Boss
February 19, 2012 4:39 AM   Subscribe

"A big promise has been broken. You can't have a United States if you are telling some folks that they can't get on the train. There is a cracking point where a society collapses. You can't have a civilisation where something is factionalised like this." Bruce Springsteen on his new album Wrecking Ball.
posted by fearfulsymmetry (176 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Pessimism and optimism are slammed up against each other in my records, the tension between them is where it's all at, it's what lights the fire."


This. You go, Bruce.
posted by chavenet at 5:06 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


This. This is why I love Bruce Springsteen.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:14 AM on February 19, 2012


I liked Magic.

I loved The Rising. (I had what I call a 'mezzanine seat' for 9/11 - Jersey City Harborside - and so much of "The Rising", including the title track, felt like healing.)

The Seeger Sessions, Devils and Dust, and The Ghost of Tom Joad were... well, for me, uneven, but there's brilliance in there.

This sounds like it's going to be one of his great albums. ('We Take Care Of Our Own' is half angry and half hopeful, the way it needs to be.)
posted by mephron at 5:18 AM on February 19, 2012


I haven't purchased an entire album in years. This will be the one, if only to support Bruce, a true American hero.
posted by thinkpiece at 5:18 AM on February 19, 2012


Unemployment is a really devastating thing. I know the damage it does to families.

I work in a non-profit area in which I'm blessed to be able to help those having a hard time helping themselves. There are still so many people in America who view unemployment/welfare checks as handouts and assume that people just love getting up and collecting that shit, living for free or on the dole. It's such bullshit.

I consistently look to The Boss when trying to form arguments against this sort of pap, when I'm too angry at the sentiment being uttered by people who ought to know better than to say such things. Bruce always says it better than I could anyway...
posted by youandiandaflame at 5:33 AM on February 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Bruce Springsteen, a wealthy man capitalizing on a current social theme to regain relevance and sell records. Simple man, simple music and simple motives. "True American hero" my ass.
posted by datter at 5:43 AM on February 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Bruce Springsteen, a wealthy man capitalizing on a current social theme to regain relevance and sell records. Simple man, simple music and simple motives. "True American hero" my ass.

One day, message and messenger will be two items, mostly unrelated. I'm looking forward to that day.
posted by Mooski at 5:47 AM on February 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


Bruce Springsteen, a wealthy man capitalizing on a current social theme to regain relevance and sell records. Simple man, simple music and simple motives.

Sounds pretty American to me.

Well, unless he's insincere about the message. Is that what you're implying?
posted by LogicalDash at 5:49 AM on February 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


Bruce Springsteen, a wealthy man capitalizing on a current social theme to regain relevance and sell records. Simple man, simple music and simple motives. "True American hero" my ass.

I'm no fan of his music, but Springsteen's been talking about this shit for right around what, fifty years? He's not "capitalizing on a current social theme." The current social theme happens to feed very well into what he's been talking about for decades.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:51 AM on February 19, 2012 [100 favorites]


Bruce Springsteen, a wealthy man capitalizing on a current social theme to regain relevance and sell records. Simple man, simple music and simple motives. "True American hero" my ass.

Tonight, on the Factor.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:52 AM on February 19, 2012 [29 favorites]


There's a datter every god damned day, isn't there. Entropy demands it.
posted by basicchannel at 5:53 AM on February 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


You know it's a overly aggressive capitalist shit show when those pointing out that it's an overly aggressive capitalist shit show are accused of capitalizing on and exploiting the act of pointing out the fact that it's an overly aggressive capitalist shit show.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:53 AM on February 19, 2012 [25 favorites]


To paraphrase Chris Rock, Springsteen is rich; the white guy who signs his checks is wealthy.

Also, this is exactly the theme that Springsteen has always explored -- the gap between the dream and the real. "Born to Run" was about how middle-class kids were promised something they didn't want. "Born in the USA" is Noam Chomskyer than anyone realizes. Even "Tunnel of Love" is all about how hard relationships are after the first kiss. If you think he's exploiting a topic he has no personal investment in, then you haven't been listening to him ever.
posted by Etrigan at 5:57 AM on February 19, 2012 [28 favorites]


Even I, who haven't heard anything of Springsteen's except "Born in the USA" because it was such a big global hit, have always known that this singer was one who sang about the gritty realities of life and came up the hard way.

Comments like this may as well point out how Dylan is living off the royalties of the Love generation.

Teach your children well
posted by infini at 6:02 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's Bob, not Thomas.
posted by infini at 6:03 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, this is exactly the theme that Springsteen has always explored -- the gap between the dream and the real.

From the article:

""What was done to our country was wrong and unpatriotic and un-American and nobody has been held to account," he later told the Guardian. "There is a real patriotism underneath the best of my music but it is a critical, questioning and often angry patriotism.""

Exactly: The man has always explored the consequences of broken promises, the gap between the hope and hunger and the bittersweet morning after, the distance between wanting what could be and coping with what you actually have to live with.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:06 AM on February 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Bruce Springsteen, a wealthy man capitalizing on a current social theme to regain relevance and sell records. Simple man, simple music and simple motives. "True American hero" my ass.

No kidding. There is no shorter path to Scrooge McDuck vault-swimming than to make music about themes of poverty, class inequality and hopelessness. People just lap that shit up. It's like a license to print money.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:21 AM on February 19, 2012 [62 favorites]


Springsteen was almost off my radar for way too many years. The wife finally convinced me to pay some attention and he's since become a hero for me. I thought the Seeger Sessions was magnificent (the concert was great!) He communicates, and he does it well. The fact that he's made a good living doing it means nothing to me.. I would rather see Springsteen get rich speaking the truth than see a banker get rich lying to us.

I've got tickets for a concert in April (and, there's not a better place to see Springsteen than in Detroit, he resonates there) , I'm looking forward to it!

And, as for "datter", don't feed the troll...
posted by HuronBob at 6:21 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am not a big Springsteen fan and haven't been for quite a while (I prefer Tom Russell myself), but anyone who thinks Springsteen is insincere about this stuff really hasn't listened to him at all.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:22 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


..came up the hard way.

Someone please explain to me how Columbia Records throwing bales of cash at you is "coming up the hard way."
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:24 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


...a wealthy man capitalizing on a current social theme to regain relevance and sell records. Simple man, simple music and simple motives. "True American hero" my ass.

I think you've confused Broooce with Charles Koch and the Dixie Cup Band.
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:29 AM on February 19, 2012


Someone please explain to me how Columbia Records throwing bales of cash at you is "coming up the hard way."

He wasn't born with a Columbia Records contract, obviously. How about this:
Rock musician. Born September 23, 1949, in Long Branch, New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen was raised in a working-class household in Freehold Borough. The future Boss's father, Doug Springsteen, had trouble holding down a steady job and worked at different times as a bus driver, millworker and prison guard. Adele Springsteen, Bruce's mother, brought in steadier income as a secretary in a local insurance office.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:33 AM on February 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


datter, I don't mean to join the pile-on, but you owe it to yourself to listen to the album Nebraska.
posted by Flunkie at 6:38 AM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, how about this:

Springsteen signed a record deal with Columbia Records in 1972, with the help of John Hammond, who had signed Bob Dylan to the same label a decade earlier.

It's always who you know. That's crony capitalism. I know a hundred bands with more talent who struggled harder and for more years, and never got a contract to make a single record before they gave up. One Springsteen sucks enough money out of the system to eliminate a thousand other bands.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:40 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bruce Springsteen, a wealthy man capitalizing on a current social theme to regain relevance and sell records.

he had clarence clemons as his sax player, who was cooler than you or i will ever be - you can't BUY that

Simple man, simple music and simple motives.

he had clarence clemons as his sax player, who was cooler than you or i will ever be - you can't BUY that

"True American hero" my ass.

he had clarence clemons as his sax player, who was cooler than you or i will ever be - you can't BUY that

there's a lot more that bruce springsteen is that money can't buy
posted by pyramid termite at 6:43 AM on February 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


Springsteen signed a record deal with Columbia Records in 1972, with the help of John Hammond, who had signed Bob Dylan to the same label a decade earlier.
It's always who you know. That's crony capitalism.
Huh? Who are you saying was Springsteen's crony? The 62 year old talent scout who (get this) scouted him? Or the other musician who the talent scout (get this) scouted years ago?

You genuinely think that Springsteen got his contract because he was somehow a "crony" of one of these two people?
posted by Flunkie at 6:48 AM on February 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


"Yeah, how about this:"


heh...I hadn't heard that phrase, in that tone, since about 3rd grade... :)
posted by HuronBob at 6:53 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


You genuinely think that Springsteen got his contract because he was somehow a "crony" of one of these two people?

