off about it. Seger has the working class take on life and, like Springsteen, he doesn't inspire or exhort to revolution. But he also doesn't pretend to be anything more. He doesn't appoint himself some kind of folk hero, like Springsteen seems to do. Rather, he just comments on life and lets it go at that. And he doesn't apologize for making money off us. (Ohhh, Like a Rock). Now Seger does have his faults. In fact, his "Still the Same" could have been "Sounds the Same", and sung thus: Sounds the same, all my songs sound the same" But then, so do Springsteen's.
Tom Mitchell <firstname.lastname@example.org> (06.04.2004)
Okay, so a few days have gone by and I decided to check out another chunk of your site. I headed to the Bruce Springsteen section. I was simultaneously disappointed with the uneven, kind of petty criticism in the introductory paragraph. And I was confused by the contradictory high album rating scores (for the early records). After reading your intro again, I decided that there's no accounting for taste and let it go.
It would have ended there, but then I reread the pull quote (the one-sentence headline, so to speak) you have for The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle. When I first read it, I had to laugh out loud. All I could think about was the coda to "The E Street Shuffle" and the overblown horn parts contained therein. I laughed and laughed and considered the humorous Steely Dan connection. But, after I reconsidered this comment, the other one-liners starting the Bruce reviews, and the negative intro paragraph, I felt compelled to respond. Here goes:
Your Springsteen "introduction" ends up reading like a Dylan fan letter. I have yet to find a semi-objective critical assessment of Springsteen that doesn't make this kind of a misguided comparison to Dylan. To me, this doesn't work. If musicians' immediate influences were pointed out and compared in this exacting manner, EVERY ARTIST review would first mention Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and Little Richard. Or maybe they would go back further: Louis Jordan, Hank Snow, and Dorothy Love Coates. Or maybe further: Robert Johnson, Jimmie Rodgers, and Mahalia Jackson. The points: All artists show their influences; Art doesn't happen in a vacuum.
When you consider the magnitude, the amount many artists "borrow" (so to speak) from their influences, I think it's fair to say that some artists (Rolling Stones from Muddy Waters for example) owe a considerably larger debt to their influences than Bruce owes to Dylan. When you consider his ENTIRE catalogue and (most importantly) his live act, Bruce owes more of a debt to Wilson Pickett, Gary US Bonds, and--hey, if you want some unorthodox critical insight--the Clash and the Ramones than he does to Dylan. Yet Bruce has been saddled for 30 years with ill-conceived and narrow-minded Dylan comparisons; yes, Bruce's early albums are wordy and he lifts a little bit of Dylan's vocal, umm, tone on "Greetings." But Bruce, in the long run, has lost out because of the comparisons (unlike, for example, the "authenticity" appeal Clapton derives from cutting blues standards on the "Derek and the Dominos" record). And, despite having to fight that unfair and ill-founded comparison for all these years, Bruce shows that he is modest and a gentleman by publicly giving more than just due to Dylan: I saw the final show of the Rising tour at Shea Stadium when Dylan guest starred. Before welcoming Dylan to the stage, Bruce practically made Bob out to be a saint. How many times has Dylan publicly given praise to his mentors (some of whom--umm, Guthrie--he practically patterned his entire persona after)? About the only complimentary remark I've ever seen attributed to Dylan is his begrudging praise for Jimi Hendrix's version of "Watchtower" in the Biograph liner notes.
As you can see, I dangerously walk the line between "Bruce apologist" and "Dylan basher" (even though I hope I'm neither). You and I likely share similar opinions: you talk about Springsteen the way I talk about Dylan. The things that most impress hardcore Springsteen and Dylan fans can simultaneously turn off non-fans. Even though I (sort of) enjoy Dylan and have a fairly strong familiarity with and appreciation for his work, I could write a similarly incendiary essay about Bob Dylan. I have the musical training, pardon the immodesty, to reduce his perceived musical accomplishments considerably (and I could do so briefly).
For Dylan, I would start with his 80s "Saved! Oh, wait, I'm not saved anymore" material. (Horrible? Well, "spotty at best" and certainly work that belies his "genius" title.) Need proof? Try listening to the last disc of Biograph in sequence. There's a noticeable drop-off--and that's on his personally chosen best-of boxed set collection! I could even get into his revered 70s stuff. In my opinion, it is equally inconsistent (Self Portrait springs to mind--how many lousy instrumentals can you jam onto a record?). Even his best records (for my money, the Blood on the Tracks album) had dud songs ("Idiot Wind" anybody?). You mention this cliche in your opening Dylan section, but to me it rings true: The best Dylan tracks are cover versions of his songs (see the Byrds, the Band, George Harrison, etc.) Dylan is a poet, point granted, but he's practically a non-musician or at least (and I think this is intentional) an anti-musician. His voice, delivery, and ham-fisted guitar playing...It boggles the mind how lyric-writing skill alone lifted this man to "genius" status. Yet his influence is infinite. This becomes, in my opinion, a causation issue. Was Dylan really a revolutionary who consolidated the better elements of Beat poetry and roots music and made rock into "art"? Or did those heady days of the 60s offer Dylan the experimental opportunities (and financial backing--see Dylan and Springsteen's label Columbia Records) that turned him into a star? You say: Dylan is the artist, where Springsteen is, unluckily, only an excellent therapist. As a non-devotee, I would retort that Dylan benefitted immensely from the time period when he first recorded, much more than Bruce "benefitted" from what you think was a "positive" (wow) socio-economic situation in the US in the 70s. And, in my opinion, even Dylan's "holy grail" records are flawed musically and are made listenable (in no small part) because the Band plays on some of them. Also, let's not forget that Dylan's catalogue is littered with live albums of questionable quality. When you mercilessly cut out the overblown praise, you get: a highly skilled lyricist who was/is great at self-promotion (and the subtle use of anti-promotion) who worked with some heavyweight musicians and made three (count 'em) THREE masterworks: Blonde on Blonde, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blood on the Tracks.
How's that for cold-hearted?
The flaw in my argument is obvious. I'm not accounting for emotional response. You described Dylan like this: these songs went straight into the very depths of your soul and spoke to you on a personal, intimate level - a thing that neither the Beatles nor the Rolling Stones, as much as I love them, could never pull off.
I'm not adequately considering this kind of a personal reaction. (Don't laugh; it's hard being a Springsteen fan and a rational thinker!) After some serious contemplation, I have come to the conclusion that emotional response and personal attraction are two major reasons why people enjoy Dylan and/or Springsteen. Personally, I think that Dylan's wise-ass, cool, distant, hot shit attitude is offensive and unflattering. I think he was overcompensating for a complete lack of a musical clue. Furthermore, if I was going to get nasty about it, I would say that he was trying to shock or at least confuse people long enough so they didn't realize how much he indeed stole from Guthrie. But then I listen to "Positively 4th Street"--the kiss-off song of all time, right? It's fun to be distant and have a f*ck-you attitude. It's entertaining to be a non-conformist. Conversely, I then listen to "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go"--a tender, brilliant love note of a song. Maybe ole Bob isn't such a curmudgeon. Maybe Dylan is a genius...Then I listen to Lou Reed, Nick Drake, John Lennon, the Wallflowers (that was a joke). It's easy to praise what some people consider Dylan's obvious shortcomings and make him into a hero, or at least an anti-hero.
The same can be said of Springsteen. There are a few attributes to Bruce and his music that I think are more weighty and less nebulous than the compliments Dylan always receives. I would like to share them with you. These go way beyond local preferences and help paint him as a sincere artist and (in my opinion) a likable human being, not just a lesser Dylan clone.
First, the admissions: I know Bruce's records are imperfect. And maybe his populist politics turn you off. And maybe you disagree with his philosophical approach (whatever that is). I would like to point out that most of your quotes--or, umm, humorous paraphrasings--of Bruce song lyrics refer to Born to Run--an album he made when he was in his early 20s. I think his philosophy has changed considerably since then. (I wouldn't want my life's work entirely criticized because of things I said when I was 24!)
You say that Bruce is not about the music. I beg to differ with this mean-spirited comment. Bruce is all about the music. Bruce and his band have remained in tact for the better part of 30 years. His live show (performed for a pittance when compared with the ticket prices I have seen quoted for Dylan shows) is the stuff of lore. I have dozens of live recordings that would instantly refute your above comment (as well as your "he plays with the crowd" quip). Some of these recordings are from a time long before Bruce was a household name. His hardworking stage act made him the star he is today. His anti-scalping procedures give hardcore fans the best shot at great tickets and his marathon stage show is a guaranteed blast. His records are just as rewarding: varied, listenable, challenging, and well crafted. You belittle Tunnel of Love, an album of emotional depth (and substantial commerical risk), by comparing it to Phil Collins. That almost makes me want to cry. Clearly, you have the capacity to appreciate artists who change their sound (your Can reviews are a great example). I'm surprised that somebody as rational as you let your personal dislike for the artist negatively influence your opinion.
Yes, at times, the message supersedes the music. But Bruce often walked a path that deviated from what his fans wanted to hear. He still does. It was all well and good for Dylan to be anti-establishment in the 60s when the world was changing all around him (and after his mentors in art, film, literature, and music had laid the groundwork in the post-WWII 50s). Where was the challenge in that? Bruce lost legions of fans on this last tour because he publicly criticized the war in Iraq. He did so at a time when VERY FEW people, especially not musicians, were saying anything negative about the issue. Dylan got booed for "plugging in," something that ended up being misconstrued as a "statement" (whatever) and earned him and his followers billions of dollars. Bruce got booed by either a majority or a vocal minority EVERY TIME I heard him make an anti-Iraq speech (and I saw him in Jersey, Philly, New York, and Pittsburgh on this tour.) Dylan had like-minded superstar artists all around him. Bruce made (and makes) political statements in the 80s, 90s, and today, hardly the 60s anti-establishment, music-is-the-message, fight-the-power heyday. EVERY SHOW after July 15th included a short speech about misinformation leading to American-supported aggression overseas. In this way, Bruce was hardly "playing with the crowd" since the crowd (especially in these dark, overly "patriotic" times) wants to hear "Praise the USA!" The crowd doesn't understand the biting satire of the lyrics to "Born in the USA." The crowd doesn't pick up the bitterness of Bruce's introduction to "Born in the USA" in Pittsburgh on December 4, 2003: "I wrote this song 20 years ago and I'm afraid I might have to write it again."
It is very tempting for me to spitefully respond that Dylan isn't about the music either. After all, he only ever had studio musicians du jour (or studio band du jour, whatever), his collaborative abilities are almost nil, his melodies are derivative, his albums are hardly of uniform quality, and his live act is (at best) an acquired taste. Ask for objective insight from one of his worshipers, they *say* a whole lot. This is what I *hear*: He wrote great songs 35 years ago. Sometimes, he still writes a good song here and there. This is obviously a passive-aggressive, tongue-in-cheek attempt to humorously criticize Dylan. It would be perfect way to counteract your similar criticism of Springsteen, but then I'd be missing out on some great music. And I have enough room in my music collection to appreciate the music of both. I don't ignore Dylan because he's not Bruce, nor should anybody disregard Bruce because he's not Dylan.
