Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Thunder Road

I think every generation has its poet, though the members of that generation may not realize it. Since the 1940s, this poet may be more likely to be a songwriter than an actual publishes-books-speaks-at-coffee-houses-makes-obscure-references-to-Tolstoy kind of poet. And by generation, I don’t necessarily mean the Baby Boomers or Generation X or anything as far-ranging as that. Some folks may consider Bob Dylan the poet of the Boomers but I have a couple of Boomer sisters who probably couldn’t name more than one of Dylan’s lyrics (and that would be from “Blowin’ in the Wind” and they’d be shaky about that one…)

For the 60s era, suburbanite girl, I’d propose that Lennon & McCartney were their poets. For a certain type of 80s era suburbanite girl, I’d propose that Sting was their poet. For a swath of 90s era folks, Kurt Cobain. For a similar cohort of contemporary teens and post-teens, Kanye West. (This also all assumes Americans – I have no idea what the cultural landscape looked or looks like anywhere else…)

Which is all a long preamble to my renewed appreciation of Bruce Springsteen. I got his remastered “Born to Run” CD for Christmas and hadn’t had a chance to listen to it until this past weekend. Starting with the opening strains of harmonica in “Thunder Road” I was tossed irretrievably back to high school and the pre-cynicism soul-rending ache of teenage love, lust and loss. I remember now how the word “artistry” used to be associated with pop music. What a master he was of setting his romantic, sometimes adolescent lyrics to soaring melodies, orchestrated with complimenting brash statements from piano, guitar and brass. And his vocals never were beautiful, but damn they were raw, his voice perpetually hoarse you could only assume from yelling at the top of lungs, out of love or pain or hope or anything else.

I could take or leave the song “Born to Run” but “Jungleland” is an unparalleled epic, “Backstreets” a gritty angsty cry, and the often overlooked “Meeting Across the River” an almost delicate timepiece, a testament to boyhood overconfidence. But “Thunder Road,” oh my, that first line catches in my throat every time: “Screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves/Like a vision she dance across the porch as the radio plays…” And what a poignant, perfect set is:
“Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night
You ain’t a beauty but hey you’re alright
And that’s alright tonight…”

Could anyone get away with writing stuff like that today? I don’t know but I don’t think so. Bruce was the poet of white teenage boys in the late 70s as far as I am concerned. And what a great gift it is to be able to wander those dusty halls of memory today, transported by a simple set of songs.


Blogger Sarachkah said...

Ok, I was not a white teenage boy in the late-70's, but my best friend in highschool had a mom who was obsessed with Bruce. She claimed "the River" was his best album and that "Born in the USA" was the beginning of the end.
Born to Run was my theme song in highschool, and I was convinced that it described my life in Richmond as aptly as Bruce's life in NJ. I am again in Richmond. Oh well.
Thunder Road is a gem. She's the One is the kind of song women want men to write about them.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Sarachkah said...

Oh, and also? Sting was not my poet. Mine were more likely to be Bono, Amy Ray, and early Tori Amos. But I was a different kind of suburban 80's girl, and none of those people quite reach the level of prominence or influence of a Dylan or Springsteen. Did the 80's even have a mainstream, talented, brilliant voice of that caliber? It was a bit drought-ish. I don't think Material Girl and the Safety Dance quite meet the criteria.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Lord Lessismore said...

Hi Sarah! It's good to hear from you and to hear your musical perspectives. I can't help but think about the "soundtrack to your life" that my girls are getting. I guess compared to the Material Girl, even 50 Cent ain't but so bad...

12:25 PM  

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