No he doesn't "genuinely thin" anything about this. He just wants to get some mud on the guy, to marginalize his message.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:53 AM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


d'oh. "genuinely think"
posted by saulgoodman at 6:54 AM on February 19, 2012


I would be interested in the true facts about his early finances. I have heard from a couple wildly independent sources that he didn't break even until after "Darkness on the Edge of Town" had been out for several weeks--that he was still underwater after his first three albums and "Born to Run" and being on the cover of Time and Newsweek at the same time.

Anyway the counterargument to Bruce's socioeconomic analysis is not to ad hominum the guy (who I have always heard is a pretty great guy); the counterargument is to present data.

(That's a bonafied Economist who says the wealth gap is closing. He may be shilling for the Kochs but he has data to present his case which is better than calling The Boss names other than The Boss.)
posted by bukvich at 6:58 AM on February 19, 2012


datter: "Bruce Springsteen, a wealthy man capitalizing on a current social theme to regain relevance and sell records."

Would you rather only poor/unestablished musicians with no structure for getting any message out be the only ones speaking the truth? Is this yet another beer snob argument?
posted by notsnot at 7:00 AM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hey, since this is hugely derailed I'd just like to say that:

a) this is actually a great album;
b) someone singing the stories of and standing up for the marginalised is always to be treasured, and;
c) he could have entered into a self-parody of a rock star and a cover band of his own songs like many*, but instead he still chooses to make challenging art. Whatever one thinks of his politics (I like them, YMMV), that's something to be respected.

*Hello Mick Jagger and Gene Simmons, for example.
posted by jaduncan at 7:00 AM on February 19, 2012 [25 favorites]


Would what he's saying be more correct somehow if he were poor and unrecognized?
posted by Sing Or Swim at 7:02 AM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'd just like to say this thread has single-handedly changed my opinion of this artist without even having to hear the album. Most impressive metafilter and it's Springsteen fans. I may have to go back in time and get some different C.D.'s for my old mustang
posted by Redhush at 7:10 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


That Giants Stadium show that's linked in the article - I was there! Right up front in the pit. Someone had heard I was a fan and passed along some tickets, I was so excited and I had no idea what I was in store for. It was my first time in Jersey proper. The energy there was so intense and special.
posted by illenion at 7:15 AM on February 19, 2012


It's always who you know. That's crony capitalism. I know a hundred bands with more talent who struggled harder and for more years, and never got a contract to make a single record before they gave up. One Springsteen sucks enough money out of the system to eliminate a thousand other bands.

You know, God knows there are plenty of people with little or no talent -- or even with some very real talent, but not as much as a dude who's for some reason driving a bus or working at Starbucks instead of making music and getting paid for it -- who are extremely wealthy and famous and it burns in-the-know asses to see them succeed and more talented people fail; but regardless of what you think of his music, how does Springsteen suck money out of the system? Unless his music is making much less money than it costs to make, I am in a purely mathematical way not seeing your logic here. I don't really buy into the trickle-down economics of a single best-selling artist somehow indirectly helping his labelmates, but I really can't see how he hurts other bands. Are you arguing that his music should no longer be made available for sale because someone might buy an album from an up-and-comer in its place?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:19 AM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Using rare surnames we track the socio-economic status of descendants of a sample of English rich and poor in 1800, until 2011. We measure social status through wealth, education, occupation, and age at death. Our method allows unbiased estimates of mobility rates. Paradoxically, we find two things. Mobility rates are lower than conventionally estimated. There is considerable persistence of status, even after 200 years. But there is convergence with each generation. The 1800 underclass has already attained mediocrity. And the 1800 upper class will eventually dissolve into the mass of society, though perhaps not for another 300 years, or longer.

Umm, bukvich: I'm not sure how this economic analysis has anything whatsoever to do with relative social mobility and income inequality in the US in the 20th--21st centuries. If this economist is really arguing what you claim, you might link to one of those arguments instead.

However, you'd also have to point out that the vast majority of economists seem to have reached different conclusions. Even those whose work is featured prominently in outlets with a decidedly pro-capitalist slant/audience.

It's always who you know. That's crony capitalism.

No, it's not. Springsteen wasn't personal buds or family with Dylan outside of the context of his career in music. Dylan met Springsteen as a performing musician and recommended him to a record executive. That's normal, above-board A&R--or in business-world terms, HR recruiting--not cronyism. By no definition of the word would it be cronyism, unless Springsteen was Dylan's uncle's son or something along those lines.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:24 AM on February 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


never got a contract to make a single record before they gave up

DIY, babies.
posted by davebush at 7:28 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know that time he pulled that girl out of the front row to dance with him on stage? Totally faked! And even worse - she went on to become a super-rich Hollywood type herself!
posted by Trurl at 7:33 AM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


When I was a youngin' listening to some Metallica, Poison, G & R, etc, I was all about the LOUD music. You know, the shit you play at full volume just to drive your parents crazy? Except my dad chaperoned my friends & I to the Metallica concert and made friends with the bouncer allowing our general admission friend to come up front with us, so that plan didn't exactly go as planned. The most I'd ever thought about social themes in music was Metallica's "Ride the Lightning."

Then, I met Dan at youth group who was a bona fided Bruce Springsteen aficionado. It would not have surprised me if he had Boss tattoo hidden somewhere. Slowly but surely, he started introducing the other kids to some Bruce Springsteen. He started of with the hits like Born to Run, The River, and then slowly migrated to the other, slowly, perhaps more meaningful songs. He was always a huge fan of the "slow" version of Born in the USA. The story went that Bruce wouldn't play the "real" version live after some president (Reagan?) used the song in his platform- obviously anyone who knows anything about Born in the USA knows it isn't exactly a positive patriotic song. So anyways, after a few months of starting to dig The Boss, he chaperones a few of us kids to a show in Atlanta.

At first I'm like, OK, this is good music. And then BLAM, the opening riff for Born in the USA jams. Now mind you, we were probably the youngest people at the show. Everyone there was huge Bruce fans. The riff, that hadn't been heard live in eons, or at least as commonly. It blares. People at first are all WTF?!? And then it's like HOLY SHIT, HE'S REALLY PLAYING IT! And the place goes bloody bananas. To have a venue with that many people going insane, was was an experience I'll never forget. Now mind you, the entire show was like that. It was a religious experience, brought to you by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Revivalists.
Supposedly, that was also one of the first shows 41 Shots was played at, a personal favorite of mine.

Looking back, it appears that much of the Born in the USA playage is urban legend and my sentiments at the time were based off that, but nonetheless, getting into The Boss was really the first time music ever meant anything to me. That I sat down to look at the lyrics. To realize there's more to music than just fist pumping & head banging.
I don't listen to The Boss as much as I used to, but his message of hopes and dreams, disillusion, and disappoint, being carried out in songs still resonates with me today.
posted by jmd82 at 7:36 AM on February 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


bonafied

are you frances mcdormand
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:46 AM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Twenty or thirty more years of fighting the entrenched power on behalf of the little guy and he may start to make up for his version of "Santa Claus is Coming To Town."
posted by escabeche at 7:47 AM on February 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sticherbeast that was a weird typo that I was staring right at in Preview. That is the kind of a typo you might call a thinko. (supposed to be bona fide; which I just looked up again in the dictionary and you could even argue that was a uso.)
posted by bukvich at 7:51 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


[folks, sorry we can't get to every comment fast enough but take flagging talk and troll talk directly to metatalk and don't let it screw up a thread. It's in your hands, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:52 AM on February 19, 2012


No kidding. There is no shorter path to Scrooge McDuck vault-swimming than to make music about themes of poverty, class inequality and hopelessness. People just lap that shit up. It's like a license to print money.

Ever heard of Glen Beck? The Tea Party basks in themes of poverty, inequality and hopelessness, and has made many people rich in the process, and in a relatively short amount of time. Left leaning populists have no monopoly on selling class identity to middle America.

One certainly can't accuse Springsteen of jumping on some bandwagon. This has been his schtick for decades. It's been clear that he's identified with some marginal elements of middle America for a long time, even if his finances and ability place him far outside the middle of any group. Could it by cynical? Sure. But his legacy at least suggests more sincerity than not.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:53 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


In this video of Wrecking Ball performed live last fall, was touched when I saw Clarence Clemons kiss Springsteen on the cheek as if it was something he did all the time. It must have been devastating for Springsteen when Clemons died.

On the other hand, man, the orchestral strings stuff on Wrecking Ball just do not work!
posted by KokuRyu at 7:58 AM on February 19, 2012


Interesting to note that the video you linked to, KokuRyu, is dated Oct 2nd.
posted by infini at 8:07 AM on February 19, 2012


Yeah, Bruce has talked the talk for years and years. To suggest that he's just paying lip service to the idea of social justice in American society is to betray a complete lack of engagement with his body of work at even the most superficial level.

