Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. (1984)

Good morning!

I'm still a little under the weather from my winter adventure on Monday, so I've spent most of this morning listening to a documentary on Bruce Springsteen and mending books in the library work room. And hasn't the former been interesting! I have to say, in spite of being obsessed with the energy in radio hits like "Born to Run", "Glory Days", and "Dancing in the Dark", that for a classic rock connoisseur, I do not know a lot about Bruce Springsteen. 

I bought this album in high school and had the cover taped to the kitchen wall in my college apartment-style dorm,
along with Neil Young and Peter Frampton, among others. LOOK AT HIM.
Things I do know:
  • Pappy, whose favorite genre of songs is "the story song", LOVES "Glory Days". Sings along with it every time it comes on the oldies' station. Which is a lot.
  • My college sociology professor, Dr. Tally, was really, REALLY into the album Born in the U.S.A. He opened class once with a story about how his Springsteen concert t shirt had been actually stolen from a gym locker room in the eighties', and it was a great loss. He had us write an extra verse to the song "My Hometown". Those are the only two things I remember from that class.
  • Dude was SMOKING. HOT. in the late seventies'. Not much less cute now, but truly, 1978 Bruce Springsteen... it's hard to look at the cover of Darkness at the Edge of Town, thirty plus years after its release, without having a teenybopper heart flutter.
I was reading a book called Rock and Roll Stories by photographer Lynn Goldsmith that includes a lot of her famous photos of musicians (everybody from the B-52s to Miles Davis to Michael Jackson). She was dating Springsteen in the late seventies', and took a series of photos which include the aforementioned cover shot for Darkness on the Edge of Town. Some girls have all the luck! There's a wistful little paragraph of a caption about how their relationship fell apart under the strain of being two headstrong, career-driven people, which immediately made me interested in knowing more about that time period and Springsteen himself. I'm telling you, there is no more attractive category of books for me than "celebrity intimate's memoirs", I could read this stuff all night and all day and just start over at the beginning when I hit the end. The stuff that dreams are made of!

A Goldsmith photo of Springsteen. Not bad, huh?
Last night, I put on a copy of Born in the U.S.A. that had snuck into my record collection via an unusually good score of 80's records in good condition out at the Rivergate Goodwill (Madonna's True Blue, some AC/DC, Loverboy, Lionel Ritchie...someone donated their whole eighties' album collection!). It was such a weird feeling to put on a record and listen to it the whole way through, front to back. What a front...what a back:

What was interesting to me, in having the physical product in my hands, was what a complete, pre-Internet package you have here for discovering the artist in the album design. Not every record has much more than track listings and an album cover! Born in the U.S.A. includes a picture sleeve with the E Street Band and other album credits, AND the all important lyric sheet. While I put in plenty of time transcribing songs from mixtapes in looseleaf notebooks in high school, I can remember how exciting it was following along with the lyric sheet of Sergeant Pepper's or Aladdin Sane, thinking, "Thank you, record company, for recognizing the fact that I don't want to know, I NEED to know what the artist I'm into right now is saying on this all-important-album-to-me RIGHT NOW." We didn't have the internet in my Luddite parents' house at all when I was growing up, so the packaging of a cd and the library books I could get on the artists went a long way in my musical education. I took the lyric sheet and read through it as the album played.

Plus, look at how much BRUCE there is to look at in this album:

And isn't it a lonely, frustrated, epic little album at that. In 1984, Bruce Springsteen was thirty five, had been playing music professionally for nearly twenty years, and was almost a decade away from the commercial success of 1975's Born to Run album.  I am always blown away by how musicians had careers back in the sixties', seventies', and eighties'. One album hits big, next album fizzles, you just keep sloughing away at it and touring until you break into the charts again. 1980's The River had the hit "Hungry Heart" in the top 10, 1982's Nebraska  was a critical success, but Born in the U.S.A., Springsteen's seventh album, was a MONSTER. Seven singles in the top 10! Fifteen MILLION copies sold in the US alone! And no wonder. The cri de coeur that is "Dancing in the Dark"... "Cover Me", originally meant as a song for Donna Summers (?!)...the often misappropriated title track..."Glory Days"...I like every song on the album, and that doesn't happen very often! (I guess that's why they call it a classic, Lisa; I guess that's why they call it a classic).

Another strange thing about the Boss? Someone here at NPL in the collections development division must have a thing for him...we have THIRTY NON FICTION BOOKS on his life and career in our catalog. THIRTY. Don't believe me? Look at these search results!  Part of my duties in the reference department up here include creating two book displays (on tables near the stacks) a month-- I once literally did a display that was entirely Bruce Springsteen books (while somehow managing to actually read none of them...shame!), with just a picture of him in the middle with the words "THE BOSS" emblazoned across the top. Now, having a new perspective on that classic album, I'll have to actually crack a few open and tell you what kind of insights I gain into the legend of New Jersey's most famous son.

How about you? Are you a Springsteen fan? Have you rediscovered any classic rock albums lately that you'd just overlooked somehow? Who's one artist you would LIKE to get into but never got around to? Let's talk!

That's all for today, but I'll catch you back here tomorrow. Keep trucking through the work week, and we'll see you then! Take care.


  1. These songs propel some of us back to our days of youth. No more need be said. However, it evokes the memory of sitting in front of the stereo turntable hooked up to a cassette recorder while being wired to speakers of mammoth proportions. Ahh. Then singing as loud as you could with the vision of all the instruments playing around you. Then, repeating the scene in your car with the cassette tape you recorded. The music is still solid and I admit I still listen. The only difference these days, I use the ipod connected to ear buds more than the stereo turntable. The huge drawback is you can hear my voice, not the artists! Ahh. Chicago was another group that had me and my friends dreaming, singing and swooning. Robert Lamm, Peter Cetera, James Pankow. I still have all my 33 RPMs and have collected a few more in the last two years now that I am an adult. I just have more income these days and when you can pick up pristine albums at a cost less than a coffee, how can you not? Thanks for letting me verbally swoon!

    1. What a beautiful remembrance! I just don't see how youtube on a laptop can ever compete with the experience you described of a turntable, cassette deck, and crazy-huge speakers. I can't even imagine what my high school years would have BEEN LIKE without a constant stream of cassette tapes, so it makes me sad my kids some day won't understand what those were. Still! The memories are there! Thanks as always for reading, Vivian!! :D

  2. I remember the iconic cover of Born in the USA being everywhere when I was about in 2nd grade. I remember thinking the tight shot of the butt with a do rag was so scandalous...and so hot. I STILL DO! Now that I am all overcome with the vapors, I must say I love the Boss, but he is responsible for one of the most upsetting thunder road where he says, "You're not a beauty, but hey, you're alright!" I never can get over that line. It pisses me off everytime...

    1. I KNOW, ME TOO! That cover, if you saw in grade school, you'd be like, "Whoa, is it really just the Boss's BUTT, omg, how did they get away with that?" That "Thunder Road" lyric isn't as bad as one of my favorite Carl Perkins's songs, "Gone Gone Gone" ....and I quote:

      "Well that must be my girl, yours don't look like that
      Well that must be my girl, yours don't look like that
      I know my baby, she's so round and fat"




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