Thursday, March 4, 2010
Who's The Boss
My friend Eric shared this with me and I thought it was worth sharing with you. From the blog site "Portrait Of The Artist as a Young JAP," here is "an impassioned plea to whoever's reading this to get off your high horse and start liking Bruce Springsteen." This is hilarious and often brilliant, written by the college age daughter of a friend of a friend...of a friend.
WHO'S THE BOSS
It is 3:00 in the afternoon. I am (ostensibly) supposed to be working on the treatment for my play, which was due three days ago. I am (ostensibly) supposed to be out of my pajamas by now. I am (ostensibly) supposed to be cleaning up the mess I made from making beef tacos for lunch (which were abominable and made me seriously question my newfound culinary abilities).
But I am not doing any of these things, because there is a more pressing issue at hand, a concern that keeps me up at night and causes me to break out into a cold sweat panic, a fear that takes up permanent residence in the back of my brain and refuses to let go, like those photos of one-eyed puppies in public service ads against animal cruelty.
I am deeply concerned for the long-term preservation of Bruce Springsteen’s status as one of the greatest American rock musicians of all time. And I am taking this opportunity (i.e. a blog read solely by my mother and her childhood friends from Long Island) to speak out publicly against those who pose a danger to his legacy.
Anyone who has known me for an extended period of time knows the following three facts about me: 1) I am a raging bitch who employs sarcasm and a semi-large vocabulary to belittle and emasculate those around me, 2) I have a borderline sexual relationship with food, and 3) I think that Bruce Springsteen is pretty much the greatest American rock musician of all time. I think he’s sexier than Jim Morrison, and a better lyricist than Dylan; I think that he is more soulful than Neil Young, more intellectual than Paul Simon, and I think that he is a more electrifying live performer than GaGa and Miley COMBINED (and anyone who knows me well knows that 4), I am OBSESSED with GaGa and Miley). Basically, my litmus test for American rock music is as follows: if you are a musician, and you are not black, you will never be better than Bruce Springsteen.
I could write a book about the reasons why I love Bruce Springsteen, but I probably won’t (because I am lazier and less talented than any of the artists previously mentioned). There’s also a shitload of people who feel the same way that I do about Bruce; the guy is pushing sixty-two, but his albums still do phenomenally well on the charts and his concerts routinely sell out. He even smushed his groin into the camera during last year’s Super Bowl halftime show, so the network execs who hired him were obviously catering to his enormous following (a following consisting of people who presumably get excited over seeing the Boss’s scrotum collide with their TV sets. People like me, for example). If Bruce decided to release a record of Wesley Willis covers, a substantial contingent of people would faithfully snap up millions of copies, and they would even post YouTube clips of “Suck a Cheetah’s Dick” from Bruce’s live show in Saskatchewan.
But here’s the thing about Bruce’s fan base: it may be huge, and it may be rabidly loyal, but it is old. Like, Steely Dan fan old, and every time I go to a Springsteen show, the crowd doesn’t seem to be getting any younger. If you survey the audience at a Springsteen concert, you’ll see soccer moms and paunchy cops and ex- high school quarterbacks who are now working at insurance companies; there will be nary a hipster or frat boy or classic rock nerd in sight. In my experience, if you are a semi-serious music fan between the ages of 18-25, it has become de rigeur to be weirdly ambivalent about Bruce Springsteen. In fact, I would even go so far to say that members of this demographic actively dislike Bruce Springsteen, and needless to say, I am troubled by this disturbing trend.
Over the course of my twenty-one years, I have met a grand total of three people, my age or younger, who have professed to liking Bruce Springsteen. The first person was a Chuck Klosterman lookalike from Long Island, who I met on my Birthright trip to Israel; he also told me in the same breath that he was a big fan of the Alkaline Trio. The second was a fratty kid from Oberlin who argued that The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle was a vastly underrated album. Although I wasn’t remotely attracted to this person, after he said that I remember thinking that I should probably marry the guy, as nobody else in the world was going to be able to understand me as well as he could.
These two people (I will address the third and final Springsteen fan later) are exceptions to the rule. They are courageous voices of dissent, harshly suppressed in an environment that is hostile to Boss fans born between the releases of Tunnel of Love and Human Touch. The iron fist of Bruce-hatred has come down on members of my generation, and it has struck even the best and the brightest of us. Even my boyfriend hates the Boss, and this is a person who has listened to John Mayer’s trio approximately 48 times on his iTunes.
This widespread anti-Bruce sentiment amongst people of my generation is also apparently the case in Ireland. I was recently at a bar where the dance floor literally cleared after the DJ put on “Dancing in the Dark,” and a few weeks ago I went to a house party, where I had the same conversation with my host that I have with literally every single one of my friends when the topic of Springsteen comes up. The template for this conversation is as follows:
DUDE: So, what kind of music do you like?
ME: Oh, a little bit of everything…blues, jazz, funk, SPRINGSTEEN…(pause)… you know, my tastes are super eclectic.
DUDE: Um, why do you like Springsteen?
ME: So, you don’t like Springsteen?
ME: (Muttering bitterly) Well, you should.
This person will then enumerate the list of reasons why he dislikes Bruce Springsteen, usually employing 4 out of 6 of the following arguments:
1) He’s old.