About a year ago, he wrote a letter to the editor of the Asbury Park Press criticizing Christie's proposed cuts to safety net programs and wasn't identified as Bruce Springsteen, Very Famous Person, but rather just as a resident of Colts Neck, NJ. Since his rise to superstardom in the 80s, he's quietly given hundreds of thousands to New Jersey residents in low-income situations, in addition to his public stumping for food banks and veteran organizations. Surely if his blue collar schtick was a back-room calculation, he'd be seeking out greater publicity for his charitable works.

The idea that all politics are local is shot through his music. He returns to the idea of the American hometown again and again and again from every angle, as a place to run away from and return to and take refuge in and criticize and protect.

His characters (particularly early in his career when he was regularly writing sprawling narrative pieces of magical realism like "Incident on 57th Street" and "Jungleland") are oftentimes subject to larger, unseen forces, but they're drawn carefully and studiously, and always three-dimensionally in a a way that suggests that even now he's very invested in writing about genuine experiences.

For further bonafides on his self-perceived role as a social critic, it's also worth it to read the full details of the Born in the USA kerfluffle if you haven't already.

I'm seeing him in Meadowlands in April; I've seen him at the Garden before but never across the river and I'm told it's pretty next-level. Magic is probably one of my top four Bruce albums and I'm hoping Wrecking Ball is in a similar vein. The dude is 63 and still jumping around like a wildman for two and a half hours on world tours of his brand new music; I hope but I have a fraction of his cojones and engagement with the world when I'm that age.
posted by superfluousm at 8:26 AM on February 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


I really don't get the protests against someone like Springsteen writing songs about problems in society and subsequently making money off of it.

I guess the only real touchstone for comparison on the other side would be Pete Seeger, who not only wrote songs and made money, but actively helped with union organizing and was blacklisted from television for years as a result. (A blacklist which was broken by the Smothers Brothers during their notoriously controversial television careers.)

Perhaps a modern-day comparison would be Tom Morello, who as the linked article mentions was in RATM, but I find his more recent work as The Nightwatchman to be much more in line with the Pete Seeger model. I wish we had a whole movement of that kind of thing going on, because history shows it is truly effective.

The sad part is that we don't have anything resembling the folk tradition flourishing in our country. We expect to be entertained, not led in singing the songs (which by its very nature leads people to engage with lyrics on a much more personal and affecting level than simply listening). So artists like Springsteen have to let the music speak for itself. Others have tried to actively preach from the stage, but they end up getting put down and called bad names for supposedly overstepping their place, or something.

Springsteen has been writing poetry and singing songs about the downtrodden and neglected for decades now, and he's damn good at it. If it puts some bucks in his pocket at the same time, that means that at least people might be listening to what he has to say. I'm okay with that.
posted by hippybear at 8:28 AM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Bruce Springsteen, a wealthy man capitalizing on a current social theme to regain relevance and sell records."

Isn't social progress frequently aided by those who are in a position to spread awareness/raise the consciousness of the masses?
It seems as if you're saying that only the disenfranchised have a right to speak about disenfranchisement. If so, that seems like it would be a huge step backward.
posted by newpotato at 8:33 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]



No kidding. There is no shorter path to Scrooge McDuck vault-swimming than to make music about themes of poverty, class inequality and hopelessness. People just lap that shit up. It's like a license to print money.


So what is Bruce Springsteen supposed to do?

Sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up?

Would that be better?

He sings. He makes huge amounts of money from it. But unlike other stars, he does not flaunt the wealth he has access to. For all we know he's been giving most of it to charity.
posted by ocschwar at 8:41 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


So what is Bruce Springsteen supposed to do?

He needs to stop his money-grubbing, get a MeFi account, and start commenting in threads about topics he only has a vague understanding of. Contrarianism should be enough to affect change.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:16 AM on February 19, 2012 [20 favorites]


Both Bruce's ideas and lyrics, and his music (I'm obviously a big fan of traditional rock and roll and I think it's great that someone playing it is spreading his politics to people who might otherwise not hear it) have helped keep me sane and hopeful over many years.

As for John Hammond: yeah he's a very wealthy man (from the Vanderbilts no less) but he's also a talent scout who heard Bruce's demo tape and was impressed. That's not crony capitalism, that's Hammond doing his job.
posted by jonmc at 9:17 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I went back and listened to that really great NPR interview again. There's a comparison of "Badlands" to the Bonanza and Rawhide theme songs.
posted by bukvich at 9:27 AM on February 19, 2012


And Hammond's pick was boosted immeasurably by another, more hyperbolic Jon, who famously wrote, after a performance in Boston, "I saw rock and roll's future, and it's name is Bruce Springsteen". ....
posted by thinkpiece at 9:29 AM on February 19, 2012


Some performers milk applause by telling the crowd how great their city is, or what a great crowd they are. They get applause for this, but it's cheap applause and they know it.

Bruce Springsteen singing rally-the-people crap like "Born in the USA" (to name one) has made an entire career out of garnering just this sort of cheap applause, and flipping that into an entirely cheap career. Also, he knows it.

Note that I am not saying anyone is wrong for liking his music, but his body of work cannot be discussed without referencing the fact that his greatest skills involve being in the right place at the right time, and his ability to pander to a crowd.

Oh. Oh. Oh. I'm on fire.
posted by datter at 9:40 AM on February 19, 2012


KokuRyu - has the album leaked? Other than the Paris event song clips and the single, I didn't think anyhting was floating around yet.
posted by davebush at 9:41 AM on February 19, 2012


*anything*
posted by davebush at 9:41 AM on February 19, 2012


Note that I am not saying anyone is wrong for liking his music,

Of course you're not. You're just saying that they're dupes, fools, morons, imbeciles, cretins, and hypocrites. They're not wrong at all.
posted by blucevalo at 9:47 AM on February 19, 2012


Bruce Springsteen singing rally-the-people crap like "Born in the USA"


You know it's not a "rally the people" song right? But I like him just fine. It's really hard to have any sort of counter-message in your music and strive to be popular and to make a difference at the same time. Almost by definition most of what's popular doesn't make a difference in a social awareness/justice sort of way.
posted by jessamyn at 9:49 AM on February 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Bruce Springsteen singing rally-the-people crap like "Born in the USA" (to name one)

omg reagan is typing to us from the great beyond and now we know that passing through the grim veil of death doesn't teach you anything about irony :-(
posted by superfluousm at 9:49 AM on February 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


Oh I see your problem blucevalo, you failed to read my entire sentence. Try again?
posted by datter at 9:49 AM on February 19, 2012


rally-the-people crap like "Born in the USA"

You've obviously never actually read or listened to the lyrics beyond the chorus, have you?
posted by hippybear at 9:50 AM on February 19, 2012 [13 favorites]


I read your entire sentence just fine.
posted by blucevalo at 9:51 AM on February 19, 2012


Bruce Springsteen singing rally-the-people crap like "Born in the USA" (to name one) has made an entire career out of garnering just this sort of cheap applause, and flipping that into an entirely cheap career.

Listen to the song some day. Better yet, just read the lyrics. If "Born in the USA" is seeking to rally any emotion, it's rage at how America betrayed its ideals and its people.

...his body of work cannot be discussed without referencing the fact that his greatest skills involve being in the right place at the right time, and his ability to pander to a crowd.

Name me anyone who's had some success who isn't guilty of "being in the right place at the right time". Then name me any entertainer, politician or social reformer who hasn't had the "ability to pander to a crowd." Some people call that "resonance."
posted by Etrigan at 9:52 AM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


kittens for breakfast: You know, God knows there are plenty of people with little or no talent -- or even with some very real talent, but not as much as a dude who's for some reason driving a bus or working at Starbucks instead of making music and getting paid for it -- who are extremely wealthy and famous and it burns in-the-know asses to see them succeed and more talented people fail; but regardless of what you think of his music, how does Springsteen suck money out of the system? Unless his music is making much less money than it costs to make, I am in a purely mathematical way not seeing your logic here.

Gresham's Law. In this application, we can assert "Bad music drives out good." This is in no way an aesthetic judgement on the quality of Springsteen's music. It merely asserts that the money consumers pay for music that is essentially shoved down their throat prevents them from spending it on other musical products. Gresham's Law asserts that the value of the product that people are required to accept is disproportionate to its true value. The music industry has an incentive to promote stars, to keep the money flowing in, while suppressing other competing musicians who are pushed out of the market. If consumers had access to a diverse group of musicians, it would compete with stars and devalue their economic worth.

saulgoodman: He just wants to get some mud on the guy, to marginalize his message.

