Word has it that the only Boss I could ever get along with, Bruce Springsteen, will be releasing an expanded version of his brilliant "We Shall Overcome" album on September 4th with--among other delights undoubtedly--a song called "Bring 'Em Home". Wonder what that will be about, eh?
I'm listening to his Greatest Hits as I write and thinking of many things, including Billy Bragg's comment Bruce Springsteen is the reason I don't lose faith in America. There are many other reasons--like t.k.splake, Ralph Murre, Sharon Auberle, Norb Blei, Walt Whitman, Sam Shepard, Gary Cooper AND the landscape, the American Constitution (however much they abuse it), the Indian traditions, George Bush's atrocious stateside poll ratings--but you know what Billy Bragg means. Springsteen seems to carry on his shoulders the whole left-wing/ independent American song tradition, and if anything has radical fervour has increased with age. But he's also extremely cool, in a very geeky uncool way. The beautiful thing about America was always the perfect marrying of style and substance. Would the Beat Generation continue to appeal to us across the globe if they were associated with cardigans and slippers in damp wallpapered attic rooms rather than road going and jeans and great hair? I am a wholly unreconstructed hardcore Kerouac-loving Angel Head, and even I don't think so.
Springsteen hit big at the exact moment I hit adulthood (1983/ '84), and as such he belongs to my generation in a way that none of the other singers I admire ever could. I drove past an abandoned petrol station in Wellingborough the other day and remembered going into it in my dad's car the day I bought "Born in the U.S.A." (the day it was released in the UK). My dad put it on the car stereo grudgingly--I suppose my mum had pressured him into it--and keeping it at a volume almost too low for me to hear in the back, played it for a few minutes before declaring, "That's so repetitive" and taking it off. But through Springsteen I learned to love my dad and be proud that I had sprung from his loins. When I listen to "My Hometown" now I think of Wellingborough and my dad and I know who I am and where I have come from; I know with pride and love the stuff that has made me the man I am today. A 41-year-old Beat Brit Bard full of sadness and regret, with a lifetime of selfishness and bad choices made and emotional cruelty to others still not quite behind me, but perhaps not such a bad guy after all, somehow. "This is the creature I am," as Allen Ginsberg would say.
And half of the love I have in me I found in Bruce Springsteen albums. Can't say anything like that about any of the other artists I listen to.