Friday, March 18, 2011

Still Alive Apocalyptic Poet: Bruce Springsteen

Since it is rather the popular sport of the moment to beat up on the boomers, it seems only fair to point out that on occasion they did have a clue what was going on.  Or at least they can write some good poetry.  What I like about Mr. Springsteen's lyrics is that there is a poetry to them, and there is usually a subtle second layer to their meaning: but you do not have to be an absolute rocket scientist to figure out the sub-text.
Bruce Springsteen (video link)
Well the street lights shine
Down on Blessing Avenue
Lovers they walk by
Holdin' hands two by two

A breeze crosses the porch
Bicycle spokes spin 'round
Jacket's on, I'm out the door
Tonight I'm gonna burn this town down

And the girls in their summer clothes
In the cool of the evening light
The girls in their summer clothes
Pass me by

Kid's rubber ball smacks
Off the gutter 'neath the lamp light
Big bank clock chimes
Off go the sleepy front porch lights

Downtown the store's alive
As the evening's underway
Things been a little tight
But I know they're gonna turn my way

And the girls in their summer clothes
In the cool of the evening light
The girls in their summer clothes
Pass me by

Frankie's Diner's
Over on the edge of town
Neon sign spinnin' round
Like a cross over the lost and found

Fluorescent lights
Flicker above Bob's Grill
Shaniqua brings a coffee and asks "fill?"
And says "penny for your thoughts now my poor Bill"

She went away
She cut me like a knife
Had a beautiful thing
Maybe you just saved my life

In just a glance
Down here on Magic Street
Love's a fool's dance
I ain't got no shoes but I still got my feet

And the girls in their summer clothes
In the cool of the evening light
The girls in their summer clothes
Pass me by

And the girls in their summer clothes
In the cool of the evening light
The girls in their summer clothes
Pass me by
The album Magic which this comes from is a political-social protest with much of its anger pointed at the Bush Administration, but also a lot of sadness with regard to where the United States has gone.  Now that Bush is gone its general theme can easily be expanded to an end of the world as we know it.

I think Mr. Springsteen would belong to the generation that would believe that there was enough for all, and that the promise of plenty for all was taken away.  I take this as a subset of the delusion of ever expanding resources/technology/whatever.
It is not much of  a reach, within the context of Bruce Springsteen, to see the Summer Girl as the youthful promise of America and “Bill” as the blue collar American left with his dreams unfulfilled.  It is also easy enough to expand the theme to that of a society living the happy life as the dream fades away:  sooner for some than for others.
This song seems to be of a piece with the last stanza of his much earlier Thunder Road (video link).  The young lady is again the reluctant American youth, and the “boys” are the Vietnam casualties.
Well I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk
And my car's out back if you're ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door's open but the ride it ain't free
And I know you're lonely and there's words that I ain't spoken
But tonight we'll be free, all the promises'll be broken
There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road
In the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn you hear their engines roaring on
But when you get to the porch they're gone
On the wind, so Mary climb in
It's a town full of losers and I'm pulling out of here to win.


Waldow said...

I counter yr assertion that The Boss's greatness can make up for the Boomer's lameness, with the fact that there are no radio stations that play his stuff, and who owns those stations? The Boomers! (I can just hear some 58 year old douche countering "*I* have sattelite radio")

Interesting side note. Superficially a prelude to driving, hearing Thunder Road makes a blue collar man mighty thirsty. I guess that was more OK in the 70s. Hey, there you go, the Boomers helped curb drunk driving. That & pop music, nothing else did they get right.

russell1200 said...

It is odd that Springsteen is not played much even on classic rock stations. I am ambivalent about him in any case. I have the album Magic, and in it he has a couple pictures of the band, one of a dead friend, and lots of pictures of himself.

A lot of Springsteens popular music came from an era of tough times (some of Dire Straights as well). Maybe the audiences no longer identified or responded to the plight of the working man.

What I find mystifying is how the younger generation can be more narcist than the boomers? Or maybe it is that fine line between being pandered to and spoiled versus nacisim. Presumably it is the echo boomers (children of the boomers (1982 to 1995)) who are the primary culprits. So I guess it is the factor of entitlement squared.

Waldow said...

Springsteen's about as good as it gets for Pop music, and he has real content to his lyics. So he has pictures of himself in linear notes? People want to buy them, he wants to make money. When he goes in for public charity like Bono, now that's a very twisted for of self-centeredness.

Which brings me to the bone I really want to pick with ya. I agree that the trend in our society is towards narcissism.

But above you seem to identify entitlement as a prime cause. Wouldn't you agree that self-centeredness in general goes up as you move from people with less income to more income? Think of Yuppies from the 80s, think of celebrities, not to mention the behavior of people like former BP CEO Tony Hayward or Mr. Diamond of Goldman Sachs. Does it get much more entitled than that?
Certainly not more self-centered.

Contrast this with the growing number of young uns that take foodstamps. Yes I have to argue with my friends about taking them, which I find it dishonorable to take if you are of working age and don't have kids, but is very minor example of self-centeredness and entitlement and budget impact comparatively speaking. They should just suck it up and eat a ton of cheap eggs like Cool Hand Luke.

Of course there are exceptions, for instance artists (who make images & are mostly broke-jokes) tend towards narcissism, and I had a manager or two at Kaiser Permanente who made 6 figures but who's best quality seemed to be how they cared for and treated their office drones, but these seem the exception to the general rule.

Another factor more important than entitlement is technology. My fav whipping post. It gives people the illusion they don't need others. One example of this in action is the exporting of manufacturing and ag jobs through fossil fuel & dirty finance & regulation. It takes meaningful, humbling work away and leaves people F.I.R.E. jobs (if u are fortunate), and in these occupations yr image is in fact more important than yr connection to the real world and all the other spirits in it. But of course people put their faith in materialism now because of technology.

So we are back to Cool Hand Luke, see he was against those meter machines, the men with the mirrored eyes, ate him some eggs, avoided rice, and help his buddies take real pride in work regardless of what material you get to show for it. This is probably now a prime example of failure to communicate.