ROFL. That's the first time I've ever been labeled a capitalist stooge. Cui bono?
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:54 AM on February 19, 2012


rally-the-people crap like "Born in the USA"

You've obviously never actually read or listened to the lyrics beyond the chorus, have you?


One, there's nothing wrong with getting a concert crowd pumped up. That's part of the reason they're there. Two, as many people have mentioned BiTUSA is far from a simple anthem. And three, plenty of songs Bruce plays live, like "The River" "Nebraska" and even "Backstreets" are the furthest thing from simple happy fare. But haters gotta hate, I guess.
posted by jonmc at 9:55 AM on February 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Bruce Springsteen singing rally-the-people crap like "Born in the USA" (to name one) has made an entire career out of garnering just this sort of cheap applause, and flipping that into an entirely cheap career. Also, he knows it.

You never bothered to listen closely to "Born in the USA", did you?

I'm not a huge Springsteen fan. I prefer my bellowing with more bellicosity, faster guitars, and an absence of saxophone blats. But your superficial analysis demonstrates an ignorance of the man's work on a par with Fox News. "Born in the USA" is in fact almost the opposite of what you take it to be. It is a stinging critique of jingoism. It is about the boot on the throat of the American dream. It is a condemnation of Reagan-era realpolitik. Perhaps the juxtaposition of Springsteen's ASS in front of the FLAG on the cover is a SUBTLE HINT.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:55 AM on February 19, 2012 [15 favorites]


datter : you have literally no idea what you're talking about.
posted by radiosilents at 9:56 AM on February 19, 2012 [16 favorites]


Confused as to why a Canadian is commenting on an American not being American enough.
posted by june made him a gemini at 9:57 AM on February 19, 2012


He has no idea what he's talking about, and doesn't need to - the thread is going exactly where he wants it to. The earnest are the easiest to troll. Come the fuck on, people.
posted by absalom at 9:59 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


BOP: did you know that the Boss originally wrote "Hungry Heart,"to give to the Ramones? I kind of wish that had worked out since it's been cool to hear.
posted by jonmc at 10:00 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


For Gresham's Law to apply to Springsteen's sales you are assuming that his (arguably poor quality) music is in a competitive market with authentic good stuff. That is arguable-squared. He is not a stereotypical mass media product. Has he ever been on the cover of the National Enquirer or People magazine? He mostly avoids the press unless he has a new product he is promoting.
posted by bukvich at 10:05 AM on February 19, 2012


So... how about them Mets, huh?
posted by infini at 10:05 AM on February 19, 2012


So... how about them Mets, huh?

If we lose Wright as well as Reyes, we're done.

The earnest are the easiest to troll

This is interesting. The truly cynical can't stand seeing someone who is actually sincere, which activates the hater gland.
posted by jonmc at 10:08 AM on February 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Springsteen signed with Columbia Records in 1972, and 40 years later, he's still working for that Big 3*/RIAA label. The corporate weasels are laughing at you who truly believe what he's singing (and doing it all the way to the bank). If The Boss were truly sincere, he'd be his Own Boss. Period.

I pledged this year to NEVER buy another offering from an RIAA artist. And that includes Bruce.

* formerly Big 4, Big 5 and Big 6. The consolidation is extra-frightening.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:11 AM on February 19, 2012


He is not a stereotypical mass media product. Has he ever been on the cover of the National Enquirer or People magazine? He mostly avoids the press unless he has a new product he is promoting.

Game, set, and match.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:13 AM on February 19, 2012


"Born in the USA" is in fact almost the opposite of what you take it to be. It is a stinging critique of jingoism.

It depicts the American war on Vietnam as a tragedy affecting American soldiers. That he could not - or would not - view it as a tragedy chiefly affecting the Vietnamese is my biggest problem with Springsteen's politics.

He once introduced a song in concert by saying "Nobody wins unless everybody wins". As the end of the linked article illustrates, his view of "everybody" stops at the American border.
posted by Trurl at 10:14 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


It depicts the American war on Vietnam as a tragedy affecting American soldiers. That he could not - or would not - view it as a tragedy chiefly affecting the Vietnamese is my biggest problem with Springsteen's politics.

You yell at people picking up litter because they're not going after corporate polluters, don't you.
posted by Etrigan at 10:23 AM on February 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


Trurl - I don't think you can make a criticism about what a song was not about. As far as I know he wasn't explicitly saying that it wasn't a tragedy for the Vietnamese. The song was about Americans, specifically.
posted by Think_Long at 10:23 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The song was about Americans, specifically.

Itw as specifically inspired by the combat death of Bart Haynes, the drummer in his first band, The Castiles.
posted by jonmc at 10:28 AM on February 19, 2012


Offers google maps to the whole thread.
posted by infini at 10:29 AM on February 19, 2012


I meant to include this link in my previous comment.
posted by jonmc at 10:30 AM on February 19, 2012


He once introduced a song in concert by saying "Nobody wins unless everybody wins". As the end of the linked article illustrates, his view of "everybody" stops at the American border.

Not true - cf "Sinaloa Cowboys" and "American Land", for starters.

And yes, it's unfairly reductive to suggest that acknowledging Vietnam as a tragic waste of American lives means he sees that as the only tragedy of the conflict. In fact, give "Galveston Bay" a listen for perspective on the Vietnamese side of the conflict.
posted by superfluousm at 10:31 AM on February 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


In fact, give "Galveston Bay" a listen for perspective on the Vietnamese side of the conflict.

I stopped listening to Springsteen's new music after he put out a song about there being nothing to watch on television* so I may well have missed something in his later work. But your example reinforces my point.

It's about a South Vietnamese man who "fought side by side with the Americans" - sometimes referred to as "collaborating with an occupier" - and received no gratitude from them for it later. For "perspective on the Vietnamese side of the conflict", the experience of Phan Thi Kim Phuc strikes me as a wee bit more representative.
posted by Trurl at 10:47 AM on February 19, 2012


the experience of Phan Thi Kim Phuc strikes me as a wee bit more representative.

Good grief. The list of things that every singer didn't write about approaches infinity. Therefore, using this kind of logic, we should condemn every song-writer ever for being insufficiently sensitive. Get a grip.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:55 AM on February 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yes, unless someone tells all sides of every story we must not appreciate the telling of the side they did.
posted by rtha at 11:00 AM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


That he could not - or would not - view it as a tragedy chiefly affecting the Vietnamese is my biggest problem with Springsteen's politics.

It's a problem/blind spot that the rest of American politics, mass media, culture, etc., shares, to this day. Springsteen isn't the only musician who ever wrote songs that depicted "the American war on Vietnam as a tragedy affecting American soldiers."

By your logic, Phil Ochs should be tarred and feathered because there's no way to prove that "One-legged veterans will greet the dawn" is a lyric about Vietnamese veterans.
posted by blucevalo at 11:02 AM on February 19, 2012


Suggesting that the song in question lionizes the American/South Vietnamese side of the war by not being about something or someone else is a particularly forced reading, but sure. He didn't write a song about what you personally think is the most "correct" Vietnam war experience, so yes, he is an awful racist and doesn't care about anyone else in the world or the way American foreign policy affects and displaces them or how immigrants and refugees are treated here. Congratulations, you did it! We're convinced he's the worst. :-(

Anyway, by your own admission you're not interested in Springsteen's new music, so now that we all hate him so much feel free to leave this thread about his new album that you're uninterested in at any time.
posted by superfluousm at 11:02 AM on February 19, 2012


Hey charlie don't surf, are you a Clash fan?
posted by ericthegardener at 11:03 AM on February 19, 2012


It's the Ticketmaster stuff that surprises me most. His response last month to the latest episode of reseller bots getting the best seats and freezing out his fans was simply to post Ticketmaster's boilerplate "we're aware of the problem" release.

After what happened in 2009 with Ticketmaster (redirecting fans to its own, more expensive reseller site while face-value tickets were still available), continuing to use them seems bizarre. He railed against "the abuse of our fans and our trust by Ticketmaster" and encouraged fans to write legislators to oppose the company's merger with Live Nation, calling it "the one thing that would make the current ticket situation even worse for the fan than it is now." The merger happened anyway, and here's Springsteen using the resulting company soon after.

I like a significant chunk of the guy's output, but that element seems less than worthy of total respect. Sure, it's easy to sit here and say "You're in a great position to actually make the entire ticket-selling business a lot more fair to fans," but you know, it's kinda true he's in a great position to actually make the entire ticket-selling business a lot more fair to fans. He hasn't, and that's a little surprising given the vehemence with which he's denounced the industry's practices in the past.
posted by mediareport at 11:05 AM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I stopped listening to Springsteen's new music after he put out a song about there being nothing to watch on television*

Yeah, comic relief is such a crime against humanity.
posted by jonmc at 11:07 AM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


In this application, we can assert "Bad music drives out good." This is in no way an aesthetic judgement on the quality of Springsteen's music. It merely asserts that the money consumers pay for music that is essentially shoved down their throat prevents them from spending it on other musical products. Gresham's Law asserts that the value of the product that people are required to accept is disproportionate to its true value.