Bruce's music is a blend, and I think it's much more diverse than people realize. Your justified praise of the Darkness on the Edge of Town record is proof positive. There are several different kinds of Bruce songs: full-band arrangements, more intimate solo vocal/guitar recordings, and everything in between. When you objectively study his band arrangements, you see how "Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band" is the real article (probably more so than "Bruce Springsteen" alone). You criticize Roy Bittan, or at least the "pompous" inclusion of his classical piano elements in the rock songs. Many recognize him as an accomplished pianist whose fills and solid style provide a perfect foil for Bruce's meat-and-potatoes vocal/guitar work. You make light of Clarence Clemons, but his sax sound made the E Streeters into a solid R&B band (when they wanted to be). He also added sizable instrumental strength (both live and in the studio) to the band's sound with his wide-ranging soloing techniques and dynamics (which you call "sometimes annoying"). I don't want to flame you, but these are bitchy remarks. Each E Streeter brings individual greatness to the party; Collectively, they might be the best live band out there (and you don't need to take drugs to appreciate their work). For a music fan, the result of their combined efforts is usually intoxicating.
Even if you don't like the band, remember that Bruce also released some of the first intentionally lo-fi, solo home recordings. Who releases an album like Nebraska as the follow-up to The River??? How is that "playing with the crowd"? Nebraska squeezes almost all the exuberance and sparkle out of the preceding River collection. Instead, we have an album full of self-examination and struggle. You make fun of this album and debate whether Bruce really knew/knows the meaning of struggle. You seem to say: Is it really Bruce's struggle? You claim that his delivery and intonation are lifted from blues records. To me, this is quibbling and bitchy. You could make an equally compelling argument against Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues. After all, I don't think his smart-assed, half blues inspired delivery came from years of hard labor in a field or spending lots of time with Southerners. He was from Minnesota, for God's sake, not Mississippi. But even my retort is bitchy. The truth is (much like Dylan) Bruce IS NOT ALWAYS THE NARRATOR OF HIS SONGS. He employs many perspectives, including deeply flawed perspectives, when he sings. You say that Dylan wrote songs that went straight into the very depths of your soul and spoke to you on a personal, intimate level. To me, Springsteen does the same thing, only he does so lyrically AND musically. I try not to get wrapped up judging Bruce's sincerity or worth as a populist figure. I'm too busy appreciating and enjoying his songs, his voice, his guitar playing (very under-rated, you have to see him live to "get" this), and his band's chops. But even if I were forced to debate the legitimacy and sincerity of Bruce's "message," I could do so:
At the end of the day, Bruce puts his money where his mouth is (and not just with his well-documented philanthropy). [Dylan may do the same thing, but it's certainly not part of the whole package like it is with Bruce.] Bruce is passionate about helping people. This may sound like a cop-out, but think about the tax revenue he brings in for the local areas where he does shows. He did TEN SHOWS at New Jersey's Giants Stadium during this last tour. Without turning this into an accounting analysis, it's fair to say that he brought in MILLIONS of dollars of tax revenue to his home state. And maybe it's a bit of an optimistic stretch, but at least SOME of those millions (yes, millions) of dollars in tax revenue go toward health care, education, employment, whatever progressive cause/s Bruce may espouse. Are there more lucrative venues (in terms of per-show take-home totals)? Of course. But based on his progressive track record, many people think that Bruce intentionally chose this locale for his longest stand because of the economic benefit it would provide to his home state. If that doesn't persuade you to believe that Bruce is more than just a "don't worry, be happy, mighty working man!" pop star, keep this in mind: Bruce selected and promoted a different social rights organization in each city that he played on the Rising Tour (nothing new, he's done this on every tour since "Born in the USA"). That means he sponsored booths for the organization outside the arena AND he gave the organization a little intro from the stage during the encore (the part of the show fans are most attentive to). Some misanthropes belittle this effort by saying, "Oh, well he's already a billionaire." I don't see a lot of other United States billionaires donating millions of dollars to hunger relief...
So what does Bruce's philanthropy have to do with anything? It shows that he has a heart. And, like it or not, emotional attachment is a big part of being a fan. To me, Bruce's generosity makes him an admirable person and, thus, makes him infinitely qualified to acknowledge underserved and/or under-appreciated people (in song). Remember that, at the time when Bruce was first channeling the collective mythology of the "working man" into music, he was in real danger of financial failure. It wasn't until AFTER Born to Run that Bruce became a wealthy man, and even then his stability was threatened by bad management contracts and the such. Artists with much less working-class credibility have been praised for their rootsy appeal. (Gram Parsons springs to mind. He used his trust fund--containing revenue from his family's chain of dairies--to buy the best drugs available so he could be Keith Richards' lapdog. John Fogerty and Jim Morrison--two of your favs--never saw a swamp in their lives yet made millions selling the mythology of the American South.) I think Springsteen has much more down-to-earth credibility than any of these artists.
I think Springsteen exhudes sincerity. I usually support his politics and always embrace and respect his generous message. I think his stage show is unrivaled. And I think his body of work is astounding in its depth, range, and resonance. I'm not saying, "You don't get it." I'm not even asking you to change what you have posted. I just want to say that I think your criticism of Bruce Springsteen as a person, his populist politics, and worth as a musician is unjust and mean-spirited.
George Starostin (06.04.2004)
Whoah, wasn't that huge? I thought that was huge. Jokes aside, I can't help but post one more response - just because Tom took so much effort to send in this mammoth of a comment, even if I'm not sure if he has managed to raise any particularly new points in this discussion. But at least it's a very different approach stylistically.
Does the Springsteen intro really read like a "Dylan fan letter"? It didn't seem that way to me when I wrote it. After all, only about three paragraphs there actively deal with the Bruce/Bob opposition (Tom dedicates much more space to that opposition in his comment than I do in the introduction, actually). Yet even if it did, there's nothing wrong with that. Whatever and however one might object, Springsteen plays in the same field with Dylan, even if their functions on that field do differ significantly. And I do not like rejecting artists without being able to substitute them with better ones. I do not care for empty fields. If I say "artist X sucks at activity so-and-so", the natural question is, "well, show me who doesn't!", and that's where Dylan comes in. That's all.
So enough of that. Instead, let me just concentrate on the final phrase of Tom's comment: "I think your criticism of Bruce Springsteen as a person, his populist politics, and worth as a musician is unjust and mean-spirited". This means getting carried a bit too far away, I think. First of all, here's the important thing: I never criticized Bruce Springsteen as a person. There may have been a couple humorous or pseudo-humorous jabs in the reviews, but if so, they're just stylistic gimmicks rather than anything else. I am here to discuss what I hear, on tape, LP, and CD, not what I read about Bruce and his real life behaviour; the musical image of the artist, not the amount of his donations and not even his anti-Iraq war remarks. If people want to convince me that Bruce Springsteen is a living saint and Bob Dylan is a self-righteous venomous jerk, that's alright by me. I don't care in the least. Living saints can make abysmal music and venomous jerks can make masterpieces every second year. In fact, based on things I do know, that, unfortunately, is just the way it often goes in life. According to my opinion, at least, the assholish, luxury-obsessed, "phoney" Rolling Stones made far greater music than all-around nice guys in the Grateful Dead, and let's not even start with that intolerable prick, John Lennon, who, as a human being, would probably get a 6 out of 15 at best.
It's a harsh thing to say, mayhaps, but I really do not give a damn about such a thing as "credibility". Not that it doesn't fit into the general evaluation of an artist at all - it does, but it's probably at the very bottom of the list. So John Fogerty never saw a swamp in his life. Would one be able to guess it upon taking a listen to 'Green River' or 'Proud Mary'? No. If his delivery betrayed even a tiny ounce of phoneyness, there is no way in hell CCR would have earned such a stable and revered place in American rock mythology. Certainly there are gazillions of Southern rock bands with much more credibility than CCR - bands whose members actually did spend their childhood in the swamps. Somehow, though, in the back of his mind John Fogerty was able to see the essence of living in the swamp much more clearly and expressively than all those other people. The fact is, first and foremost it takes talent and vision to make great art; credibility - taken in the sense that Tom uses it, of course, signifying "background credentials" rather than "the ability to make people believe you" - doesn't come in until much later. Not that I'm saying Bruce lacks either talent or vision. But it certainly has nothing to do with his giving away millions of dollars. He donates to charity funds? That's a very generous and commendable deed. Need we respect The Boss for that? Absolutely. I respect him for that. Does this, in any way, relate to the music he's writing? No. Would donating money to charity funds instead of spending it on drugs actually help Gram Parsons write better songs? I have all the reasons to doubt it.
Second: what's so unjust about my criticizing Springsteen's populist (musical) politics? Maybe the most unjust thing about it is that it's incorrectly named. Populism means taking phoney issues and presenting them as if they were true, whereas Bruce, in his "populist" form, rather takes true issues and presents them as if they were phoney. Well, on the other hand, that's just the other side of the medal. Yes, he's got a style. That style is overblowing simple things to operatic level. I find that intolerable because it's unbelievable, unrealistic, and, in a way, dishonest. At least bands like Yes, however far away from reality they happened to be, never even pretended to actually be close to it. They were honest escapists, Bruce is a phoney one. When he's being an escapist, that is - as you have had plenty of opportunity to see, I am always ready to take off my hat whenever he stops being one. Now, one might disagree with this way of looking at things, but calling it unjust, not to mention mean-spirited, is hardly reaching the mark. I'm not accusing him of rape and murder, after all. (And I certainly had fewer "mean-spirited" remarks about his real-life activities than Tom had about Dylan).
Finally, about the music. Dammit, I feel forced to return to the Dylan/Springsteen issue again. Tom said it's very tempting to say that Dylan ain't about the music either. Hell, who am I to disagree? I do maintain that he's more about the music than Bruce (for example, some of his guitar work on Blood On The Tracks thrills me more than anything in the Bruce catalog - certainly he's a way more accomplished acoustic player, if you compare his acoustic albums/songs to whatever Bruce is doing on Nebraska and - uh, God help me, I'm starting to shiver - The Ghost Of Tom Joad), but let's even accept that he isn't. My point never looked like "Bruce ain't no musician, so he sucks". My point looked like: "Bruce ain't no musician, he gets along on style and musico-lyrical philosophy, and guess what, that philosophy sucks". Dylan's, on the other hand, rules. Primarily because he hasn't really got one. Bruce is easily understandable and accessible; Bob has always been an enigma, and still is - and a fascinating and thrilling enigma at that. Every time I relisten to a Dylan album, I keep discovering something new. I could never say the same about Springsteen. Okay, I guess I have to stop this before it really begins looking like a Dylan fan letter.
Timothy Malcolm <email@example.com> (04.05.2004)
I totally and whole-heartedly agree with you on Bruce Springsteen. I was born and raised in Philadelphia- a.k.a. Springsteenville. The classic rock radio stations in Philadelphia devote countless weekends to "BRUUUUUUCE" and the man has sold out every visit to the city of Brotherly Love. He's a Philadelphia staple, moreover, an American staple.
That's where the heat comes in. Springsteen is jingoistic rock at its finest, yet he creates an interesting paradox. Bruce speaks for the working man, the downtrodden American who has, like everyone else, the dream. He sings against the establishment, but in an effort to cash in on the working class, the establishment uses Bruce as a tool. This is how he becomes jingoistic. That's the difference between Dylan (the realist) and Springsteen (the idealist). Americans are idealists- always have been- and in order to keep the country united, the ideals become nationalistic ethic. This is why Bruce has staying power.
