Saturday, January 5, 2013

Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.: Now *This* Is 40

Back when I was a dumb little kid, history didn't exist. If I discovered something, it was mine. I first saw the James Bond film "Goldfinger" in 1971, therefore it was the first James Bond film. "Dr. No" and "From Russia With Love" didn't exist. My first exposure to David Bowie was "Ziggy Stardust," so nothing prior mattered. In my world, there was nothing prior.

In 1974, the World Series was still played during the day...DURING THE WEEK. I have vivid memories of sitting in my grandfather's living room, beaming over the bright greens and yellows on Joe Rudi's cap and listening to Curt Gowdy call play by play. For some reason, though I know the dates will confuse this, I also remember a commercial that ran over and over during those games. It was for Columbia House, maybe, and it highlighted three records; Steve Miller's "Fly Like An Eagle" Robin Trower's "Bridge Of Sighs," and Bruce Springsteen's "Born To Run." Is that possible? It could have been 1975, but the Oakland A's sat that year out. I bet it was 1976. Ah yes, I remember it...well... kind of.

The Bruce portion of that commercial had a soundbite from "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," that segment of the bridge where the Boss bellows, "I'm on my ooowwwwnn!" The visual was the "Born To Run" album cover swirling on some plastic record display, something similar to one of those racks of sunglasses that pop up on the ground floors of malls. (Am I hallucinating?) I was sold with that 10 second soundbite, if it was that long. That was my first exposure to Bruce. "Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J." and "The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle" didn't exist.

It's been 40 years to the day that "Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J." was delivered to the rock and roll world. History of course, not only exists, it was changed on that day.

I can't imagine what a young Ringo wannabe like myself, who had been sucking on Beatles since I first learned to suck and who made the bumpy transition to the glam of T. Rex and Mott The Hoople while most of my young friends were still listening to The Carpenters, would have made of a record like "Greetings" had it come my way at the time. Even as a pre-teen, my musical tastes were far more advanced than your average kid with a slingshot in his back pocket. I listened to Dylan, but I didn't really know what he was saying. I listened to Yes & King Crimson, until I lost patience.

Years later, as I wore out the grooves of "Darkness On The Edge Of Town," I refused to believe that "Blinded By The Light" wasn't a Manfred Mann original. Bruce Springsteen did not exist in my world before "Born To Run" until it all hit me at once in 1978, on a fantastic night in my bedroom, listening to and recording WNEW-FM's simulcast of the E-Street Band from the Capitol Theatre in New Jersey. History was made that night, as well.

It's hard to believe 40 years have come and gone since "Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J." introduced Bruce Springsteen to music fanatics across the globe. I don't regret having come late to the party. Having still been wet behind the ears, a record with such depth would have been wasted on youthful ignorance. Hell, it's 40 years later and I'm still discovering phrases and musical passages on that record that would never have moved me so many years ago.


Rodger Stroup said...

You nailed it, Sal! We're probably close in age, and I can say my experience with Greetings was similar. I heard the Born to Run album one day at my best friend's older brother's house.
I liked what I heard, but it was Darkness that hooked me, and motivated me to go "discover" the first two records. I know that I wouldn't have taken the time to get into it back in '73.
For me, it would've had to compete with Grand Funk Railroad, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and a host of others for my attention.
Great post!

Jeff Matthews said...

For some reason, I actually owned GFAP in 73. Can't remember why I bought it but I didn't like it much. For me the turning point for Bruce was hearing Rosalita on the car radio while I was sitting in the car in some parking lot waiting for my mother to come out of a store. I remember for years thinking that Something/Anything was Todd's first record until maybe 1976 when I found Ballad and Runt. It was as if I had stepped into some wonderful alternate universe...

soundsource said...

Nice piece

David Handelman said...

IsI remember a friend trying to play me Bruce's "Blinded" when I only knew the Manfred one, and thinking it sounded lame -- and this was in 1977.

Yet within a year or so I had seen him (at the Palladium!) and audio-taped that same Capitol Theater show and never looked back (except, of course, to the earlier records; I actually listen to Wild, Innocent more than I listen to Born to Run these days).

Our ways into bands are mysterious and myriad. But if we were all the same, then we all would have taken the NYT's decree that the Arcade Fire is the most important band in the world on face value and they'd be playing the Super Bowl.

Paul in Brentwood said...

Sal, I hopped on late as well, as, a child for most of the '80s, I was Brooooooooced out and he was a meathead to this Depeche Mode/U2 listening kid. And yet, when as a senior in college ('95) my cousin, while taking me for a ride in his '67 Camaro, said, have you heard this? and "Jungleland" began playing on the tape deck. That was it; I was finished. I had nearly every Bruce album (yep, vinyl!) by that summer and had come to wonder why more people weren't tuned into his early '70s output. And to think, as he's evolved as a musician and an artist, how his voice continues to inspire and challenge...he's truly my hero for what he stands for and how he sings. Forty years burning down the road...

tsinclair said...