I don't know that it's safe to take for granted that any band's popularity may be due to having its music shoved down our collective throats. Radio programmers play the music that they think will reel in their demographic, whatever it may be. You can play Crystal Castles on an opera station all day long and still not get any of that station's regular audience to pick up their album; more likely, you'll get a wave of nasty emails and phone calls and tweets that -- if left unheeded -- will precede a mass defection of listeners. It may not necessarily be good music any more than a Big Mac may be good food, but labels sign bands they think they can sell. If that band gets shoved down your throat, is it not possible that the reason you're hearing it all the time is that a lot of people like it, and people who like what they're hearing don't change the channel?

Again: I want to stress that popularity is to my mind no indication of quality. But if a band of low quality is popular, which is more likely to you: That the public has been brainwashed into thinking the band is good, or that a general lack of musical sophistication common to many listeners means that trite effects and cliches will seem profound or at least engaging to them?

Extending this calculus further, simply presenting the casual listener with more advanced material might not broaden their musical palate. You could replace the Big Mac with filet mignon and end up with a gourmand, but it's at least as possible that you'd just end up with a pissed-off dude who wants his goddamn hamburger back. Cultivating taste in anything takes time and effort. But we've never had a wider array of musical choices available to us than we do right now. If people are content to stick to the walled garden of the mainstream music industry, is it really fair to blame any artist for the incurious nature of the person who mostly hears music in their car or at a tavern?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:14 AM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's a problem/blind spot that the rest of American politics, mass media, culture, etc., shares, to this day.

We just had a thread about that not too long ago, with some pretty staunchly defending the blind spot as being perfectly fine, and in fact questioning whether those who want less of a blind spot aren't, in fact, elitists. (Not those discussing this in this thread, if memory serves.)

Funny how these things feed back onto themselves sometimes.
posted by hippybear at 11:14 AM on February 19, 2012


Sweet bleeding jeezy, are some of these comments for real? A *rock star* who's lyrical output has traditionally been concerned with class struggles is being attacked for what? Not being perfectly aligned with one's personal ideals of what an activist-entertainer should be? Occasionally writing songs about other things? Seriously?
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 11:19 AM on February 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


> is being attacked for what?

Mostly he is being attacked because he has money and power and chicks for free.
posted by bukvich at 11:28 AM on February 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


To have a venue with that many people going insane, was was an experience I'll never forget. Now mind you, the entire show was like that. It was a religious experience...

This exactly. The experience of being one of many of one mind and one attention is religous experience, shaped by generations of practice and written into our genes. Ancient myth and practice thread through just about every performing art and we have been bred to respond in kind. The cult in cult of celebrity came long before celebrity as we know it.

But epiphanies are not universal, obviously. I saw Mr. Springsteen in concert early on but was not so overwhelmed.

Hearing the Grateful Dead at Eagles in 1967, Son House at the Medicine Show Tavern or Al Green at Bumbershoot among others -- now those were religious experiences. But your mileage obviously varies.

...boosted immeasurably by another, more hyperbolic Jon

As the record so strongly suggests otherwise, if you are attempting to suggest that Mr. Landau is somehow a more hyperbolic Jon than No. 58, you are on a fool's errand, and your energies would be better put to arguing a more reasonable proposition, like, say, the repeal of the law of gravity.
posted by y2karl at 11:31 AM on February 19, 2012


there seems to be a widening gap between the "haves" and the "haves a stick up their asses"
posted by nathancaswell at 11:33 AM on February 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


KokuRyu - has the album leaked? Other than the Paris event song clips and the single, I didn't think anyhting was floating around yet.

I was just talking about the first single, which is Wrecking Ball... isn't it?

Anyway, yeah, I always thought that Born in the USA, by not adopting a more orthodox Marxist analysis of the post-colonial discourse, and not identifying various American imperial agents such as conscripts, veterans and their blood kin as Oppressors, was one of the more flagrant examples of Springsteen's de facto lackey-ism.

He shouldn't be called the Boss: Bruce Springsteen is the Stooge.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:35 AM on February 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


if you are attempting to suggest that Mr. Landau is somehow a more hyperbolic Jon than No. 58, you are on a fool's errand, and your energies would be better put to arguing a more reasonable proposition, like, say, the repeal of the law of gravity.

Heh. I've actually met Jon Landau once or twice. He's a very friendly, unassuming guy.
posted by jonmc at 11:35 AM on February 19, 2012


there seems to be a widening gap between the "haves" and the "haves a stick up their asses"

They only call it Class Warfare when we fight back.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:37 AM on February 19, 2012


Thats right, free yourself from the brutal yoke of the oppressive dictator Bruce Springsteen. It's no coincidence he's called "The Boss", right? How Orwellian.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:41 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


nathancaswell, I'm pretty sure KokuRyu is being satirical.
posted by jonmc at 11:42 AM on February 19, 2012


I was responding to charlie don't surf, sorry, should have quoted.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:43 AM on February 19, 2012


simple man, simple music and simple motives

You sir are obviously a) not a musician and b) unfamiliar with Springsteen's contributions to American culture.

Luckily, it doesn't matter what you think. Springsteen is one of the greatest songwriters and performers in American music history, and one of few who has pursued a political vision for his art from the very beginning of his career. He could be relaxing in the Caribbean for the rest of his life on the profits from "Born to Run."

It's like saying "Beethoven, pfft, just a hack composer who capitalized on the 19th century composer as celebrity phenomenon.

Freaking clueless.

I'm listening to "Factory" right now. Probably the darkest song about industrial labor in the modern rock canon.
posted by spitbull at 12:00 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


This thread is incredibly frustrating. At the risk of getting slightly personal, I can't imagine how tiresome some of you are at a party.
posted by Think_Long at 12:06 PM on February 19, 2012 [13 favorites]


I'm listening to "Factory" right now. Probably the darkest song about industrial labor in the modern rock canon.

And it's written about his father.
posted by jonmc at 12:09 PM on February 19, 2012


Springsteen is probably one of the closest we have to the folk singers telling it like it was (is) will be. There's some gritty stuff there.

And I used to love the irony of snotty little college conservatives listening to "Born in the USA" without a clue what the lyrics meant.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:32 PM on February 19, 2012


Lets take a moment to ponder what impact, if any remaining once teh cries have died down, this new album adn song might have on listeners (or even OWS)? I noticed in the article linked to in the FPP that much of the descriptors seem to be about anger and fury, a futility even or rage viz.,

At a Paris press conference on Thursday night, Bruce Springsteen was asked whether he was advocating an armed uprising in America. He laughed at the idea, but that the question was even posed at all gives you some idea of the fury of his new album Wrecking Ball.

Indeed, it is as angry a cry from the belly of a wounded America as has been heard since the dustbowl and Woody Guthrie, a thundering blow of New Jersey pig iron down on the heads of Wall Street and all who have sold his country down the swanny. Springsteen has gone to the great American canon for ammunition, borrowing from folk, civil war anthems, Irish rebel songs and gospel. The result is a howl of pain and disbelief as visceral as anything he has ever produced, that segues into a search for redemption: "Hold tight to your anger/ And don't fall to your fears … Bring on your wrecking ball."

posted by infini at 12:37 PM on February 19, 2012


I remember as a very young lad growing up in a very Republican household, hearing that Bruce Springsteen didn't want Reagan (or Bush I, whoever it was) using "Born In The USA" at their rallies. I didn't know what the song was about, or its subversive element, or what a subversive element might be yet, nor was I a Bruce Springsteen fan OR EVEN actively listening to music yet, but somehow, that Bruce Springsteen disapproved was my first clue that maybe, despite my folks rooting for them, that maybe the Republicans weren't the good guys.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:38 PM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


This entire thread has been a meta-metaparody, right?

Right?
posted by joe lisboa at 12:41 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Springsteen is probably one of the closest we have to the folk singers telling it like it was (is) will be.

Except that he sings rock and roll, which is much easier on the ears.
posted by jonmc at 12:47 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


mediareport, artists don't get to choose their ticketing provider. The contract is between the ticketing company and the venue — and all the big venues are locked in with Ticketmaster/Livenation.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:48 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Uther Bentrazor - my dad gives Nebraska like 75% of the credit for turning him into a liberal in his 20s after growing up in a staunchly conservative household.