And since you criticized Bruce so wonderfully, you get the heat because you're "attacking the ideals." I am no fan of American jingoism (after 9-11 it got too carried away), so I'm not high on Bruce. The songwriting is top notch because, as you said, he is a poet first and foremost. And I will say that some of his unconventional is damn good and damn fun, but he is at most, conventional. I can't listen to him for more than 10 minutes because of that simplest of song structures: verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/sax solo/chorus.
It's a shame Americans are so patriotic. Springsteen's a great poet but a marginal musician, but the praise keep coming because of that "American ethic." Take The Rising for example. The album wasn't great, and surely didn't need to be nominated for Album of the Year, but because Bruce is the ONLY guy who can put out an record about 9-11 and make it work (see Macca's "Freedom" for an example of doing it and not succeeding), he gets praise.
Right now I live in Boston (for school), and I remember walking down Bay State Road on a warm September night. Walking, I heard "Hungry Heart" off in the distance. Just three minutes down the road in Fenway Park, thousands of Bostonians were cheering Bruce's landmark concert at the old ballyard. To me, that moment is what sums up Bruce the best: good lyrics, a lot of energy, a warm summer night, an old American city and a baseball stadium. Compare that to Dylan: good lyrics, moody, a cold autumn evening, an old rustic town and a backwood bar. You can see why people choose Bruce over Bob, sadly.
Matt Byrd <MatthewByrd@hotmail.com> (27.06.2004)
I'm gonna have to speak out against your opinions here, George. I wouldn't say Bruce is my favorite musical artist (that slot's reserved for the Who, Beatles, Dylan, and yes... the Stones, who are always struggling for no. 1).... but I find his music endearing and entertaining. I must say I haven't read much of your material but I have read bits and pieces which give me an idea of your basic opinions on some artists. Well, I would have to say I see a bit 'o' a contradiction on the subject of bombast... if pure bombast is a grand downside to an album... well I think Led Zeppelin and the Who would be struggling for existence here... but this is opinion only. I understand that you seem to have a loathing for the average american folk.... I'm not criticising you here...... the average person of any country needs to be slapped a few times and be forgiven for their vast stupidity.... but the most intelligent of them realize their own giant stupidity. Bombast in and of itself is not a terrible feature to any album.... it usually makes it enjoyable (unless it contradicts the music... i.e. the rolling stones in sticky fingers, or is all the album relies upon... AC/DC). To say that springsteen's dylanesque ryhming on asbury park is absurd and ultimately unintelligent drivel... well, is missing the point. Springsteen paints a portrait of american life in the city and does it with zest and energy. Springsteen's attitude is not of optimistic naivitee though.... born in the u.s.a. is one of rock's most giant juxtapostions. Well, I have more than a mouthful to say here..... but this is about where my rant comes to an end.... but I am almost upset here with your bias against bruce, I believe because of your mild (or not so mild) contempt of the average yank, whom springsteen transforms himself into on each album, I would find the fact that you did enjoy springsteen suprising. I will post more agreements/disagreements once I read more than 4 sentences...... and I do believe I will have to set you straight on Elvis Costello, as well....
[Special author note: Just using this opportunity to say one important thing: I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO CONTEMPT FOR "THE AVERAGE YANK". My contempt is reserved for people who take "the average Yank" and try to pass him for something that he is not, nor should at any time be.]
George - I bought a compilation of Bruce's Greatest Hits and I have not been able to play it more than once. I guess this proves the point; there's something in this music, that as you say it's so "regional" and lacks appeal beyond New jersey's blue collar folks. Not to say it's not listenable, actually it is very listenable...probably too much to the point of being "easy listening". It lacks complexity, and the ever present and dominant roaring Bruce vocals sometimes gets boring not to say nauseating. Having said that, I kinda agree with your comments, but your ratings are not in line with your general appreciation, meaning to me is weak 2.0....perhaps 1.5. Sorry for the Bruce hardcore fans but this guy is really pathetic.....
Matt Byrd <MatthewByrd@hotmail.com> (04.08.2004)
My goodness.... phew! I haven't had time to wade through this page that is ABSOLUTELY FILLED with various extreme viewpoints (I think) but I will at some time. George, we agree on SO many occasions, why can't we agree on Bruce? I have the same (or similar) feelings as you about many-a-band/artist/writer/.... I think you know what I mean. Bob Dylan (I like Nashville Skyline more than you), Led Zeppelin (I like Physical Graffiti more than you....), Aerosmith (I like them LESS than you), The Beatles, The Rolling Stones (I like Exile On Main Street more than you, though) and more.... these guys we can basically agree upon.... we both think Abbey Road and Blonde On Blonde are fantstic...... think Plant is a bit phoney.... but I do like Bruce, can't you? Next time I might have some reasons.... and not a paragraph of really no information.
ok, ok, one more thing.... is The E-Street Shuffle his quintessential album? I think not! I think it's The River.... agree, or off with my head (kind 'o' like Louis), or just a quiet disagreement is in order.
ELENA KALMYKOVA <firstname.lastname@example.org> (16.08.2004)
As a comment above mentions, you are attempting to rationalize a visceral dislike for Springsteen, Nothing wrong with that. I have a visceral like towards Springsteen and am trying to rationalize that. As you have said there are two sides two him, one which I'm guessing, you respect and one which you loathe. Now I must state a fact that before I was sixteen music served only as background noise or dancing rhythm for me, Bob Dylan put a stop to all of that, and I do worship him excessively for that and many other facts (I know he doesn't want that, but some of us can't help it). Now subsequently past my discovery of Dylan, there have been other artists that have made me take notice The Beatles, The Stones, The Doors, etc. but none more than Springsteen. For me Springsteen's "bombastic" numbers are energetic and uplifting, and his introspective ones transport me to an exciting cosmology that is a bit less abstract than Dylan's and more detailed than Guthries. As far as his working class image is concerned, I don't know nobody can really say except for those close to him, I buy it, you don't and it's gonna stay in that unsure dimension until we spend a few hours having an honest conversation with him. I sort of agree with your comment about his gratification of the working class, but the working class is the backbone of this country and needs to be glorified, needs to have some sort of healing to contradict the shit they have to take every day, my father worked his ass off his whole life at a 9 to 5. He came home tired every day, at times he said very idiotic things, very mean things, he opposed my decision to be an arthouse filmmaker, but he never meant it he was just worn the hell out. Springsteen made people like my father and tons of others I know feel better and maybe even think a little bit. He's no messiah and the Rambo shit is silly most of the time, but In my opinion an artist is not there to preach content or send a message or mindlessely entertain an artist should leave embedded fabrication, to paint on the canvas of the human brain and heal embedded negatives, Springsteen is far from the greatest of these but he has helped a lot of people I know through their lives, more than I can say for other Rambo types. Keep putting the great effort in your site is terrific and addictive
Evelyn <email@example.com> (22.06.2005)
I've been reading your comments about Bruce Springsteen with great interest. I've been a huge fan of his since Nebraska and I'm also German, which is why I have decided to write this comment. I believe that the Boss is actually very popular in Europe, especially in Scandinavia and also Spain and Italy. It's very interesting that his last concert video was filmed in Barcelona, not New Jersey. He has also said himself, that he feels more supported in Europe these days, than his own home country.
I believe that for us Europeans he represents all that is potentially good about the United States, so he's definitely and important artist in Europe, I just wanted to clarify that.
As for the rest of your comments, I didn't really find them offensive, because I believe that Bruce speaks to your emotions first and foremost, and with some people he just doesn't click, so his weaknesses stand out for them. It's interesting, that the albums Human Touch and Lucky Town always get flamed so much. I absolutely love them, but maybe that's because I'm female and romantic.
One more thing on the music: It's true that Bruce is not that melodic, but i always had the feeling that this was intentional. He's not easy listening and catchy most of the time, maybe he doesn't want to be.
Carter Meland <firstname.lastname@example.org> (21.02.2006)
I enjoy your site immensely and your reviews have always shed new light on old tunes--in many cases sending me scurrying back to music I hadn't listened to in years. Thanks for sharing what can only be a labor of love with us!
Today I read your Springsteen intro and much of the commentary and just wanted to add my 2 cents. Springsteen writes for Broadway: his best songs are literate, thoughtful bursts of narrative melodrama, but they owe more to the aesthetic of Andrew Lloyd Weber and his ilk than to the best of Dylan (no one can say Dylan hasn't also occasionally fallen prey to narrative melodrama, but it is not the row he plows regularly in his best work). Springsteen aestheticizes the working-class, making them elements of a drama that Bruce imagines. In this way, his best work is more like Stephen Sondheim's work in West Side Story. I mean Sondheim doesn't speak for Puerto Rican youth, he speaks about them but in a melodrama that tugs at the heart of the middle-class theatre-goer. There's big difference between speaking for someone and speaking about them. The Boss is up to the same thing in his songs. Just look at his nickname: he's "the Boss," not "the Schlub."
Dominick Lawton <email@example.com> (01.04.2006)
George, I'm pretty much with you here. I certainly don't hate Springsteen, and his personal and political activities seem very admirable, but ranking him as an artist on Dylan's level is laughable to say the least. I could rant for hours about the differences between the two, but let me put it this way: listen to Dylan's infamous performance of "Maggie's Farm" at the Newport Folk Festival - you know, the one that pissed Pete Seeger off so much he tried to cut the power chords. Listen to how he's introduced by some guy who drones on and on about how he's "brought folk music to the perspective... of a poet" and all these other things about how much of a folk hero he is. If that'd been Springsteen in Dylan's place, Springsteen would have immediately plonked himself down on a stool with an acoustic guitar and begun a stirring rendition of one of the halfassed crap boring songs from "The Times They Are A-Changin'" - because, dammit, that's exactly what his audience would have WANTED! Dylan, on the other hand, deliberately rejected the whole fanbase he'd built up because he placed his own personal artistic direction above any other conformist urges he felt to stay loyal to his old fans. Springsteen wanted to cling on to his all-American, comfortably marketable "Boss" image - and to do that, he had to sacrifice art for the sake of product.
P.S. First time commenter. Your site is truly excellent, especially considering that I like it so much while disagreeing with you on some reasonably major things (for example - don't laugh - Black Sabbath is my subjectively favorite band of all time), but you write so well and so much about so many bands that I have to tip my hat. Even when I disagree with you, I often can't help but admire your rhetoric. Oh, and you're completely right about Animals being Pink Floyd's best album - I've been telling people that for years.
Brian Bibbo <firstname.lastname@example.org> (07.10.2006)
I need to start this off by saying that your site is one of the best out there, and has taught me a great deal about music.
I was reading your Bruce Springsteen page, and I felt the need to talk to you about certain things. I know you're not from the US (no problems there, you write more eloquently than 9/10ths of the english-speaking US population), and I know you've probably already gotten this ten billion times, but you're definitely right in that Bruce Springsteen's fandom is a regional thing. He's a superstar, there's no doubt about that, but you'll find his most hardcore fanbase in the great Garden State; New Jersey, his Hometown. Now, I'm not sure how familiar you are with the way things work in this wack-a-doodle country (this probably won't be news to you at all), but in a nutshell, it goes like this: The people in every state are convinced that their state is the beste, and that everyone in every other state is an idiot (the teenaged children of these people think that their state sucks, based on the fact that there isn't anything to do. Certain states have a certain mythos that is popularly believed to be true by just about everyone else. Jersey's problem is that the biggest airport, Newark International, happens to be in the North, so close to New York City that you can see the skyline from the Tarmac. Naturally, a great wad of industry has evolved in this area, in the form of acres of large shipping crates and enough oil refineries to turn you green from the smell. Since Newark International is right in the thick of this urban sludge, it's all most of the rest of the world ever sees of Jersey, and therefore they extrapolate this negative image and project it in their imaginations onto the rest of the state. Because of this, Jersey is commonly referred to as being filthy, and it annoys us. We're nestled in between NYC and Philly, and so we're overshadowed constantly, despite being the most populated (per square foot) state in the US.
