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Tuesday, January 3, 2012
"But Maybe Everything That Dies, Someday Comes Back."
years ago today was the date that Bruce Springsteen sat down with his
guitar, a tape recorder and a head full of things he couldn't live with
or live down. The songs he recorded that day became one of the
strangest and most powerful albums ever released by a major recording
artist-especially at that time. The album was "Nebraska" and to this day
it remains a haunting, honest, personal masterpiece. In fact, one of the titles considered for the album was "January 3, 1982".
The tapes were originally just meant as demos for the E Street Band but
it soon became clear to everyone involved that they were perfect just
the way they were.
That was written by my friend Chris Collins.I'm a day late, I know, but I wanted to get on board with this sentiment that was so masterfully expressed by Chris.
"Nebraska" was hardly the record Bruce Springsteen fans...diehards and fair-weathers alike...wanted as the follow-up to "The River." "Strange" and "powerful" were Chris's memories. Mine seem less romantic, as most of my friends after the first listen, turned "Nebraska" into Odd Job's hat. Now that we've had time to calm down and sock away the initial anger and confusion, "powerful" may be an understatement.
When I was behind the counter at my CD shop, I was "blessed" with the inability to leave at the moment someone would begin to pontificate over the importance of everyone from Sandy Denny to Martin Denny. Unless breaking through my front window and leaving a full body cut-out like a classic Looney Tunes short was an option, my only choice was to smile and nod. It came with the territory and I learned just as much as I loathed.
But the one artist that always brought out the best (read: worst) in people, was Bruce Springsteen. I had one customer who thought, "I wasn't born in Jersey. I never worked in a factory. I don't like cars," was some sort of ace-in-the-hole, when sharing his contempt for "The Boss." If you're reading this, Mr. Regular Customer who only bought Beatles' bootlegs, you're an asshole.
I wasn't born in Jersey. I've never worked in a factory. And I don't drive. I do have a heart, mind, and soul. And I love music more than I love most things. That should be enough to recognize the brilliance and power of the songwriting and performances on "Nebraska."
One last memory, though it's a recent one. A friend and I witnessed Bruce and The ESB's full performance of "The River," at Madison Square Garden in November of 2009. It was a night of "moments." But nothing seemed to hit home for either of us, the way "Atlantic City" did. You see, we didn't expect it. But we knew we wanted it, even on a night devoted to "The River."
It's not as if "Atlantic City" is a concert rarity, like say the piano-only version of "Atlantic City." But it happened to be my friend's favorite Bruce tune, while it sits in my Top 3. I had seen the ESB many times before. This night was my friend's first. The performance of "The River" in its entirety was a gift. The first encore of "Atlantic City" was a miracle.
Thanks Chris for reminding me not only that "Nebraska" is 30 years old, but that few records before and after, can say so much with so little. It's Bruce and a guitar, and sometimes that is all you need.
Well now, ev'rything dies, baby, that's a fact
But maybe ev'rything that dies someday comes back
Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty
And meet me tonight in Atlantic City