It's really shocking to me that after the years and years he's spent exploring American class consciousness in his music, you still come across people who disagree with his politics but are fans - like Chris Christie asking him to perform at his inauguration as governor (Springsteen declined.)

I mean, of course they've got as much right as anyone to enjoy the guy but it seems that to do so you'd have to be particularly and willfully obtuse to the themes that have permeated his entire career. It seems like that level of cognitive dissonance would be a lot of work, especially now that you no longer have the reward of Bruce and the Big Man cheesin' and grinnin' as a motivator.
posted by superfluousm at 12:50 PM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


artists don't get to choose their ticketing provider

Well, they can go out of their way to avoid TM/LN venues. Pearl Jam attempted this at one point, about 20 years ago... the result was that they played a lot of places which had never seen a show of similar scale before, which was a mixed blessing on many levels.

I wish more artists would take a similar stand and avoid TM/LN venues, because those fuckers have too much power.
posted by hippybear at 12:52 PM on February 19, 2012


It's really shocking to me that after the years and years he's spent exploring American class consciousness in his music, you still come across people who disagree with his politics but are fans - like Chris Christie asking him to perform at his inauguration as governor

My guess is, people like that don't ever actually listen to lyrics except for the chorus hooks, and they like the way the music sounds, so they count themselves as fans, but they don't have any clue what is actually being talked about in the music.

Just like how Lola continues to be played on the radio when it's actually about transvestite prostitutes picking up johns in a bar. The chorus is catchy, but many people who "like" it haven't ever penetrated deeper than "lo-lo-lo-lo-Lo-La".
posted by hippybear at 12:54 PM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I agree, but the scale issue is significant for Springsteen. Venues large enough for his fanbase that aren't TM/LN venues don't really exist. A non TM/LN tour for him would require major major effort to pull off.

It would send a powerful message, however, if he went for it.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:56 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


It would send a powerful message, however, if he went for it.

It sure would. Again, it's surprising that he seems to have dropped the issue after the vehemence of his previous statements.
posted by mediareport at 12:58 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just like how Lola continues to be played on the radio when it's actually about transvestite prostitutes picking up johns in a bar. The chorus is catchy, but many people who "like" it haven't ever penetrated deeper than "lo-lo-lo-lo-Lo-La".
It never occurred to me that Lola was a prostitute. What makes you think that?
posted by Flunkie at 1:00 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Growing up in suburbia in the 70s and 80s as a musician, I could not hear Springsteen's early work except through the filter of jock culture. To me it sounded smug and aggressive and where it was clever, trying too hard to be the next Dylan. I didn't really pay attention to it. It was those guys' music, and I was down with the heavy metal kids at first, and then punk (all the while developing a lifelong obsession with the black vernacular tradition, and a separate but equal passion for classical music and its modernist contemporary form). Man, back then I thought I knew clearly where musical authenticity could be found, and "The Boss" wasn't it. He was, in fact, too damn popular with people I didn't like for reasons I barely understood. I dug Pink Floyd and Aerosmith and Arnold Schoenberg and James Brown, and later the Clash and John Cage and Prince and Al Green. I liked Dylan OK, but I wasn't obsessed. I hadn't yet discovered the power of Merle Haggard or Hank Williams, because I couldn't hear country as part of the black music tradition back then. I never really dug 19th century classical music much, but I did love me some Bach and some Messiaen. I was aware of Springsteen, but it was peripheral and dismissive awareness.

A few years later, I dropped out of college after having broken with classical music and having begun an intellectual and musical obsession with the race and class politics of American vernacular music (gender politics would come later).

When "Born in the USA" came out as a single, I heard it as jingoistic. But the local rock station also played the B side of that single a bunch: Tom Wait's "Jersey Girl," covered by Springsteen live. I was taken aback by that record. I had discovered Waits by then (this was right around the time Swordfishtrombones came out). And Springsteen's loping, carnival-ride rendition of that song was like hearing it for the first time. I took note. When "I'm On Fire" and "My Hometown" were in regular rotation on the radio (I was driving a truck at the time, so I heard a lot of radio) I didn't change the station. I listened. I heard it fresh (at around the same time I was listening to Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash seriously at last).

Then I spent 6 months in a foreign country. I got homesick. I went to the record store and bought Born to Run and The River on cassette for my walkman. I don't know why, but it was the first time I'd ever been so aware of my own Americanness, despite my best efforts not to be like Those Guys, the ones who gave you crap for staying silent when the pledge of allegiance was being said in junior high school homerooms.

Anyway, I went back and got Darkness on the Edge of Town and The Wild and the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle two days later. It was like it all came into focus.

Amusingly, a year or so later when I was back in school, I did a few gigs playing bass for a Springsteen tribute band that was pretty good, and so I got my head really inside the music (the band mostly did the anthemic stuff, up to and including Jungle Land, which is beastly to play live).

And of course, Nebraska. What else can one say?

I love his music. We have only a few artists of his stature, and none who cover quite the same literary or political ground or who have grown deeper as artists over the years (Willie Nelson, Stevie Wonder, maybe a dozen more).

He's produced some dreck, though not much. So did Beethoven and Hank Williams and Ray Charles.

Back to the cocktail party now.
posted by spitbull at 1:04 PM on February 19, 2012 [19 favorites]


Just like how Lola continues to be played on the radio when it's actually about transvestite prostitutes picking up johns in a bar.

Or, I guess, how you sometimes hear "Walk on the Wild Side" on Lite FM, which is always delightful.
posted by superfluousm at 1:04 PM on February 19, 2012


It never occurred to me that Lola was a prostitute. What makes you think that?

Huh. I'd always read a subtext of prostitute into the lyrics, but they don't support that theory. I guess I've learned something in this thread.
posted by hippybear at 1:06 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just like how Lola continues to be played on the radio when it's actually about transvestite prostitutes picking up johns in a bar. The chorus is catchy, but many people who "like" it haven't ever penetrated deeper than "lo-lo-lo-lo-Lo-La".

Really? The 'walk like a woman but talk like a man' line is pretty loud and clear.
posted by jonmc at 1:09 PM on February 19, 2012


Really? The 'walk like a woman but talk like a man' line is pretty loud and clear.

Well, hell, he actually says "what I am is a man and so was Lola." When I was listening to classic rock radio at the age of like thirteen, this was some pretty earth-shattering stuff.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:47 PM on February 19, 2012


haven't read through the whole thread, but i just wanted to say that bruce springsteen clearly works incredibly hard, and always has. is he over-compensated? that's a separate issue. he most certainly has an amazing job. but the notion that he gets things handed to him? yeah, not so much.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 2:00 PM on February 19, 2012


haven't read through the whole thread
Lucky guy.
posted by Flunkie at 2:08 PM on February 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


haven't read through the whole thread..

tl;dr: Springsteen is more popular than Jesus. Was recently observed trying to pass through the eye of a needle.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:26 PM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Here's what I think, since I can tell most of you are waiting to hear just that. I am sorry for taking so long.

1. Some but not all of Bruce's music is appealing, and some of his lyrics are thought-provoking, either on a personal or political level. Some of his music and lyrics tend toward the bombastic, which the linked article uses to describe the opening song on his new album -- for me, that's more of a liability.

2. His comparative advantage really lies in his music and lyrics. Sometimes he issues pronouncements through interviews, too, but there his comparative advantage mainly lies in his status, rather than in the clarity of his thought or force of his observations. He is in the happy position of being popular at least in part because of his political views; I don't think that means that his views are insincere, but it does mean I am less inclined to treat any positions he takes as heroic.

3. I'm not really in a position to judge Wrecking Ball, as the album's not out yet, and so I can't evaluate claims that he has successfully articulated what he is saying he tried to do in the album. I trust very little what the Guardian article says about it. I just hope it's as good as Wrecking Ball.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 2:42 PM on February 19, 2012


"but many people who "like" it haven't ever penetrated deeper than "lo-lo-lo-lo-Lo-La"."

That's the funniest freaking sentence on Metafilter today, Hippybear.
posted by Mcable at 2:43 PM on February 19, 2012


Someone please explain to me how Columbia Records throwing bales of cash at you is "coming up the hard way."


Yeah. It's not like he and his family had to battle through the economic hardships Mit and his family battled through. I know. Apples and oranges. Just sayin.
posted by notreally at 2:50 PM on February 19, 2012


Spitbull's thoughts on Springsteen, "jock culture", and the American qualities of his music, got me thinking about an email conversation I had with a friend about Brooooce. This is something I said:
My dad -- a bohn-and-bred New Englander, a working class mick Catholic-turned-atheist -- was a huge fan of Bruce. While he would call Bruce "The Boss", there was a winking facetiousness there, because Bruce was "one of us". Dad was about Bruce's age, and his first albums came out as Dad was trying to gain a foothold in journalism. The poetic losers and the switchblade fights and the barefoot girls sitting on the hood of a Dodge were all part of a life Dad saw unfold before him in mid-century blue-collar Massachusetts, in the parking lots of his high school and in his newsroom and at the pickup baseball games he'd play when I was a kid.