Anyway, the reason I've gone through the trouble of telling you this is to try and explain the Springsteen phenomenon. Springsteen brought things that are colloquial to Jersey to the world. When, for example, Brucey sings about "the dark side of route 88" in Spirit in the Night, us Jersians know EXACTLY where that is (it's "down the shore", another distinct idiom used exclusively in NJ, and subsequently referred to in Bruce's music). He speaks the New Jersey language, and that's why his fans are so bonkers about him; we're finally getting some recognition through him, from the world at large.
Also, I wanted to point out that, although you argued convincingly on your site that Bruce's message is "don't try to escape", Born to Run (arguably his best-known and most popular song; my favorite, at any rate, and I know you'll hate that fact) contains the exact opposite message. "Baby this town rips the bones from your back / it's a deathtrap, it's a suicide rap / we gotta get out while we're young" - You're telling me that he doesn't want to urge escapism? That sounded like "time to get the fuck out of Jersey" to me. Probably because of the ridiculous property taxes.
Ps. I'm not even a gigantic Springsteen fan, really. My aunt is, and most of her friends are, but I'll take the Who anyday.
Hope there was at least ONE fact up there somewhere that was at least semi-informative. Great site, keep updating.
Glenn Wiener <email@example.com> (29.01.2001)
I like this one very much. Its raw and and the lyrics are heartfelt and honest. Some of the songs('The Angel', 'Mary Queen of Arkansas') have a weak song structure to say the least, but overall this is good stuff.
David Dickson <firstname.lastname@example.org> (15.11.2002)
Whoa, whoa, whoa, George. Hold on there. This album ain't that terrible--in fact, it's downright enjoyable for a debut. There isn't a single bad song on it--wait, okay, there is ONE: "For You," a rambling van Morrison-esque over-wordy un-catchy piece of weirdness that makes me gnash my teeth every time Bruce gets to the bridge and takes forever to get to the chorus, which then disappoints with its. . . over-wordiness. Then again, it was turned into a Top Five hit by some '80's band seven years later, so I guess it has some merits.
One thing I simply don't understand is your assertion that this album has no melody. Listen again to "Mary", "Lost in the Flood", "The Angel", and especially "Spirit in the Night", and tell me that those songs have no melody. Yeah, that's what I thought. But seriously, the first time I listened to it, I was, like you, unimpressed. I didn't like the fact that Bruce sounded stoned when he sang most of the songs, and I hated all the endless rapid-fire lyrical convolutions. Most of all, I loathed the fact that critics absolutely loved it, and--I am not kidding--All Music Guide actually gave this album a five-star rating. But, of course, over time, the album grew on me. I hadn't listened to Dylan yet--hell, I didn't even know what he sounded like--so you could say that the Boss was an excellent introduction to Dylan for me. And you are right--Dylan is better. But this album, though not nearly as good as his next four, is a fairly solid debut. It has three songs that have, like Dylan's, been covered by other artists to the tune of Top Ten chart position, and it has three others, "Growing Up," "Lost in the Flood," and "The Angel," that stand as classics. My favorite song is "Angel"; it's as simple and straightforward as the Boss would get until Nebraska. And, of course, you have the other three, "Mary", "Does this Bus Go", and "Saint in the City", that serve as enjoyable, solid filler. Though this album isn't as unified or consistent as Wild, Innocent, and E Street Shuffle or Born to Run, I rate it a solid three and a half stars out of five.
ELENA KALMYKOVA <email@example.com> (16.08.2004)
Unlike you I do feel the atmosphere from almost every track here (except 'The Angel) but it isn't an atmosphere of a single emotion, but that of a place. These songs transport one to an abstract dreamy version of Asbury Park, a place that gives off alternating joyous and dangerous vibes. 'Mary' is a bit unfocused but still heavy on mood. I like the original 'Blinded by the Light' better, Mann's version is surely more expertly crafted, but the looseness of the original matches the disorderly lyrical atmosphere. If you buy a Springsteen out takes Box Set called Tracks you'll hear an accoustic version of 'Growin' Up' that is superior to this more sentimental version and is probably some of the best acoustic playing I've heard matching anything acoustic by Richie Havens (Springsteen is really an under appreciated guitarist). 'Lost in the Flood' is a favorite of mine it has a heavy feel that gives prelude to songs like 'Adam Raised a Cain' and 'State Trooper' if not quite rock it certainly gives off a vibe of brutality with it's organ towards the end. 'Spirit in the Night' is a good prelude to the next album, and I don't think it's stupid. 'It's Hard to be a Saint in the City' is really catchy, in fact the title itself is so memorable that many people replaced the phrase 'apology accepted' with it. The rest of the stuff is banal, but much lighter than you credit it for. I can understand your quarrels with this record, but for me and a few others it's an ultimate dream of a light Dylan album full of youthful exubarence that you don't find in even the earliest Dylan albums, crafted almost as well as Dylan would. And Springsteen has a lot of charm in his vocals, that would later adopt some kind of Texan patterns, purely Jersey here. Keep up the great work.
Glenn Wiener <firstname.lastname@example.org> (29.01.2001)
Much more symphonic than his debut. What beautiful piano runs on 'New York City Serenade' and 'Incident'. And the nergy coupled with some more heartfelt lyrics make this even more of a winner than the first one. Truthfully, I wish there were more than seven songs but other than that I have no complaints.
Didier Dumonteil <email@example.com> (11.03.2001)
Epic songs ,only 3 tracks on side two,woven together.Music of the streets,which would make a soundtrack for some Martin Scorcese movie.On side one, "4th of July" is very strong melodically.Bowdlerized cover by the Hollies
David Dickson <firstname.lastname@example.org> (21.08.2003)
After looking at some of the reader comments on the Bruce Springsteen main, I just wanted to, uh, clarify something.
That was pretty much the first reader comment I ever posted on this entire site, and I was typing it specifically in order to get a Starostin response, and to make myself feel mighty. Yeah, I wanted to get some feedback from the big man himself. I honestly thought I was being clever by, uh, calling him wrong and Russian.
Uh-huh. Right. And Jesse Helms was the cleverest man alive. (not) Anyway, I just wanted to apologize to anyone whom I offended by that nationalitistic shpeal. Didn’t mean to sound like a redneck, or a Texan. (I AM actually both, technically speaking.) BUT—I still think that perhaps MAYBE Dylan fits the Russian socio-historico-politico-physico aesthetic more than Springsteen does. That’s really all I meant to convey by my, er, seven and a half pages of ascerbic comments.
NOW—about the album. Definitely one of the better releases of Springsteen’s career, and one of the best albums of the ‘70’s, no questions asked. In fact, I even think it’s a better work of art than Born to Run, which is often (strangely in my opinion) referred to as the “greatest rock and roll statement ever.” Granted, that particular album has an uncanny focus on theme, exceptional playing, universal lyrics, and some of the best rock tunes of its year. But this album has MORE than that. It has nuance, diversity, tells a great, complicated story, and most importantly, is. . . just plain FUN. It’s got danceable funky grooves (“The E Street Shuffle”) good-time carnival rockabilly (“Rosalita,” “Kitty’s Back”), catchy make-out ballads (“4th of July”, “57th Street Incident”), a more-than-decent folk tune with a Latin twist (“Wild Billy’s Circus Story”) and a sweeping, orchestral closure ALMOST the bombastic equivalent of “Jungleland.” (“New York City Serenade”). Finally, it all musically fits together like the concept album that it is. Every track is in its proper place. And, of course, the production is clean, professional, and expansive, much improved over the muddy suburban folk sound of Greetings From Asbury Park. If you can get past Bruce’s still off- key, “drunk” vocalizations (still his main weakness), this album will earn a special place in your top 50. Or 100, or 200, or whatever. Buy or download it today. It will change your life for the better. P.S.: Are you sure these songs are radio standards? I never heard any of them on the radio even ONCE before buying the album. They’re not even on his “best of” CD.
Glenn Wiener <email@example.com> (29.01.2001)
Like a greatest hits record but only better. More creative music passages. The piano runs and Bruce's vocals just add so much emotion to 'Thunder Road', 'Backstreets', 'Jungleland', and the understated 'Meeting Accross The River'. These tracks just blend together like any great album should. Sorry George, like the masses I disagree with you on here although 'Born To Run' is possibly my least favorite song on this batch due to its slightly commercial appeal and I tend to go for the more hidden gems.
Didier Dumonteil <firstname.lastname@example.org> (11.03.2001)
I agree with Glenn.The first time I heard "thunder road" I was thinking:rock is born again.Spectorially gargantuan arrangements,so to speak,it's a whole from dusk till dawn.The scream,at the end of "Jungleland",is much more awesome,IMHO,than that of Daltrey at the end of "won't get fooled again"
The themes explored on Born to Run and all of the Bosses albums are universal, young kids with raging hormones trying to find a way thru this place called life, same kid now young adult finding his/herself still struggling with situation be it due social or economic causes. These are not conditions held captive in the United States.The lone harmonica and poem intro on "Thunder Road" which open the album are as true as anything recorded, period. What follows song by song are moments in any day anywhere, you only need be human to relate. Springsteens Massive ambition, to document the restless spirit, witness unclaimed souls,challenge the beaten path, are fully realized in every aspect.The Man done made a masterpiece.
Daniel Powel <DPowel@mentorcorp.com> (01.08.2003)
'Thunder Road' and 'Born to Run" are "pretty much interchangeable"? That is ridiculous! Those songs do not sound alike. I mean, perhaps the lyrically the content works on similar themes, but...
I don't know-I'm kinda stunned you would say that. I'm not even really a Bruce fan, but I know those songs well (as would anyone coming from NJ).
Statements like that make me wonder whether your site is reliable guide from which to explore new music.
