While lying abed in the purple room late last night, in the fierce clutches of an allergy attack, with Kleenex stuffed up my nose, I whiled away the lonely hours, as I often do, by YouTubing. I was watching a clip from Conan when Louis C.K. mentioned the time that he was just cruising down the road, listening to “Jungleland” by Springsteen. When Springsteen hit the echoey “whaooooooo” part, Louis said he suddenly started sobbing uncontrollably and had to pull over to the side of the road until it passed.
Naturally, this led me straight into a big Springsteen binge. Like everyone else, I assume, I was introduced to Bruce Springsteen while sitting in a souped up El Camino in a bowling alley parking lot. You may say, but Marie, that surely didn’t really happen – it’s just too cliche. You’re pulling my cyber leg. To which I must yet again respond au contraire, mon ami. It really did happen. The El Camino. The bowling alley. The Springsteen. In my town, the bowling alley was a popular fake destination for the teenagers of my generation. Only a few teenagers actually went into the bowling alley, but we all used it as an excuse for getting out of the house so that we could cruise around and sit in the parking lots. I did actually spend some time in the bowling alley, but it was mainly just to hang out in the game room and play pinball. Most of my time was spent out in the parking lot, because I was much more interested in the hot rods and their drivers than in the bowling pins. Besides, I sucked severely at bowling.
Anyway, during this time there was a huge craze among some of the male bowling alley parking lot denizens for buying old El Caminos and doing whatever magic they did to make them fast and cool. The El Camino drivers were all Springsteen guys, and if you hung around them, you were going to get a pretty thorough Springsteen education. The El Camino/Springsteen guys were the ones that worked at the gas stations, garages, and body shops and wore oil stained jeans. What a great soundtrack Springsteen made for their lives; for all of our lives, really. I would put Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town on my list of “can’t live without” albums for sure.
Of course, and it pains me to say it, I didn’t like 1984’s Born in the U.S.A. and Springsteen ranks toward the top of that long, long list of artists that disappointed me in the 1980s. “Born in the U.S.A.” is even on my list of most irritating songs. It’s like some marketing dude decided it was time to write the most annoying U.S.A.-related song possible. I doubt that’s what really happened, but I can’t think of any other explanation for the astonishing decline that took place between the amazing songs on albums 1-6 and the horrendous Born in the U.S.A. I’m sorry to be so mean about it, but that’s really what I think.
With that being said, however, I’ve got to say that I know where Louis C.K. is coming from. I know why he had to pull over and cry to “Jungleland”. Although I’m definitely emotionally influenced by music, there’s not that many songs that can actually move me to tears. But Bruce Springsteen can. His lyrics are absolutely stunning to me. He hits us almost too close to home and he does it in a way that’s not cheesy in the least. Good God a’mighty, he really is the boss, I think, despite my low opinion of Born in the U.S.A.
A few years ago, I had a little carpentry work done in my kitchen. The carpenter arrived and I opened the door to let him in, only to come face to face with a former El Camino boy. I wasn’t sure if he recognized me, because we never knew each other well – I just knew him as part of the bowling alley parking lot crowd, and he just knew me as one of the silly teenage girls that hung around in the periphery, basking in the reflected glory of fast cars. So I said nothing, and neither did he, but while he was working in the kitchen, I played Springsteen on the stereo in the living room. Ridiculous, I know, but it just seemed like the thing to do. When he left, I went into the kitchen to inspect his work, and there was a business card laying on the counter. On the back he had written, “Great music from great times, Marie. Thanks.”
I went through all my Springsteen, trying to narrow my favorites down to just three for this post. But I wasn’t able to do that; my mind became dazzled by the overwhelming magnificence. So instead, I’m going with the first song on Born to Run, which was the first Springsteen album I owned. He had me forever at “the screen door slams”. Now excuse me while I pull the car over and sob like Louis C.K. So you’re scared and you’re thinking that maybe we ain’t that young anymore; show a little faith there’s magic in the night…
Questions? Comments? Please Share!