I think Dad thought it was funny that someone like Bruce was looked upon as "the boss", because for him it was less about Bruce being the voice of his generation or the next Dylan or whatever. He was one of them -- he looked like the guys my dad knew, and he was their ambassador to the rest of the world. Bruce made it cool to be a working-class guy from the northeast! Not that dear old Dad ever needed to be "cool", but it was exciting to see someone like him reflected in the mainstream. Like, "finally, one of our own." Bruce
also spoke to both the patriotism of his era, but also to the cynicism. I think that in spite of Dad's atheism, the Catholic imagery really spoke to him as the son of a lace-curtain Irish family.
Not to keep bringing my dad into this or anything...
posted by pxe2000 at 2:51 PM on February 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


pxe2000 - funny you should say that. It is, at least for me, impossible to separate my regard for Bruce with my regard for my dad. They're a similar age, and while I know Bruce's music has always been close to my dad's heart, he's fairly reticent to discuss the experience of growing into the man he is now.

So when I listen to a Springsteen song where his personal life obviously bleeds through (like all of Tunnel of Love), I feel like I have a window into my dad's experience, and when Bruce sings about the promises that were made and broken to a whole generation of Americans, I can see what informed my dad's current sense of what's right and wrong. Bruce bridges our generational divide; he puts into words what we may not be able to say perfectly to each other, and our relationship is better for it. I wonder how many people in their 20s and 30s similarly find Springsteen to be automatic trigger for Thoughts About Dad.
posted by superfluousm at 3:24 PM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Springsteen is being attacked here and will be attacked widely for the same reasons OWS is attacked: He's telling it like it is, and the manager-types don't like that.

Springsteen isn't the point of the message. Nor is his wealth nor is his motivations.

Attempts to divert attention away from the message reveal the real concerns of those who choose that tactic.
posted by Twang at 4:26 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Springsteen is being attacked here and will be attacked widely for the same reasons OWS is attacked: He's telling it like it is, and the manager-types don't like that.

I am an active member of OWS and I consider Springsteen's current "message" as just another attempt to co-opt the movement for personal financial gain. I don't see much difference between Springsteen selling records with populist themes, and Jay-Z selling OWS t shirts and keeping all the money.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:32 PM on February 19, 2012


I consider Springsteen's current "message" as just another attempt to co-opt the movement for personal financial gain.

Except that THIS, what's spoken of on the new album (in general terms) is what Springsteen's always spoken and sang about.

I'm down with OWS to the max but that kind of logic points the other way of the point you're trying to make. Perhaps that movement is trying to co-opt Springsteen for whatever gain.

If you're an active member and you feel about The Boss the way you do, then perhaps I'm not as down with OWS as I thought I was...
posted by youandiandaflame at 4:42 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The original OWS protest was a project of Adbusters.

They are a magazine. You have to pay them if you want to read them.

I'm certain that the protest was, among other things, excellent advertising for them.

This implies somewhere between jack and squat about the meaning of the protest and its children.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:43 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am an active member of OWS and I consider Springsteen's current "message" as just another attempt to co-opt the movement for personal financial gain.

If you don't like his stuff, or think there's worthier material and musicians out there, that's certainly fair enough.

But if you insist on characterizing his themes/messaging as "current", it's going to suggest to anybody who's paying attention that you're not actually familiar with his music in any depth and don't deserve much credibility as a critic.

I hardly think his output is unassailable, and I don't have any more idea than the next guy who doesn't know him whether he's "sincere" or not. Perhaps he's even made his whole career indifferently mining working/middle class struggles. But if he's an opportunist trying to ride on the back of the OWS movement, he's sure a prescient one, having gotten to the themes involved a few decades before the 2011 protests.
posted by weston at 5:03 PM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Tupac went to art school and studied poetry, theatre, and ballet.

John Fogerty was from Berkely, California.

Joe Strummer was the upper-middle-class son of a diplomat.

Therefore none of them were "authentic" so we can discount their efforts as sheer posturing and money-grubbing, because unless you're Robert Johnson or Doc Watson you're just not REAL enough.

Springsteen, as far as I know, has never held a job other than "rock musician"! How DARE he sing about the plight of the working class!

You know what else I heard? Harriet Beecher Stowe wasn't black! Frank Zappa made psychedelic music and never took drugs! Those POSERS!

Hey, I got this great cassette of a crazy guy banging on a trash can underneath the viaduct. Bring over some microbrews and we'll listen to it. It's so AUTHENTIC.

Yeah, I'm strawmanning all over the place and I apologize. But having watched the music I love (punk rock) self-destruct in the futile pursuit of the chimera of "authenticity", I'm deeply suspicious of any critique that is more concerned with the circumstances of the artist than the particulars of his or her art.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:37 PM on February 19, 2012 [21 favorites]


In this video of Wrecking Ball performed live last fall, was touched when I saw Clarence Clemons kiss Springsteen on the cheek as if it was something he did all the time.

He most certainly did not do that all the time. Mostly they kissed on the mouth.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:23 PM on February 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Bruce actually worked as an electrician's helper for my brother in law's dad for a while. So he has had at least one blue collar job but his dad did say that Springsteen was "a bum" who didn't show up to work a lot.
posted by octothorpe at 6:28 PM on February 19, 2012


One particular of his art, circa 1995, is "Youngstown":

"Well my daddy worked the furnaces, kept 'em hotter than hell
I come home from 'Nam worked my way to scarfer, a job that'd suit the devil as well
Well taconite coke and limestone fed my children and made my pay
Them smokestacks reachin' like the arms of God into a beautiful sky of soot and clay

Here in Youngstown, here in Youngstown
Sweet Jenny I'm sinkin' down
Here darlin' in Youngstown

Well my daddy come on the Ohio works when he come home from World War Two
Now the yard's just scrap and rubble, he said "Them big boys did what Hitler couldn't do."
Yeah these mills they built the tanks and bombs that won this country's wars
We sent our sons to Korea and Vietnam, now we're wondering what they were dyin' for"

Adds Wikipedia, "Activist historian Howard Zinn included the lyrics of the song in his 2004 book Voices from a People's History of the United States."
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:33 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Full track (for the moment): "Easy Money"
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:34 PM on February 19, 2012


I am an active member of OWS and I consider Springsteen's current "message" as just another attempt to co-opt the movement for personal financial gain.

You're really digging yourself a deeper and deeper hole here. If anything it's OWS that's stolen Bruce's message. The man's been singing stories about the plight and desperation of the 99% for forty year now.
posted by octothorpe at 6:53 PM on February 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm kind of digging the tussle between Bruce-o-lytes and the "active members of OWS" (as opposed the passive ones, who just hunkered down in Zuccotti Park) as to which begat which.

But why don't we just consider Woodie Guthrie as the movement's Octomom and get past this?
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:15 PM on February 19, 2012


I am an active member of OWS and I consider Springsteen's current "message" as just another attempt to co-opt the movement for personal financial gain.

You do understand that there were people who were upset about the plight of the working class before last year, don't you? You didn't actually discover the poor, you know. Neither did Springsteen, but he doesn't spend any time trying to convince that he has more social-justice street cred than you do, either.
posted by Etrigan at 7:20 PM on February 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


The hagiography isn't his fault. Does he play to it? I dunno.

I really don't think there's any possible controversy as to that. But unlike some voicing that criticism, I do think he's sincere.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:20 PM on February 19, 2012


And there's a real tradition of populist rock and roll, and yeah, I buy it.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:23 PM on February 19, 2012


Springsteen began as the greatest musical ethnographer of the zenith of the postwar class compromise, which turned out to be a knife in the back of American blue collar communities.

Myths are good things for societies to have, and to be held accountable for.
posted by spitbull at 7:30 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


England has their own version of Bruce Springsteen. He just isn't known for playing 4 hour shows and having a string of number 1 songs and albums.

but damn, he's excellent. I still have my copy of Talking With The Taxman from 30 years ago.
posted by hippybear at 7:30 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, I can say one good thing for this lunatic trainwreck of a discussion: it inspired me to throw my Springsteen playlist on the old iPod earlier as I was cleaning up after dinner.

My two-year-old and I rocked that kitchen hard. We started with "Born to Run" - because there's no good reason not to - and we both agreed that it's so propulsive and anthemic that it's very easy to miss how desperate a song it is (The highway's jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive . . .).