David Dickson <email@example.com> (21.08.2003)
Eloquent review as usual, George, even if I only agreed with about twenty percent of what you said. Like you, I often wonder why this bombastic cookie is often called the “best rock and roll album ever,” since it’s obviously not rock and roll. It got da rock and roll “spirit,” and da rock and roll “Stratocaster”, but technically, it’s just grand pop with rock and roll “elements” to it. On this critics’ favorite, Bruce completely ditches the complexity and the nuances of the songwriting on his first two albums, and concentrates completely on creating a whole ‘nother VIBE to the rock and roll “world”. And hang it all if that vibe ain’t just plain GENIUS, I’m Rick Perry. It’s definitely something new, but it feels shockingly natural—that is, the vibe of romanticized rebellion, the undercurrent to all your Led Zeppelins and Whos and Rolling Stones. Ya know what I mean? I mean, “My Generation”, “Satisfaction”, and “Whole Lotta Love” are great, catchy statements—but this style, this vibe, epitomizes what FUELS those statements. Instead of just talking about rebellion, Bruce tells you how it FEELS, through all these instruments piled on top of each other. And the genius of it is—he didn’t invent this vibe. It was there all along. It just took an adventurous soul like himself to yank it out and present it to the mainstream in an invigorating, accessible, and most importantly, LOGICAL way (unlike Elton John and David Bowie, whose personages didn’t quite scream out “everyman”). By the beginning of the 1980’s, you couldn’t release a mainstream rock and roll album without somehow imitating that vibe in one form or another—if you didn’t have a piano or sax player, you still had to sound either “arena” “everyman”, or “romanticized rebellion”—especially in your musical arrangement (Journey, Def Leppard, The Cars’ Heartbeat City). Heck, you can even detect the influence of that vibe in Billy Squier’s “Lonely is the Night”, a shameless Zeppelin ripoff that nevertheless has a musical bridge that reeks strongly of. . . well, THIS VIBE. So basically, George, even though you hate hate hate this vibe with a passion, I just love love love it. That’s simply the root of our differences. We ain’t never gonna change it—unless, of course, you give Boston a rave. Now, I’m sure the next question you have for me is this: why in holy hell do you not give this album a 10, if you praise it to high heaven? Well, for two reasons. One is the production. Although Roy Bittan’s piano playing livens up every song it touches, and Clarence Clemmons ain’t no slouch either, you got a point, George, it all sounds like a sticky bombastic wad sometimes, rather than a towering wall of sound. Second is the conceptual format—I’m not a big fan of albums that just hammer away relentlessly at one theme, and this one does just that, creating the same mood for six songs in a row, one after the other. I mean, he could have put the low-key “Meeting Across the River” earlier in the album to give side one some flavor, or he could have added a jam at the end of “Night”, or added some fleshed-out arrangement to “She’s the One”, or even acoustified “She’s the One”, but nope, it’s all bam-bam-bam-we-don’t need-variety-this-vibe-is-good-enough. The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle solves both those problems with clean, versatile sound and a wide variance of mood—this one don’t even try. However, those are the only possible faults I can find. I’m quite surprised to hear you say that these songs have no hooks—they’re there, just not in the places you’d expect. Like, say, the rhythmic groove of “She’s the One”. Or the chord structure in “Night”. Or the title lyric in “Thunder Road”. (Good song, but I AM shocked that it became a hit. It doesn’t even come close to following the “verse-chorus-verse” format that traditional radio demands.) Or the piano motifs in “Backstreets”, “Meeting Across the River”, and “Jungleland”. Or the title track. You call that song melodically dull, George, but I just don’t hear it. That tune BELONGS on pop radio, no question about it.
So. . . for the vibe, the influence, and the songs (especially “Jungleland,” as of now, my favorite Springsteen album closer ever), this album gets a nine out of ten from me. Let’s see, add a five, that’s fourteen. So technically. . . it’s equal to Before and After Science. Ouch.
P.S. Heh. Not really—I don’t believe in this “adding band’s general rating” flim-flam. Nine out of ten, and that’s where I’m leaving it.
P.P.S. George does have a point, however. Calling this the “great American album” is like calling Texas the “great American state”. (I'm from Texas; I can say such things.) If you want REAL American greatness, see Hotel California by the Eagles.
Oh, and by the way, if anyone wants to take shots at ME on account of my nationality, fire away. God knows I might actually DESERVE it in this day and age.
David Marchese <firstname.lastname@example.org> (06.12.2003)
This is my first comment sent to your page, so go easy on me! Let me start by saying I am a big Springsteen fan, but I am also honest enough to realize he can be unbearable at times. I have a hard time listening to any of his post-1987 work. That being said, I think some of the statements made in your review and your responses to reader's comments are not justified. You mention that you dislike the album because it "pretends" to be rock and roll. As you have shown, it is hard to clearly state what rock and roll is. You use totally subjective phrases like "bombastic" and "watered-down" to explain how the album is merely phony rock and roll. But I don't think rock and roll can be pinned down to any type of overt formula, you have to look at the artist's intent. You feel Springsteen dares to call it rock and roll. He felt it was rock and roll when he made it. I feel like its rock and roll when I listen to it, just like I feel motorhead is rock and roll. It doesn't seem fair to be so brutal towards Springsteen and portray him as some sort of phony because of an essentially subjective, disagreement. There are no rules for rock and roll. That's why it's so great and is so appealling to us. Don't lambaste the man because he doesn't fit not some dogmatic idea of rock. I believe in his sincerity, you don't. Neither of us can be sure.
In regards to your opinion that his appeal is a "local" one, I would like to make a couple points. Springsteen's last couple tours have seen him play to vastly larger audiences in Europe than in America. I have read quotes from the man himself pointing out the same thing (in a non-sanctimonious way). A couple of the shows on his just completed tour actually had to be shifted to smaller venues because ticket sales were slow. I think that while european audiences may not apotheosize springsteen the same way that American ones do, it is simply incorrect to say that his appeal is due to localism. He resonates all over the world. Maybe Russians don't like him, but he played to hundreds of thousands in Italy. This is the same for most artists. Outside of a very select group (beatles, rolling stones), every artist has geographically hot and cold spots. I don't think you are justified in making a blanket statement about Springsteens regional appeal. Springsteen was only regionally popular before he became a star. You can't reach and sustain his level of fame on a regional basis alone.
The last issue I would like to take up is your feeling that Springsteen panders to the common man by glorifying him. I think Springsteen is glorifying the common in the sense that he chooses to recognize and assert that the "average man" (whatever that is) has as much of rich and varied emotional life as anybody else. What's wrong with that? Also, remember that Born to run was written when springsteen was 24 or 25. It's not unnatural for a young man to be or feel melodramatically heroic. As he got older, he got more pessismistic. Even an admittedly populist album like Born in the USA has a deep layer of sarcasm and cynicism. He was being honest, not a panderer. How can you pretend to know Springsteen's or Dylan's "original intentions". You say dylan's popularity is a side effect and Springsteen's is pandering. You don't know! But you will never give Springsteen the benefit of the doubt either. Springsteen gives voice to the feelings of average people, perhaps they like him precisely for that reason. He shared their dreams, hopes and fears. Is speaking for some one glorifying them? Perhaps, but I can live with it. I think another commentator got it right when he alluded to the fact that you might be trying a little to hard to rationally provide an explanation for a visceral dislike you have of Springsteen. I think you are right when you say that Dylan is more innovative than Springsteen. Dylan was a visionary, Springsteen is a craftsmen. Don't chastise him for something he is not trying to do. I'd just like to end by letting you know that I think you have a great site, and you have led me down paths I might not have otherwise gone down. Cheers.
[Special author note: David - thank you for the well-worded and polite comment, so let me try to be equally polite and concise at the same time:
a) I do have a visceral dislike for Springsteen (not all Springsteen, though, as you can easily see), but I don't see what's exactly wrong with trying to rationalize one's visceral feelings. I've always said that a review is as much of an analysis of the subject as it is of the object, and maybe even more so. And the "visceral feeling" does not stem out of nowhere - it has its reasons. Yet nowhere did I say that everybody has to accept this point of view! I'm not a dictator!
b) I do not blame Springsteen for not fitting into the formal conception of "rock and roll"; basically, what I am saying amounts to - if Springsteen can be called "rock and roll", then so can Yes and Genesis, which are commonly denied the right to be called "rock and roll" by the general critical opinion. I do not dislike anybody or anything for not being "rock and roll" enough, certainly not Born To Run. Notice that I put that 'accusation' at the very end of the review.
c) As for the glorifying the common man thing - I think that instead of writing another two hundred thousand words, I'll just reiterate one thing. There are two (well, at least two) attitudes when it comes to speaking for the common man. Attitude number one is Springsteen. Attitude number two is Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy. As much as the former seems fake, overblown, and cornily melodramatic to me, so does the latter seem simple, adequate, and honest.]
Matt(the great)Byrd <MatthewByrd@hotmail.com> (27.06.2005)
Ah, the Bruce Springsteen page. My god, it's a mess. I do havta say, I didn't REALLY read all you have to say about this album, or what you had to say about Bruce himself in your introduction. I am a big Springsteen fan, he is probably my favorite artist. The thing, though, with Bruce Springsteen, is that he is easily hate-able, I see that, I understand that. One of the things about Bruce is...... well, he seemed to have missed the British Invasion, his music is totally in a different style than the damn Brits. Bruce Springsteen is a great writer, let's get that cleared up, he can portray emotion through the written word (as, I think, you have aknowledged before) like few can, he blows Bob Dylan out of the water. Take this for example, RollingStone once compared The River (one of the few adequate double-albums out there, Sign 'O' The Times is about the only other one I can think of now, I couldn't say that even of an album I like MORE than the River, Songs In The Key Of Life) to a modern-say Grapes Of Wrath in Jew Jersey. Springsteen is a writer, he is very romantic in how he portrays his ideas and ideals through his music. I do not believe that this is out of bombast. Springsteen romanticizes (I can't spell) the romantic because that's how he is, he isn't trying to fool people, he's trying to make the lyrics REAL to the audiance, he could have been a poet, but he likes rock 'n' roll, that's how he decided to convey his writing, through rock 'n' roll. I do agree, though, that his melodies are half-assed, but, like I said, the lyrics and the musical surroundings (or absence of) of the lyrics are what Srpingsteen is about. Born To Run, Pet Sounds, and Blonde On Blonde are the three greatest albums of all time. I'll defend those another time. I'll defend Born To Run (more) another time too, but I gotta defend the guy a little tonight. Before I end I DO have to say that Bob Dylan is, in some ways, an 'inferior writer' but as one of the geniuses that really started rock 'n' roll, Bob gets all the credit. Also, to like Springsteen's music, you have to give yourself totally over to the music, if you have reservations, or are listening for melodies........ well, then you're probably going to be dissapointed, it's all about empathy. Other guys operate on BOTH! I'm not saying, though, that that makes them superior. At times I do think the title track is asking to be liked a bit too much. Springsteen could have been a great novelist or play-write in some respects. Even reading what he said about 'Like A Rolling Stone', he described the beginnning as a trap door to your mind being kicked open (or something like that), he even dramatizes THAT, that's Springsteen for you, if you don't like one of his albums becuase of his writing style, or teh way he uses music, you won't like any of them. Hell, though, Paul Simon even gives great respect to Bruce. He stated that even though Bruce doesn't go out looking for girls on the New Jersey turnpike, a part of him does. That statement, so well put, is the essence of Springsteen's work! You've got to go with that part (his arm or something) to appreciate his music, the music, then, much of the time, adds a backdrop to whatever situation is being portrayed. I FULLY disagree that he panders. Bruce HIMSELF would probably hate himself for that, he probably considers himself an artist, not a showman. Plus, if he wanter to simply pander to sell records I think he would have had a TON more hits than he did have.................. UNLESS he planned his whole sucess on critics raves and AOR radio-play. I mean, this guy is a versatile writer, he could have pandered, Bruce, though, like I said, probably would not have been able to live with himself if he did that. Ok, sorry for that erratic, un-checked comment, but I think I had a few points! ;-P
Eric Benac <email@example.com> (14.10.2005)
Thank you George, you beautiful beautiful man. I thought I was the only person who thought that "The Boss" was just a tremendously huge pile of over rated garbage. I know, you like some of his albums, and I can't ever deny the fact that Springsteen isn't a bad poet. Why doesn't he just write poetry then? It drives me nuts; he obviously has little or no song writing ability. Listen to this album; like you said, there are no melodies. Just huge, bombastic arrangements probably written by Roy Brittan or whatever that guy's name is. You get this same sound on Meatloaf's Bat Out Of Hell, but at least Steinman could write melodies and took himself with a grain of salt; in fact, the more overblown Steinman gets, the more he's joking around, I believe. Springstein has no sense of humor.