2) He sucks.
3) He sucks because he’s old.
4) He’s old because he sucks.
5) He sings about being a member of the working class even though he’s made millions and millions of dollars over the past thirty years
6) “Born in the USA” sucks.
Now, I am not going to deconstruct these arguments here by pointing out their flaws and logical lapses, because Bruce’s music can do that for me (although “Born in the USA” does suck). I’m not going to try to explain why kids my age hate Bruce Springsteen so much (I think “a widespread generational embrace of postmodern irony accompanied by a universal rejection of all that is honest and genuine and joyous and sincere” pretty much says it all). And I’m not going to say that having these conversations (over and over and over again with people who don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about) makes me angry, because it doesn’t. It just makes me sad. Profoundly, unspeakably sad.
It makes me sad that these people will never listen to the opening chords of “Jungleland,” that their hearts won’t surge into their throats and their guts won’t twist in their stomachs during Clarence Clemons’ sax solo. It makes me sad that my friends will never pump their fists to the triumphant crescendo of “Rosalita,” or wave their hands with the little pretties in “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” or get ready to go out on a Friday while Bruce espouses the endless possibilities of the evening in “Night.” It makes me sad that future generations of restless suburban kids who want more out of life than day trips to the city on the LIRR won’t listen to “Badlands” and won’t be able to put a name to the desire for speed, for movement, the itch in their joints and the hum in the engines of their cars that’s begging them to run or drive or fly as fast as they can to anyplace that’s bigger than them, anyplace that has enough room to spare for all their wanting.
The feeling of restlessness that Bruce speaks to in his songs, that will be around forever. But Bruce won’t be. Dude is 61. He can’t go smashing his balls into cameramen forever. And if this trend continues – if his music is listened to by progressively fewer and fewer members of younger generations – his fan base won’t be around for much longer, either. He won’t reach the level of Zeppelin or the Beatles or the Dead, artists who are popular amongst kids who were born decades after the pinnacle of their popularity. In twenty years, he will be a dinosaur, duly respected in record books and rock criticism but virtually ignored by people born between 1995 onwards (the Ghost of Tom Joad-Working on a Dream demographic). He will be known as the guy who sucked because he was old, and who was old because he sucked.
There is a small glimmer of hope for the continuation of the Boss’s legacy, however, and that hope comes in the form of the next generation, a member of which is the third person I have ever met who was a Springsteen fan. This girl was ten years old, and her name was Amanda. She was on my bus when I worked as a counselor at a day camp two years ago, and she had the entirety of the album “Magic” on her iPod. When I wasn’t cleaning up puke or flirting with my co- bus counselor or arguing with kids about the merits of buckling their seatbelts, I would go over to her seat and listen to “Radio Nowhere” with her on her iPod, and we would talk about Bruce.
She told me that she had already been to two concerts, and that her parents played Bruce around the house all the time. She told me that she liked to watch the 2000 DVD of his show from Madison Square Garden, and she danced with her dad when Bruce kicked off his set with “Prove it All Night.” I told her that I used to do the exact same thing with my dad – in middle school, I would usually be grounded on Saturday nights, so I’d sit with my dad in the living room, and he’d get drunk while we watched the MSG show and danced to “My Love Will Not Let You Down.” “Is there anybody alive out there?!?!?!?!”, Bruce would scream on the TV, and we’d imitate the crowd roaring back. Then my mother would yell at us to turn it down, an my father would begrudgingly comply, only to turn the volume up on Nils Lofgren’s solo in “Youngstown.”
I told Amanda that my dad was also the reason why I loved Springsteen in the first place, and as I was sharing all my happy Boss-related memories, I remembered this quote from “City Slickers” that Daniel Stern’s character – an otherwise miserable, misanthropic fuck like myself – says about his dad, and his dad’s relationship to baseball. He says something like, “as I got older, my dad and I could talk about fewer and fewer things – but we could always talk about baseball.” Save for a few particularly obnoxious periods in my adolescence, I’ve always been able to talk to my dad about everything, but I’ve always really been able to talk to him about Bruce. And it occurred to me that Amanda, to some extent, recognized that she had that with her dad, too, and when she got older, that bond would keep her relationship with Bruce strong as well, even against the protestations of her anti-Bruce peers. I had faith that her fandom would stay strong in a Bruce-loathing world that was hostile to sincerity and rewarding of artifice, and I still hold out a tiny bit of hope that eventually, my compatriots will see the error of their ways and follow suit.
So to whoever’s reading this, if I haven’t told you enough already, I’m begging you now: download “The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle” (you can do it illegally, I don’t give a shit – Bruce is many things, but an impoverished victim of the file-sharing network he is not). Get “Darkness on the Edge of Town” while you’re at it (but you can skip over “Candy’s Room”), and “Born to Run,” and “Greetings from Asbury Park.” Watch a couple of his live performances on YouTube, then look me in the eye and tell me he’s not balla, that he doesn’t make you feel exhilarated and overwhelmed and hot-blooded and alive. Because the next time Bruce asks me “Is there anybody alive out there?” I don’t want to be lying on behalf of my generation when I shout back, “Yes.”