Next up was "Dancing in the Dark," which is another yearning tune disguised as a joyous one, and which is about 45 times better written than almost anything else that hit the Top 40 in 1984. "I ain't nothin' but tired," I sang along, "man, I'm just tired and bored with myself." It was hard to make out my two-year-old's reply, but I think he was trying to say that it was funny how such a danceable tune was actually about coming to the end of your carefree dancing days.

My two-year-old busied himself with a project involving metal bowls as "Atlantic City" came on and the mood turned sombre. "Now I was lookin' for a job but it's hard to find," I sang to my indifferent toddler. "Down here it's just winners and losers and don't get caught on the wrong side of that line." That was the Boss writing slogans for OWS in 1982. Next up was "State Trooper," and by the time that haunted howl came blowing in even my two-year-old had to agree this was not a guy chasing easy hits for fast money.

It was pretty much bedtime, but I made the boy stay up for one last song: "The Ghost of Tom Joad." "People weren't paying as much attention to Springsteen in '95," I told him, "but damn, boy, 'The highway is alive tonight / Nobody's kiddin' nobody about where it goes' - there was someone who didn't buy into the whole Clinton schtick." He hiccupped, but I could tell it gave him pause for thought.

I just tucked him in. Said: "Listen, kid. You'll hear a lot of things about America in your time. Lots of 'em negative. Lots of 'em said by me, actually. But if you're against Bruce Springsteen's America, I can't imagine what good things in the world you're for."
posted by gompa at 7:33 PM on February 19, 2012 [32 favorites]


Now I feel compelled to mention the best possible cover of Born To Run, by a band who also did a pretty excellent live version of the song.
posted by hippybear at 7:42 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Story of Born to Run was on CBC one Saturday night a few months ago, and it was awesome.

For some reason, Springsteen and Stephen King seem to go hand in hand for me. Perhaps it's because I was often listening to Springsteen while reading King in his heyday, back in the mid-80s, but Springsteen also has a wonderful ability to speak in the voice of what I presume is regular American folks. He's a great ambassador for your country.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:19 PM on February 19, 2012


I hope The Boss reads this thread and writes a song about it.
posted by m0nm0n at 10:12 PM on February 19, 2012


Ha, he may be The Boss but he ain't no flapjax at midnite
posted by infini at 10:19 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


[A few comments deleted; maybe there's a way to do this without hurling hyperbolic insults at each other? Just a thought.]
posted by taz at 11:00 PM on February 19, 2012


I always considered Springsteen too American and too rock for my tastes, but this thread has convinced me to give him a go. So that's one positive outcome.


He just isn't known for playing 4 hour shows and having a string of number 1 songs and albums.


Are you saying those thing are bad things?
posted by Summer at 12:17 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I first heard Springsteen when I was a kid growing up in Australia, when "Born in the USA" was flogged for months and then years on every radio and TV and then reprised during the gulf war for more months and years.

It became an American anthem and I think it is this aspect of Springsteen's music that people have problems with. His songs aren't totally representative, and how could they be, of the USA made up so many many different places and people.

It hasn't stopped his music being used to represent a homogeneous American ideal. Conservatives like his music because it is loaded with working class American mythology and doesn't actively threaten them in any way at all. In his music all working people are working class and if they have any problems they drown their sorrows with good American alcohol. This is easy listening no matter your political persuasion and there's no need to oversell it as political; unless it's your job.
posted by vicx at 2:01 AM on February 20, 2012


Conservatives like his music because it is loaded with working class American mythology and doesn't actively threaten them in any way at all.

I forgot to mention that I was the first DJ in the NYC area to play a live bootleg of "41 Shots" on the air. In the middle of the night.

And I got threatening calls from cops for doing it.
posted by spitbull at 4:40 AM on February 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


("American Skin" I mean)
posted by spitbull at 4:41 AM on February 20, 2012


ocschwar: "
No kidding. There is no shorter path to Scrooge McDuck vault-swimming than to make music about themes of poverty, class inequality and hopelessness. People just lap that shit up. It's like a license to print money.


So what is Bruce Springsteen supposed to do?
"

I suspect there was some hamburger in Horace Rumpole's comment.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:20 AM on February 20, 2012


I suspect fried onions and mushrooms on that sesame bun
posted by infini at 7:06 AM on February 20, 2012


The entire album is [cough] out there now.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:59 AM on February 20, 2012


It became an American anthem and I think it is this aspect of Springsteen's music that people have problems with.

It always seems to me like lots of people have never listened to the lyrics to "Born in the USA" past the refrain. The idea that BitU is somehow jingoistic RAH RAH USA stuff is craziness.
posted by Justinian at 11:33 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I suspect there was some hamburger in Horace Rumpole's comment.

If I have to make my sarcastic comments more sarcastic than that in order to be clear, I think I might pull my sarcasm muscle. I'd have to stay out of everything but cute-kitty threads for a month while it healed.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:38 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It always seems to me like lots of people have never listened to the lyrics to "Born in the USA" past the refrain. The idea that BitU is somehow jingoistic RAH RAH USA stuff is craziness.

Music (and all forms of Art) are defined by their reception more so than intent. The artist may intend to write stinging social commentary but if it is received (and used) as nothing more than "rah-rah-rah go America go" then the initial intent is either no longer of any importance, or at the very least diluted to the point of having lost relevance.

I would suggest that Bruce Springsteen is not the poetic genius some people seem to think he is.

rah rah rah
posted by datter at 6:20 AM on February 21, 2012


Do those paragraphs have anything to do with one another?
posted by LogicalDash at 7:10 AM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


The artist may intend to write stinging social commentary but if it is received (and used) as nothing more than "rah-rah-rah go America go" then the initial intent is either no longer of any importance, or at the very least diluted to the point of having lost relevance.

The whole point of a song like Born in America is that it was designed to be misunderstood. It's not like the he wrote the lyrics about a man who's been crushed by his country and then forgot about that when he went to write the chorus. The character who's narrating the song is blindly loyal to and loves a country that had done everything it can to destroy him in return. So the people who blindly chant the chorus and ignore the verses are as deluded as the guy in the song and I find it very unlikely that Springsteen didn't do that on purpose to create a commentary on reflexive patriotism.
posted by octothorpe at 9:31 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obviously, the point of Born in the USA is the juxtaposition of jingoistic patriotism with the reality of how America treated its Vietnam era veterans. The fact that some people heard it only as the former is not an indictment of the song, but a joke on those people.

This Land, my friends, Is Your Land. Now God Bless America.

And if you don't get the reference, you probably don't get Springsteen.
posted by spitbull at 9:49 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your favorite great poet sucks.
posted by spitbull at 9:49 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Music (and all forms of Art) are defined by their reception more so than intent. The artist may intend to write stinging social commentary but if it is received (and used) as nothing more than "rah-rah-rah go America go" then the initial intent is either no longer of any importance, or at the very least diluted to the point of having lost relevance.

How many people have listened to "Born in the USA" and thought, "You know, I used to think that America had some flaws, but not anymore!"?

How many people have listened to "Born in the USA" and thought, "You know, I used to think that America was perfect, but Vietnam vets did kinda get a raw deal..."?

I'm going to guess that B > A.
posted by Etrigan at 2:19 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Go to a NASCAR race or a football game next July 4th and I'll bet you come to diffrent conclusion.
posted by datter at 4:22 PM on February 21, 2012


A football game on July 4? You're not from around here, are you?
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:13 PM on February 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


The artist may intend to write stinging social commentary but if it is received (and used) as nothing more than "rah-rah-rah go America go" then the initial intent is either no longer of any importance

As if. Art can only be evaluated on the basis of the perceptions of the most ignorant and puerile frikken dipsticks who happen to encounter it?

Please.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 5:27 PM on February 21, 2012


You could reasonably argue that Born in the USA suffers as a piece of social criticism because the hook and the tone of the music overpowers the subtle lyrics for many listeners.

That doesn't change the fact that any reasonable level of intention to that song or much of the rest of Springsteen's work belies the original charge datter (and others) leveled, which was that he's "capitalizing on a current social theme to regain relevance and sell records."
posted by weston at 12:50 PM on February 22, 2012


You could reasonably argue that Born in East LA is a better piece of social criticism than anything Springsteen ever did.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:21 PM on February 23, 2012


You could reasonably argue that Born in East LA is a better piece of social criticism than anything Springsteen ever did.

Yes, you could do that. Just as you could "reasonably argue" that cold fusion is a theoretical possibility or that crop circles are caused by tiny localized windstorms or that a chupacabra sighting is an encounter with actual yet-to-be-discovered as opposed to "a guy with a beer buzz seeing a coyote with mange".

Whether your reasonable arguments are correct is a matter of some debate, however.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:16 PM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


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