Oh yeah and I'm not only from America, but THE MIDWEST of America, which means I should not only own this alubm (I do, on cassette only, 50 cents) but I should worship it. No dice. I have a formula; Bob Dylan>Bruce Springsteen>Bob Seger. Unfortunately, most people around here don't even listen to Springstein for their "catharsis"; they listen to Seger! Thanks, no thanks, I'll listen to "Mr. Tambourine Man"! Even my father, a Seger fan, admitted that song made him very depressed, but for reasons he couldn't explain.
I'm not sure what rating I would give this, probably what you gave it. I've only heard this album and Born In The USA by Springsteen, and I completely agree with you about both of them. I've never heard his better albums, so, as you can imagine, I think even less of him than you do.
Matt "Kevin Sorbo" Byrd <firstname.lastname@example.org> (23.02.2006)
Ha ha, wow, I haven't seen this site for a looong time, and it's been even longer since I've commented on it. I haven't read my former post on Born to Run yet (did it in high school) and I'm not sure if I want to. I was just looking for reviews on google for Born In The U.S.A. hoping in vain to find one that would also express my love of No Surrender :). Then I stumbled across an all too familiar Starling.... well, something or other. So, I came back to this site, and as I scrolled down I saw your review of Born to Run, and I noticed the three songs on here that are probably the most acclaimed are ALL blue, meaning you pronounce them as "the suck." And that prompted a smile from me. George we love ya, and keep up the quality reviewing :). Even if I disagree with you.
Glenn Wiener <email@example.com> (29.01.2001)
Whereas I do like this record, it just seems less distinguishable than Bruce's other releases. 'Prove It All Night' is probably my favorite track due to the the gorgeous piano runs and the shift in tempo by the third verse.
Didier Dumonteil <firstname.lastname@example.org> (11.03.2001)
Hear "factory":Springsteen was not born ,to quote Creedence,"silver spoon in hand".In August 1978,I was working voluntarily with disabled youngsters.I would play them this disc,and although they didn't understand English,they felt it and loved it.
Dead Man <email@example.com> (25.04.2002)
Just a short comment for the album review of Bruce Springsteens Darkness on the edge of town.
I think you'll find the lead guitar passages on 'Adam raised a Cain' are actually played by Mr springsteen himself. He is actually a much better Guitarist than people give him credit for probably better than Van Zandt. If you don't believe this, get hold of a video or DVD of Live in New York City and after just a few minutes you will experience Bruce's roaring lead playing.
Tony Souza <firstname.lastname@example.org> (21.07.2002)
This is the only Springsteen album that I still find enjoyable. I don't care for "Badlands" at all but "Adam Raised a Cane", "Streets of Fire" and the title track are all great, as is the rest of this album. This is the only album where I feel Springsteen wrote from the heart, instead of projecting some sort of image as he would on later albums.
BABIC Boris <BBABIC@csenergy.com.au> (26.08.2002)
Thats Bruce playing guitar on "Adam Raised a Cain".
Phillip Hutcherson <email@example.com> (30.12.2003)
Do you remember the statement that I made in my Every Picture Tells A Story review (that's by Rod Stewart, for those of you who are reading this and don't know) when I mentioned my own personal regard for your musical opinions, George? This is one of the things I was referring to. Aside from 'Badlands' and 'Prove It All Night' (well, 'Prove It All Night' is tolerable, I guess, but 'Badlands' really irks me), this is a pretty good album - I'd have never guessed in a million years that I'd like a Bruce Springsteen album, of all the people in the world. 'Adam Raised A Cain', 'Candy's Room', and 'Streets Of Fire' are all fantastic tunes, definetly my favorites here, and aside from the two I mentioned, the rest isn't too shabby, either.
David Carlton Dickson <firstname.lastname@example.org> (13.04.2004)
This is the first comment I've made on the Springsteen site in a LONG while, so pardon me if I'm not as witty as usual. Furthermore, I have a paper to write for f@#!in' Western European Democracies class that's due in five hours, so I'll make this short and sweet.
George is weird. The peyote-saturated air in New Mexico must, beyond a shadow of a doubt, have gone to his head. I say this not to diss New Mexico, or even peyote, :) but because I do not see any difference in quality between this and the previous album. In fact, I'd say Born to Run slightly edges it out. This album may have a better flow, but half of the songs just aren't all that great. "Something in the Night", "Candy's Room", "Racing in the Streets" and the title track all cook, but some of the ENERGY and DRAMA from the previous two albums is just gone. "Adam Raised a Cain" is only saved by Springsteen's vocal delivery--if he didn't SCREAM the lyrics, there'd be no reason to listen to it. And the hit "Prove it All Night" is just a happy bouncy family fun tune (that happens to have extremely depressing lyrics) that annoys me to hell when I'm in the wrong mood. Honestly, if the album didn't flow together so well, I'd sell it back to Hastings. And dammit, what's with Springsteen reverting back to his "Greetings From Asbury Park" vocal style? It sounds like, to quote Rolling Stone magazine (and I don't often do this--I disagree with them more often than I disagree with George, if you can believe that) "a disgruntled mushmouth sorta like Robbie Robertson on Quaaludes with Dylan barfing down the back of his neck." Man, SCUTTLE can sing better.
I say all of this not to say this is a BAD album, but it's just not that forkin' great. My hypothesis, as of now, is that George likes it mainly because of the vibe being Not Bombastic Arena Rocky, in addition to its various other (elusive) musical charms. By the way, I profusely apologize for the jillionth time for thinking that had ANYTHING to do with Russianness. 'Cause you know what? I've been horribly dissed and condemned to hell by countless American web-users over the past few months for my love of arena-rock. Including Capn' Marvel. As much as I respect the Capn as a writer, that is one motherf&%@er you do NOT want to get in a war of words with.
And all I told him is "Hysteria is the best rock album of the 1980's"! I mean, how easy IS it to get web reviewers riled up nowadays? How, George? I was just kidding about the peyote, by the way. Good stuff.
Greg Brunswick <email@example.com> (10.03.2002)
When I think of rock n' roll, I think of Bruce Springsteen despite not being a diehard fan. And when I think of Bruce Springsteen, I think of The River. The fun, rollicking sound is "the spirit" of rock n' roll. It doesn't all have to be reaching for something greater than that--to Bruce, rock is everything. Anyway, you underrate the other part of the album--the lyrically brilliant and obvious profound moments. "Point Blank" "The River" "Wreck on the Highway" "I Wanna Marry You" "Stolen Car" "Fade Away" and "Independence Day" are more touching than most of the artists' work that you give an arse-cleaning.
Glenn Wiener <firstname.lastname@example.org> (14.03.2002)
This Springsteen album is a hit and miss affair. The title track is a beautiful song with heart felt lyrics as is 'Independence Day' which is also accompanyed by a beautiful saxaphone solo. 'Ramord', 'The Price You Pay', 'I'm A Rocker', and 'Sherry Darling' are other standouts. However, theer are plenty of clunkers. 'Hungry Heart' and 'Fade Away' are typical by the numbers pop songs. Heck anyone could have written those tunes. 'Drive All Night' just drags on for so darn long. 'Wreck On The Highway' is hard to stomache with those painful lyrics. This could have been a good single record but as a double its a mixed bag.
John Cerra <email@example.com> (12.06.2003)
With some editing down this could have have been an unbelievable single album. If he had replaced some of the songs on the album (esp 'Drive All Night') with some of the stunning songs he wrote in that era and left off --- 'Because the Night', 'Roulette', 'Fire', 'Restless Nights', or the earlier 'So Young' and 'In Love', this could have been his best album, even as a double album. The music was there, the track selection a bit off target.
But at least he had some fun with this record.
Glenn Wiener <firstname.lastname@example.org> (05.04.2002)
An interesting change of pace for the Bruce man. Whereas I respect Bruce for changing his tune somewhat, these songs are all really depressing. 'Johnny 99' and 'Open All Night' stand out because they are fast paced. 'Highway Patrollman' has especially captivating lyrics. The rest is OK but just does not take me anywhere special.
Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (01.04.2003)
While previous albums tried to present Bruce as Buddy Holly and Elvis combined, this time we get him as Woody Guthrie reincarnated. Just as contrived by Jon Landau as his previous personae. Naturally, his pals in the critical community fell for it hook, line and sinker. The album got fantastic reviews. I don't think it's superb, but I actually can get into it if I'm in the right mood, though. The lyrics are actually like short stories or movies, with very strong narrative lyrics, if rather bleak. I do agree that "Atlantic City" is by far the best track. Since the narrative is a bit less direct, it's more intriguing and intense. I also like the quasi-religious imagery in "Reason to Believe."
This is one CD that actually sounds worse than the original vinyl. Since these songs are demos, all the recording flaws come out loud and clear on disc. I'm not sure what could be done to improve it, though. Isn't "remastering" an oxymoron when it comes to a recording like this?
Bruce did take a considerable artistic risk with this. But while the critics were wowed, the fan base was not interested in Bruce as depressing fold troubadour (The Ghost of Tom Joad bombed even more badly for the same reason). So, the big-time Rock Savior made his return later.
Vladimir Mihajlovic <email@example.com> (16.07.2005)
Nebraska is an album with almost no flaws.It's brilliant and I really can understand how vould you call such great songs like 'My father's house','Used cars' and 'Mansion on the hill' boring.You even said 'My father's house' was dumb.Springsteen filled these tunes with emotions,open up himself in these songs and not only that but he actually made listeners feel his pain.His singing is simply breathtaking.The melodies of these three tunes are simple,yet very gentle and beautiful.
I especially love the way he sings about events from his childhood,you can feel his pain in 'Used Cars' and his nostalgy in 'Mansion on the hill'.When I listen to 'Mansion on the hill' I feel like I wanna go back to live some moments of my childhood again.
Anyway the best tune on this album must me 'Highway patrolman'.The story is simply told and it draws you in very easily.Again it's Springsteen voice that does the magic,it makes you feel what the patrolman went through,how he felt,it makes you feel his doubts and his affection towards his brother. 'Atlantic city' is one of the greatest Springsteen classic and it even gets better, performed in concert(I only wish I could get to hear it live but Bruce apparantly doesn't want to tour Eastern Europe).
'Open all night' is so simple,based on fifties rock and roll pattern but it has an identity of its own.It sounds so happy yet one can feel it's dark night-like atmosphere.'State trooper' shares some lyrics with 'Open all night'.It's so haunting and those screams of Bruce are brilliant.One could get very scared listening to this one in his car during dark night on a highway.I think that the character of 'State Trooper' is the character of 'Open all night' as well.
The title track is another masterpiece with its wonderful harmonica parts.It reaches its climax when Springsteen sings "they wanted to know why I did what I did,well,sir.guess there is just a meanness in this world".It's so full of emotions just like the whole album and I gotta admit that it touches me more that wonderful 'I dreamed I saw Saint Augustine' by Dylan. 'Johnny 99' is a great song about social injustice.
Album ends with 'Reason to believe' which sums it up quite nicely.I love the song.
