E Wurtzel on B Springsteen: Bruce Almighty
When I was 12 years old, for my birthday my dad gave me an Ibanez six-string acoustic guitar, and my mom bought me guitar lessons at the local YMCA. In a short time, I knew a G7 from a C minor chord, I could pluck out an arpeggio and strum a syncopated rhythm. But it was plain enough: this was not where my talent lay. I would never grow up and be a rock star like my idol, Bruce Springsteen. But soon enough I had another plan: in Blinded By the Light, the whiplash of a lyrical Möbius strip that opened Bruce’s debut album he makes mention of “some hazard from Harvard”. This meant the Boss had heard of that university, which gave me a new goal: I would get good grades in high school and go to Harvard, so at least I would be at a college that Springsteen was aware of. That’s how much I loved Bruce Springsteen. Anything I did was good enough, so long as I could at least peripherally link it to him.
That is the personal history of this particular fan, and somewhere else there is someone labouring for the Johnstown Company because it was mentioned in The River, there is someone with a daughter named Wendy because she is the heroine of Born to Run, there is someone who works down at the carwash (where all it ever does is rain) because that’s what the protagonist does in Downbound Train. There is also a girl who comes back whose name is Kitty, a girl who comes out tonight whose name is Rosalita, a girl whose dress waves whose name is Mary. And, hopefully, at the end of every hard-earned day, somewhere someone has found a reason to believe, like all the people do in, yes, Reason to Believe.
My first encounter with Bruce Springsteen, at age 11, was at the 1978 No Nukes concert at Madison Square Garden, when Bruce debuted The River. He introduced this sombre song simply by saying: “This is new.” The room got real quiet, and in it he told a terribly sad story of a young couple in love for whom everything just goes wrong: unwed pregnancy, shotgun marriage at 19, unemployment, a collapse in the economy, poverty, until finally both are just dead inside. But no matter how bad things are, the song’s narrator and his girl can always take a break and go swimming in the river, the sweet sea of love, the refreshing well of life – throughout this misery, the chorus offers continual consolation in an otherwise continuously dismal dirge. But by the end of the song, even that’s gone: the river has dried up. But the singer doesn’t care: “Now those memories come back to haunt me / they haunt me like a curse / Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true / Or is it something worse / that sends me down to the river / though I know the river is dry / That sends me down to the river tonight.”
For more the rest of Elizabeth’s article in the The Guardian, go to: