Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bruce Springsteen's "Man's Job," Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Song

Four times a year, maybe more, my friend and I have an impossibly civil discussion about a song from Bruce Springsteen's "Human Touch" record. The song is "Man's Job." I love the song. He hates the song. Somehow, even during discussions about the weather, Chinese food or David Bowie, the conversation manages to segue into the merits of the song, of which I think there are many and he thinks there are none.

The reason I love the song is simple. It works as a pop tune. It's basic, yet I find the simple chorus with simple harmony, ridiculously catchy. Not everything needs to be "Racing In The Street."

Uncut Magazine recently released one of their "Ultimate Music Guides," where the writers reassess the entire catalogue of an artist. Bruce Springsteen gets the treatment this time around. This is from the review of "Human Touch"--

"Another highlight is "Man's Job," a sweet and sexy ode to Patti with Springsteen presenting himself as the mature dependable suitor seeing off all the flashy Lothario types. Musically, it is a captivating mix of soul and jangle rock with counterpoint vocals from Sam Moore and Bobby King and featuring a luscious retro twang guitar solo. It hinted at the soul Gospel and surf music Springsteen had grown up with, while also serving as a reminder of his gifts as a writer of pop songs often overshadowed by the somber soul-searching elements of his work."

Uncut has been wrong before, but of course, I could not help but feel somewhat vindicated. I sent it to my friend. He replied--

"I cringed the first time I heard it and every time since. I always think it sounds like what people who don't like Bruce think he is all about-pedestrian lyrics, lunkhead central idea, MOR dad-rock music.  
But I really do get what you like about it, the pop craftsmanship, the upbeat soul. I get it. It just backfires on me.  Like, I believe it's you that hates Bobby Jean? That song makes me choke up, because to me I hear a warm hearted goodbye to a lifelong friendship, sadness mixed deeply into a happy sounding song. You hear a riff you hate. I get it. But this one just sounds lkke a song Joe Grushecky would write."

See? Civil.

(For the record, I don't hate "Bobby Jean." I just find it relentless when played live. It's already relentless, never changing at all for its entire length. Live, it's twice as long. But I digress.)

All of my conversations with my friend end positively. I can't think of anyone else is my life I can say that about. We like a lot of the same music, but we also disagree often. We are both passionate about what we love and hate, yet we manage to remain respectful, more times than not making each other laugh hysterically when we verbally destroy the artists the other loves. Oddly enough, I don't necessarily disagree with my friend's take on "Man's Job." It is some of the things he says it is, yet I can listen to it and genuinely enjoy it every time, often singing along. I just don't see it as the affront he does.



Funny you posted today about Springsteen as I'm listening to the new live stuff from the River Tour -- Great minds ...

I've always had a soft spot for the whole Human Touch record because it wasn't as "IMPORTANT" as some others. Man's Job is a good example of really good basic pop music.

And those songs on The River -- when did they become so SAD? Even the uptempo songs fill me with angst. )I get a feeling it has a lot more to do with me than it does the songs.) Where there was hope when I was twenty five ...

So this morning I'm listening to Human Touch.

Thanks for the post Sal.

12vjoe said...

Listening to Independence Day just a few days ago, I realized it isn't about me leaving home, not seeing eye-to-eye w/my old man anymore. Now, it's about me & my 21 year old son who quit school and just moved in w/his girlfriend. Yeah. It isn't the songs that changed. It's us.

jeff said...

I always liked the two records, although as your buddy did with "Man's Job" I had a kind of visceral reaction to "Pony Boy." Yikes, I think every rock star who came of age in the '70s was doing his nursery rhyme at the end of an album.

And the tour for those records was my least favorite. missed clarence and the band, didn't care for Shane Fontayne's showboating up front.

Anonymous said...

Great song, so-so arrangement.

So let's split the difference.

Capt. Al

Northing said...

Bruce lost a lot of love for his non-E-Street=Band albums. Took me a loooong time to get into them myself. Saw Bruce open the Staples Center and it was a bit like watching a great cover band with the original singer sitting in (Shane was pretty damned good on guitar, tho). When mt band started performing this tune i found myself appreciating it a lot more. That happens a lot: some of my favorite dates were tunes I would never listen to on my own. Yeah, the arrangement is pretty offhand on the record. But it's a fine neo-soul tune that sounds good next to Brilliant Disguise and other similar-era hits.

buzzbabyjesus said...

My opinion matters little in that I'm the most casual of fans. The only Springsteen albums I've owned and heard in their entirety are "Born To Run", which I bought when it was new, and frankly didn't get as the hype put me off, and "The River", which I know contains "Pink Cadillac". I couldn't give another title so save my life, except logic dictates there is a song called "The River" on it somewhere.

I've seen him live, both times for free, in 1981:

and then in 2002:

He was amazing both times. While he was on stage I was a superfan.

Based on the minute or so I gave "Man's Job", Human Touch" is not going to make it onto my list. Drum sound again, and overly slick '80's style production.
Other than that, I didn't have any problem with the song.

My favorite will probably always be "10th Ave Freeze Out".

Chris Collins said...

"Man's Job" was always a fun little song. That's about it.

peabody nobis said...

I must confess to hearing this song for maybe the first time here; I sort of ignored the "Human Touch" record, as I felt that Bruce had "sold out" with "Born In The USA". I've become a little more forgiving(and a lot less judgmental)in my old age, though.
It sounds like a harmless little song. I can't imagine why it would stir up very strong feelings either way. Just a little album filler...
I just listened to "Magic" a couple of days ago, and was floored by the first 4-5 songs. I couldn't help but think that if he had put that record out as a follow-up to "BITU", it would have been massive.

buzzbabyjesus said...

Pink Cadillac isn't even on "The River". Duh. It's "Cadillac Ranch".

A walk in the woods said...

Sorry to totally take your friend's side on this instead of yours, but I ha-a-a-a-te "Man's Job" (whoops, am I being uncivil??), but really, really, really like "Bobby Jean." To me, it's the lost gem on BITU, other than "No Surrender" which is the best song on the album.