This is a really depressing album so one might not wish to put it on often.Still it's breathtaking and one of the greatest masterpieces of rock era.I'd rate it with 14.It's that great.I think 11 is just too low for such a great album and George,you should consider giving it 12 at least.
Glenn Wiener <firstname.lastname@example.org> (27.05.2002)
I enjoy this collection of Bruce tunes. Yes, maybe the songs are simple in construction as compared to earlier recordings like Born To Run and The E Street Shuffle. However, the emotion displayed in Bruce's vocals and Roy Bittan's keyboard playing elevates this recording very highly.
Tony Souza <email@example.com> (21.07.2002)
This review pretty much nails it. I still like "I'm Going Down" (though it does get repetitive at the end) and "I'm on Fire", but the rest ... This record was set up to sell millions of copies -- the singles were released at certain times to ensure this album would stay on top for at least two years, which it did. As for "Dancing in the Dark" -- back then it was fashionable to take an already hit single and give it to producer A. Baker (who was THE producer at the time) who then added all sorts of extra sounds (drum machines, glockenspiel, the kitchen sink, etc.) and then re-release the song as a 12" "dance" single. This kind of crap started making me look at Springsteen a little differently. Like most of Springsteen's work, this album doesn't hold up for me at all.
Eric B. <firstname.lastname@example.org> (07.09.2003)
when i think of rock and roll, i think of the who. when i think of the who i think of a million great songs.
when i think of bruce springsteen, i think of born in the USA.
when i think of born in the usa i think of a poem i wrote
bruce springsteen is a piece of shit
'born in the usa' is the worst song ever
i hope he goes to hell because of it
my "working class poetry" has a universal effect upon the soul of the children, and everybody understands what i mean when i say bruce springsteen is a complete idiot. or they should.
Alex Zaitsev <email@example.com> (23.11.2003)
Hi! As much as I'm afraid to comment on the infamous "George Starostin's Springsteen Page", here's my comment on Born in the U.S.A.
Well, as much as I like Bruce, I have to say that this is where he hits the bottom. I don't detest Bruce's pomposity and like to have a nice bombastic Springsteen tune in the morning, but the thing is, even when Bruce was at his most "rednecky", there was much more to his songs than just bombast. He wrote songs that managed to "grip" you, meaningful songs. The songs on Born in the U.S.A. are incredibly shallow. I don't see any similarities with Born to Run, really. The songs on Born to Run are great on the surface. It's only when you dig deeper, the similar "USAish" core can be discovered. And you have to be really persistant to discover it. Born to Run is a ripe apple with a worm hidden deep inside, Born in the U$A is a ball of worms, so to speak. There's nothing to redeem these songs.
All the disgusting things are evident. Bruce sounds intentionally comic on 'Born in the USA' and 'Working on a Highway'. No, I won't believe you if you say that the latter is a serious track. It's unbelievably goofy! The vocal delivery of the chorus is absolutely hilarious! What's next, Bruce? 'Twist and shout'? There's no need to say anything about the title track, everything has already been said.
I still can't believe how poor that Brittan guy sounds. Does he play with one finger? I don't want to sound vicious here, but I don't see what makes Glenn think that Brittan's playing elevates the record. 'Cover Me' has the most ugly synths imaginable. They sound like a cross between some pub-rock and the "Ghostbusters" tune. Just how can a serious artist put such a synth line on an album? You gotta have some inner censor, you know. 'I'm on fire' and 'Dancing in the dark' are probably known to every housewife in Russia. These songs plagued the radio for such a long time that they are used at school discos, for God's sake. And on 'Romantic Collections', too! Everybody knows the songs, nobody knows who sings them. They are the reason why Springsteen is unknown. Such songs are referred to as "those songs on the radio", the type of songs which *are* music for the people who don't buy records. Hell, long time ago, based on these and some other songs, I imagined Springsteen to be a Chris de Burgh type romantic crooner. Nobody would guess that Bruce is a singer-songwriter ("bard", as we say here) by these songs. Awful, plain awful stuff.
Emotions? Where does Glenn feel emotions here? "Cover me, c'mon baby, cover me", "Ooh, ooh, ooh, I'm on fire", "I'm a cool rocking daddy in the USA now". Are these emotions? No offence, Glenn, but that's a diehard Springsteen fan speaking in you. On the contrary, this album lacks any emotions. In fact, this album, should be offensive to any Springsteen fan, because here Bruce doesn't want to satisfy the tastes of the general public, he wants to satisfy his diehard fans as *he* sees them. And he sertainly doesn't have a particularly appealing image of them inside his head.
Just what makes the songs on this album hits? There's no "come on, rise up"- type anthemic pathos, that is supposed to give you hope and lift your spirits. No songs that speak to your heart. No songs with breathtaking melodies. No lyrical masterpieces. It's not even a Rock'n'Roll album some fans imagine it to be. Highlights? 'Working on a Highway' (so bad, it's fun) and 'Bobby Jean' (the only song that has something vaguely resembling a decent melody here). Rating - 6/15
David Dickson <firstname.lastname@example.org> (28.05.2004)
6? 9? Zero?? Man, are YOU guys on the Lodi peyote today. This is one hell of an album--perhaps his fourth best. It's not quite as interesting as River, Wild and Innocent, and Tunnel, but it's still catchy as hell--punk fans could take a page from this album. The songs are some of the most brain-dead simple you've ever heard, but they stick in your head nonetheless. I'd agree that it probably didn't deserve to sell the 17 million copies it did, but it WAS the one that cemented Bruce as a rock and roll legend, and for that we should be grateful. Perhaps my only complaint about the album is that, as "eighties" as it sounds, it's not "eighties" enough. I mean, most mainstream "eighties" albums sound as if they've been rubbed with sandpaper for months, so all the edges are smoothed out, every note tuned properly, and every drum crack fixed. You know, very labor-intensive stuff. By contrast, this sounds like it was bashed out in a couple of weeks. Not to imply that it sounds TOSSED OFF--quite the contrary. Bruce pours every inch of energy he has into it, such that even nominal crapjobs like "Working on the Highway" sound like a whole lotta fun. I guess that's just an example of getting more bang for your buck--heck, if I could make millions by making something this simple, I'd be a billionaire by now. It's still excellent, but Tunnel and River are both better, 'cause they sound a little more labored-over. And by the way, does anyone know what the seventh hit from this album was? All I've heard on the radio is "Cover Me," "I'm on Fire," "Glory Days," "Dancing in the Dark," (best song on the album), "My Hometown" and the title track. All Music Guide isn't cooperating on this one.
Stephen Walsh <email@example.com> (11.07.2003)
I've always thought you were mad and you've just confirmed it.
David Dickson <firstname.lastname@example.org> (24.05.2004)
I've always thought you were mad and you've just confirmed it. Not to be offensive (or to repeat the other guy), but this album is a masterpiece, and the reason I got into Bruce. If you hate adult contemporary, then fine. Curse adult contemporary. Just don't curse Tunnel. It gives the genre a good name.
Glenn Wiener <email@example.com> (15.11.2003)
This CD is really ordinary. The music may be captivating in spots. However, the arrangements and the lyrics are not up to par. There is a little bit too much synthesizer used and the instrumental tone sounds forced and unnatural. Worst of all the lyrics lack depth. With many of Bruce Springsteen's records you get a feeling of what is happening inside of him. This is not the case on Human Touch as Bruce seems to be more focused on rhyming than putting any feeling into his words. To my ears it sounds too basic that someone like Rick Springfield would have recorded.
There are a few pretty good songs on here ('Soul Driver', 'Real Man', 'Pony Boy', '57 Channels'). However, the overall impression is not a good one.
Glenn Wiener <firstname.lastname@example.org> (15.11.2003)
A noticeable improvement over Human Touch. The songs have more energy and less synthesizer. There are even some notable creative touches. Just listen to 'Waist Deep In The Big Muddy'. Bruce throws in some old school blues with his modern pop style and it sounds pretty darn good. The opening trio of 'Better Days', 'Lucky Town', and 'Local Hero' is a very strong way to open up this record. 'My Beautiful Reward' is a great closer and believe it or not I like 'Souls of the Departed'. The guitars sound strong and the tone is a little different from Bruce's usual routine. The backing vocals are little bit predictable and the song quality is a little cheaper than Bruce's glory days of Born To Run, E Street Shuffle, Born In The USA, etc. However, its quite worthy to my ears.
Fernando Seco <email@example.com> (24.10.2003)
Hi George, I was going through your Springsteen reviews, and though I don't agree with your introduction (because I'm a big fan myself), I noticed a couple of errors:
* MTV Plugged is NOT with the E St Band, it's with a band he assembled for the 92-3 tour. Only Roy Bittan (the piano player) is present.
* 'Red Headed Woman' is a Bruce original.
MTV Plugged is crap, I agree. Just a marketing plot by Sony, I suspect. Any E St Band concert bootleg is better than this CD.
BTW, I'm surprised you rank The Rising so high. I think it's a good effort but (musically) rather generic and derivative. And you like Darkness on the Edge of Town too. Maybe there's hope for you yet??? :-) Keep up the good job, regards from Spain.
If you are going out to search for some live Bruce, I beg you, please do not let this be your first live Bruce Springsteen record. It is not the E Street Band. He had just given them their "services no longer required" notice, and the music does indeed suffer for it. The energy and chemistry is simply not there. The band tentatively follows him along, especially on the few classic tunes he does perform. Even the recent hit 'Human Touch' sounds uninspired. The most polished tune in my opinion is 'Man's Job'. Very nice version. The one acoustic song 'Red Headed Woman' is slightly suggestive, and quite humorous. My friends, go find the 3 disc box set Live 1975-1985 or the 2001 release Live in New York City which documented the reunion with the E Street Band. Either of those releases will bowl you over with the energy that Bruce and his faithful E Streeters put out and are welcome additions to any record collection. It also should be all the live Bruce you need, since both of those releases cover everything. I just can't quite honestly think of a good reason why you need to own this inferior MTV special.
Glenn Wiener <firstname.lastname@example.org> (15.11.2003)
Truthfully this one should be entitled the Ghost of Bruce Springsteen's former self. Dull, boring, and coma inducing are words to describe the songs on this record. These songs are devoid of decent melodies. They all crawl at the same pace and feature merely guitar and harmonica and few little effects. 'Youngstown', 'The Ghost of Tom Joad', and 'The Line' are the best of this lot but they would barely make the grade on any of Bruce's other records. Don't get me wrong. I do like Bruce's acoustic side. And Nebraska with all its bleakness at least featured some good melodies and varied pacings and rhythms from the guitar. On Ghost of Tom Joad, the guitar is barely audible. I totally agree with you here that Tom Joad is one big misstep.
I personally wasn't that impressed with it. I do know that Bruce had been wanting to try another acoustic album, but where Nebraska benefited from it's dark and bleak subject matter, this just doesn't click for me. Simply put, it's a weak set of songs. Then it goes and wins the Grammy for best folk album of the year. Shows you how much I know. Critics be damned.
This is the usual piece of shit when you run out of ideas...The Boss pretending to regain Folk-Hero status with some material he thought would please Rollingstone critics. Leadbelly he is not...damn! this only confirms rock is dead, and nobody is pointing direction to the future. I'd better go through Rod's "Do ya think I'm sexy?" a gazillion times than hearing this nauseating, useless, piece of junk!!!!!!
