Spending Time with The Boss

After years of hearing respected musicians and music-loving friends laud Bruce Springsteen, I've finally resolved to give him a chance.

My previous experience with Springsteen is limited at best.  I know most of the hits, his rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" actually stops me from flipping past the Christmas radio station, I own a well-worn vinyl copy of Nebraska, and I had a brief, but intense love of Born In the USA during elementary school (although mostly just the song, "Dancing in the Dark").

In response, I've decided to immerse myself in his catalog in a quest to see what I'm missing or whether my indifference to most of his music is justified. Originally I planned to call it "My September of Springsteen," but I'm getting a late start. Using our Freegal service [Update: Freegal is no longer available as of 1/31/12] and amazing CD collection, I'm starting with 1973's Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ and will work my way chronologically to 2009's Working On a Dream.  It might also be helpful to watch a few of his DVDs, but catching up on almost three decades of albums seems like a lot of work already.

Maybe the recently passed Clarence Clemons will be able to overcome my hatred of saxophones in rock music?  Maybe I'll glean some fashion advice from the hipster-worthy album photos from the 70s & 80s (excluding Tunnel of Love...yikes)?  I'm excited to find out.

Any advice for this endeavor?  Favorite albums or Springsteen memories?

What legendary musician would you choose for a similar project?

Written by Bobby on September 27, 2011

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jc on September 28, 2011

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Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska" + a rainy fall evening = probably the best way to experience the boss ever.

Kelly on September 28, 2011

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I too failed to see the appeal of Bruce for a long time...it was the song "I'm On Fire" that caught my attention and made me a fan. I am absolutely in love with Born To Run, but I love saxophones in rock music, so you may want to think twice before listening to me.
 

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I've been listening to Born to Run for a few days now in the car.  I like about 50% of it.  Backstreets has surprisingly become one of my favorite tracks.  Meeting Across the River, however, comes off as cheesy and dramatic and almost ruins the album for me.

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I like 'Meeting Across the River' for the characters portrayed in their desperate times(similar to what we have in our economy). But I also like about the song is that it is a precursor to a great song, 'Jungleland.'

If you are still delving into Springsteen material in November, I would highly recommend the Born to Run boxset(available from DPL). Watch the making of the album and then watch the Hammersmith show from London in 1975. I think after that show you would know whether you like Springsteen or not between the energy and showmanship that he brings to the show. Here was a young band being compared to the Beatles(which they the E Street band hated) with tremendous pressure from the press and skeptical fans. With that pressure, they give an AWESOME performance.

Sarah on September 28, 2011

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Maybe I'm too old to properly appreciate him. I like some of his stuff that I've heard but he's not Ian Anderson or Eric Clapton.

TJW on September 28, 2011

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It was always a bit strange rocking out to "Born in the USA" growing-up in my native Canada, but whatever, we did anyway. Perhaps phrasing it as a question would have helped ... "Born in the U.S., eh?" But seriously, the Boss is great, and like you have shared, there is much more to his musical repertoire and history as a songwriter than many know about. Next, delve into some early Gordon Lightfoot. My parent's first date was at one his concerts and I was practically raised on the masterful tones of the young Gord. Only now, however, do I really appreciate his ability to blend story and melody ... song after beautiful song.

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I had never thought about how "Born in the USA" would translate to listeners around the globe.  Very funny.  I have a friend who made me a great Gordon Lightfoot mix.  It piqued my interest but I never investigated further.  It might be worth the time.

Andrew on September 28, 2011

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Hi, Bobby - I came across your post by accident, and haven't read any of your other reviews, so I don't know what you like musically. Watching The Promise a few days ago was a great insight into the dedication Springsteen and the E Street Band put into *everything* they did. Seeing him driving the band and digging into himself to make a great record was a reminder of how he earned the nickname The Boss.

Having said that, going through the 3-volume Live 1975-1985 and listening to the mix of songs and stage settings is a good way to find out why people have been following him so long. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) is at the culmination of one of his legendary three-hour shows and you'd never know they weren't fresh to the stage. The stories he tells between songs (a feature he's given up since then) are as good as anything he put to music.

Favorite musical moments? The harmonica intro to Thunder Road. Favorite memory? Getting to see my first Springsteen concert (after listening to him since 1975) in Madison Square Garden on the closing night of his 1999-2000 tour.

Give him a shot. Hope you enjoy it.

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A friend was recently telling me about The Promise DVD that reminded me of my idea for this project.  I'll definitely be giving it a view.  I love getting to see the personalities behind the music although it has the tendency to either make me like them more or completely ruin my impression of them.  Also, I think the Live set will make a great capstone.  Based on his live show reputation, I'm looking forward to it.

N.K. on October 6, 2011

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"Born in the U.S.A." is one of the best protest songs ever (along with Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World"). Most people probably think it is some patriotic nonsense like a Lee Greenwood song, but no.

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