Some thoughts: My parents used to rent a house in Belmar, N.J.,and I stayed there for some days in the summers of '73 and '74. Around that time, I became aware of, and pretty damn impressed by, GREETINGS; verily, I was jazzed by Belmar's proximity to Asbury Park because (so I thought) that's where this Springsteen cat was from. His first alb (and "Kitty's Back" on the second) certainly rang my teenage chimes in a manner most righteous. Now,I know this sounds weird and heretical but, for me, BORN TO RUN and all that '75 hoopla was an anticlimax; I was sort of over Bruce by that time. (Yeah, so sue me.) Flash forward to 1984: At a rooftop party in Manhattan, someone puts on "Dancing in the Dark," all the girls present start screaming and get up to bounce to it, and I feel depressed and vaguely betrayed. All these years later, I don't begrudge Bruce the synth-laden "Dancing" at all. Still, when I think of "the Boss," I flash back to those summers in Belmar, and the feeling I had of being physically close to where a hip, vital rock poet who sang about taking "month-long vacations in the stratosphere" grew up. Hot damn!

A walk in the woods said...

Nice - I was definitely this way about the Beatles. I had first heard them as a little kid, in the early 70s, which means of course I was experiencing them for the first time after they'd broken up. But it didn't really register that they were something special until MUCH later.

In fact, I distinctly remember when Lennon was killed in 1980, hearing all the fuss on the radio, and thinking, "Who was John Lennon??" I only knew The Beatles as a complete set - wasn't really aware of which of them had had solo hits, etc.

But then in 1985 I had my first girlfriend and we both really got into the Beatles. She was 13 years older than me, so she had actually experienced their music as it had happened. But for me, The Beatles were almost like a new band in 1985, b/c that's when I went from passive radio listener to buying every note of their music on vinyl and listening voraciously.

Then later I focused on Wings.....

Dave L, Berlin. said...

Greetings was released in the same year that I left school and was completely off my radar. Around 1975 I was house sitting for a friend who was away touring in Germany and I had access to his records which included Thin Lizzy, Nils Lofgren, Bandit, Sharks and Bruce's Born To Run which I played.
On one evening in 1977, we were in the concert bar waiting for Graham Parker and the Rumour when the doors of the auditorium blew open to the sound of horns blowing wildly - Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes it was. Their debut album was in my hands the very next day and of course the moving piece on the back sleeve written by Bruce about all the musicians who should be remembered at least once. Fast forward to a TV event which guaranteed all Bruces's previous albums a place in my home until this day; Jeff Bridges presenting the History of Rock 'n' Roll included The Doors which made me cry and then there was Rosalita which shook me to my very core. With the release of The River, Greetings and the others followed the same week.
You can't go back….

Andy D said...

I was going to concerts in 1974. I remember seeing Bruce on the cover of Time & Newsweek the same week. But nothing clicked and I have noi recollection of earing his music at the time. I lived60 miles from NYC, close enough that I should have heard the buzz, but no, nothing. We spent three weeks vacationing on Long Branch Island in Jersey and Bruce was playing the clubs. Didn't go see him.

I think it was that long delay after the first two albums. It cut his momentum. I heard some about his marathon concerts but I was into New Wave. The Born To Run was OK, but WNEW played it often enough that I didn't buy the album.

Bought Nebraska and The River because I felt obligated to own some of his stuff. I was buying A LOT of music and never really had a chance to listen to them. He went into a slump after that and there was little reason to buy more.

Then about five years ago, I picked up the first four albums. The internet made them easy to acquire with no financial penalty if I didn't like them. I regret being ignorant of him when he was just a guy playing rock & roll. Everything up to and including Nebraska is brilliant. I don't enjoy anything that came afterward.

His more recent stuff is pretty good, but I'm back to the feelings that I originally had about him. Fine if it comes on the radio, otherwise no.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I've never heard "Greetings from Asbury Park". "Born To Run" was my introduction, and I never felt moved to buy any more of his records.
No doubt he's a phenomenal performer, I saw him at the LA Sports Arena in 1980, and he was a motherfucker.

And BTW, I can't stand Arcade Fire.

Gene Oberto said...

I was going to add my two cents worth but it turned into about 75 cents. Here's an excerpt:

"One afternoon, I was making one of my regular visits to the record store when I saw the display in the window. It was the post card, “Greetings From Asbury Park.” Anyone who grew up in the area knew that card. It was sold on the boardwalk in front of every beachwear and souvenir store on those squeaky card carousels that continually turned during the summer.

I can remember talking to myself, “I don’t care who it is, I’m buying that record!” I never read the script on the cover until I was inside holding it in my hand, “Bruce Springsteen.” “Holy Shit,” I said aloud, “He fucking did it!” I was, in a word, gobsmacked."

If interested you can find the rest at