Dave Bersey <email@example.com> (21.10.2003)
Hi George, Great site as always, and I think your review of THE RISING was one of your best in a long time. There's one line in there, I think you know the one I mean, that is as funny as anything Mark Prindle has come up with recently. And thanks for not including a 9-page rant of your own thoughts about September 11th.
Anyway, THE RISING is indeed a pretty good album. I also share your natural dislike for the "Boss'" point of view-- I can appreciate his music, but I do not usually identify with it very much, because I'm not the intended audience. But THE RISING is a little different... to an extent, I agree with you, anyone can identify with this album, because it does present so many perspectives.
However, I think it has its problems. You credit the production and say this is the first time Bruce has truly rocked since the '70s. Although I haven't heard most of the intervening albums, I'd say this is MORE arena rock, more slick, more overproduced, less deserving of the adjective "stripped down" than anything I've heard from Springsteen ever, including Tunnel of Love. Some of the songs, like "Lonesome Day" and "You're Missing" (and "Waitin' on a Sunny Day," which is nice enough, but too generic to be deserving of the kind of praise you give it) are great in the melody department and even pretty good in terms of lyrics, but just come on too strong with their over-the-top strings and saxes and wall-of-sound. The title track in particular almost reduces itself to sillyness with the campfire singalong la-la-la's. Now, if it was a song about something else, I'd have no problem with it, in fact I'd really like it, but that kind of incessant poppyness just seems a little out of place as the musical accompaniment to a death; the minimalist violin figure of the verses is much more appropriate. It's still a good song, though, just misguided.
That's not to say the bombast is always a bad thing. For me, "Into the Fire" is the one really outstanding track, and actually the best Springsteen song I've yet heard. It has been attacked by indie-oriented critics on any number of levels, but I think what this comes down to is a desire that it be less melodic, less blatant, less uplifting. But sometimes, a song needs to be simplistic and uplifting. You're apparently an R.E.M. fan, so I'd give you "Everybody Hurts" as a case in point. Or is that one of your least favorite Stipe moments?
Anyway, although I don't like the music of "Into the Fire" as much as "Everybody Hurts," this song is a lot more emotionally credible than that one. Springsteen is not just creating a singalong hymn out of the blue for the purpose of uplifting people, he is basing it on the real experience of a person who died, and singing it from that person's wife's point of view. And he manages to do this in a way that is actually quite subtle. He does not mention events directly. He builds slowly from a mournful, unadorned acoustic intro to the climax. I hate George W. Bush as much as any reasonable person, but I don't think cynicism about the direction America is taking, or even skepticism that 9/11 was actually a bad thing, should be able to take away our ability to empathize with the emotions expressed in "Into the Fire." It was everyone's desire that September 11th would teach America something, whether that was to change our foreign policies or to love our neighbor. This song! isn't about global events, it's about the personal effect of death, and the possible redeeming effect it could have on those around. Yeah, it's unreasonably hopeful. But fuck it, even though I'm not usually a sucker for this kind of thing, "Into the Fire" is one song that doesn't deserve to be written off. It's the only worthwhile musical statement to come out of 9/11, in fact (along with Radiohead's "The Gloaming").
I also agree that "Nothing Man" and "Worlds Apart" are strong tracks, although I actually like the synths in the former, and think the latter is far less impressive on an "innovation" level than you make it out to be. It's hardly Peter Gabriel-style world music, it's just a good hard-hitting stadium rock song. I bet it was the producer who came up with those Middle Eastern samples, because they feel a little tacked on.
"Further on Up the Road" and "Countin' on a Miracle" are so predictable and out of place with the more hard-hitting material that I don't feel the need to hear them ever again. And it is annoying as you reach the end to realize that every other song has included some dumb line like "I need your kiss." For that reason, I think THE RISING doesn't succeed as much as you think it does in portraying multiple perspectives on 9/11, because they've all been so thoroughly Springsteenized. His belief in himself as the Everyman is apparently so strong that he thinks everyone in the world thinks just like him, from the working man of "Nothing Man" to the upper-middle-class widow of "You're Missing" to the fanatical bomber of "Paradise" to the ordinary Israeli and Palestinian of "Worlds Apart." His lyrics sure don't have a lot of range, which could really have helped the concept here. Springsteen may not have the highest IQ around, but he's not a stupid person, and he's capable of lyrics more thoughtful than this, because I've heard them in some of his other songs. So while the intentions are always good, I think he unwittingly insults the memories of some of these guys by dumbing down their thought process to the point where a lawsuit from their families might be in order.
Finally, I'd just like to say that "Mary's Place" is perhaps the worst song I have ever heard, for every possible reason. If his album THE RIVER all sounds like that, then by all means I will try to avoid it. But overall, THE RISING is impressively consistent for a 75-minute record. Take away the three weak songs, and everything at least adds to the theme, even if it's a little boring on its own ("The Fuse," "Empty Sky," "My City of Ruins"). But I'd really like to hear your rationale for dismissing "Into the Fire" while you praise "Waitin' on a Sunny Day."
Glenn Wiener <firstname.lastname@example.org> (15.11.2003)
Now this is the big Bruce Springsteen comeback that I have been waiting for. Upon first impression, I thought the title track was OK but not actually a barometer that the rest of the CD would be great. By the third listen, I was totally hooked. Bruce returned to form and starting putting feeling and emotion into his words. Also the creative touches are numerous. The world beats on 'Worlds Apart' are excellent not to mention a super guitar solo. 'Nothing Man', 'Paradise', and 'You're Missing' are three beautiful touching ballads. 'Further Up The Road' and 'Mary's Place' are great rockin' tunes that are reminiscent of Bruce's glory days.
However, the song that really touches my soul is the gospel flavored 'My City of Ruins'. The words are simple in spots but very focused. The 911 theme is very strong here. However, anyone can apply the message that where things look so down and out you have to gain the inner strength to RISE UP!!! I can definitely relate as earlier this year I was feeling very down about where my life was going. The words of this song told me to stand strong and eventually things resolved themselves. When I look back at that depressing period earlier this year, I think of the words and fighting spirit of Bruce Springsteen and how I perservered.
Anyway, The Risin' rates as one of Bruce's best works of music.
Matt Byrd <MatthewByrd@hotmail.com> (03.07.2004)
wow, I think some of bruce springsteen's work is great, but this one is really, in my opinion, his worst effort. This really just sounds like a lot contrived lyrics and contrived (if not directly ripped-off... listen to Prince's 'Raspberry Beret' and 'Waitin' On A Sunny Day') melodies. My favorite track is 'Waitin' On A Sunny Day', along with you, George.
Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (08.08.2005)
I have to agree -- this is really in the upper tier of Bruce's albums. One key is indeed stripping down the production, especially getting Roy Bittan to finally turn down those synths and bringing simple guitar parts forward in the mix. The lyrics are among his strongest ever. Although it appears that they were inspired by 9/11, they work because they also are more universal. They do work outside that specific context because he avoids specific details or grandstanding on the topic. His voice is more suited for this kind of material now than stuff like Born to Run or Born in The USA. His most mature album yet.
Matt Byrd <MatthewByrd@hotmail.com> (04.04.2006)
Nevermind my old post, I'm not sure what I was thinking, I was still in high school then >< weather that has anything to do with anything I don't know. I disagree with my old comments now, not dissagree, dis-own them. I now very much appreciate this album. It was written and based around a terrible event, but it always leaves me at least feeling optimistic, more so than say even Songs in The Key of Life. I'm not sure what it is about the Rising, it's not perfect, but it's one of my favorite albums now. I like Bruces' most praised albums, but this one has a different feel altogether, thanks George for considering it and giving it a chance =), cause in all honesty not only based on how you express your dis-like for a lot of Bruces' shannanegins (or however you spell it), I could see why you felt like passing it up. Although, I was in Iowa as the events of 9-11 occured, and will never have the same connection with the events as say... people in New York, this album reminds of 9-11, but instills a positive feeling into it....... it's a unique album, it really is, not groundbreaking or anything, but very respectable. I guess I had to submit something to "right my wrong."
Vladimir Mihajlovic <email@example.com> (08.07.2005)
Yeah I agree that this album was not meant to be a masterpiece,still it's an excellent one.Most of the songs are really good.Still what's bothering me is a lack of tunes which could stand up to his best ones.For example the album which you called boring,Tom Joad had two of the greatest Springsteen songs,'The ghost of Tom Joad' and 'Youngstown'.On this record,however nothing really grabs you like those two tunes except 'Leah' which is perfect in every way,
Still Springsteen certainly doesn't disappoint and delivers the goods.The album starts with the title track which seems to be melodically quite simple but very catchy and Springsteen's vocal performance is filled with emotions.The producer has done some good work with string arrangement which fits the song perfectly well.All in all,an excellent tune.'All the way home' is just a fast rocker which is fine at first few listens but easily gets boring.I think Springsteen gave this song to Southside Johnny back in 1991,so it's basically just a throw-away.It's pretty well arranged though. The next one is 'Reno',a controversial one.I like it and it reminds me of some nice songs of Tom Joad.Through his singing Springsteen manages to show how emotionally empty and desperate is the main character of the songs who visits a Mexican prostitute and ends up being unsatisfied.
I don't think that Bruce's intention was to get Parental advisory sticker.As I noticed he was against it and I even think one of the songs was left unreleased as a compromise but I am not sure about that one.Anyway I gotta say that 'Reno' is pretty satisfactory tune.
Then we get a rocker called 'Long time coming'.It has a very catchy refrain,nice lyrics about father and son relationship and bringing up a family.Here Bruce takes a character of average Joe which might annoy some people but as long as the melody is as catchy as this one it's fine for me.Great violin by Susie Tyrell.The drums are provided by former Keith Richard's sideman Steve Jordan.Good work as well.
Now comes one of the best songs on this album 'Black Cowboys'.I love ballads like this,full of emotions,full of sadness.The chorus is the climax of the song.Just beautiful.It's a story about a young black boy,his life in a perilous ghetto and his depressed mother.
'Maria's bed' follows.I don't really care about this one.Except for its catchiness there is nothing else to it.Also Bruce's singing could have been better.
I gotta admit that I didn't pay much attention to 'Silver Palomino' since it drags a bit but it has a very gentle melody and singing by Bruce.It's a grower.
'Jesus was an only son' reminds me of some Dylan's song but I can't exactly recall which one.An excellent melody and nice keyboards work by Bruce. And the the masterpiece of this album arrives.A wonderful 'Leah'.This song is so breathtaking that it makes me play it over and over again.It's quite simple,it is consists of three verses but the melody just gets under your skin.Bruce vocal performance is at his best.This must be one of his most romantic tunes.And there is a short trumpet solo which further enhances a heaven-like mood of the song.
From this point album starts to drag a bit.There is 'All I am thinkin' about',a song which is based on typical rock and roll melody.Bruce sings in high register and it fits quite well with this song.It has a romantic mood as well.Just a little enjoyable tune.
It is followed by 'The Hitter',a song Bruce used to perform live in concerts during Tom Joad days and it really sounds like an outtake from that album.It drags a bt too much.I do like these kind of long story telling songs of Bruce but this one is too much for me to swallow.
'Metamoras bank',on the other hand,is an excellent song even though it does drag a bit as well.But Springsteen can really take you on a journey by songs like this. I would give this album a mark of 12.