Tag Archives: Bruce Springsteen

Racing in the street

The title of this blog is taken from a Bruce Springsteen song which is, I believe, based on a film of the same name starring Robert Mitchum. It’s probably glaringly obvious that I’m a bit of a Springsteen fan.

Lately I’ve been listening to Darkness on the Edge of Town a lot, along with the outtakes from this album, which now feature on a double album, The Promise. One of the best known songs from Darkness is Racing in the Street.

Sometimes you can listen to a song hundreds of times and still not hear what others do.

One of my mates recently spoke to me about Darkness, and his awe that a young, 20-something Springsteen understood middle age so well when writing the songs. That’s very true. For a young writer to create such believable characters requires a lot of empathy and wisdom.

My mate also suggested we need to have some of the lyrics from Racing in the Street printed on our after-dark cycling jerseys, namely:

“Some guys they just give up living, start dying little by little, piece by piece,
“Some guys come from work and wash up and go racing on the street…”

Spot on.

There’s a powerful, sad story in Racing. Mr Springsteen and the E-Street Band do a particularly evocative version of it in the clip below. Respect.

Music on the wind

When The Big Day Out is held at the Melbourne Showgrounds, I can hear chunks of the artists on the main stage from my yard – depending on which way the wind blows.

I remember hearing most of New Order’s set a few years back. Very cool. It helps if I know the music as I can mentally add the bits the wind doesn’t deliver. However, one act I knew nothing about literally blew me away – this track from Canadian band Arcade Fire:

Arcade Fire has been compared with one of my all-time rock heroes, Bruce Springsteen … and yes, I reckon I can hear the influences in some of their tracks. Another link is that the Boss and the Fire are both big-time Obama supporters. Indeed, search the YouTubes and you’ll find a phone-recording of my favourite Arcade Fire track, Intervention, being played at the Obama Staff Ball no less.

Imagine getting that call: “Hello, it’s the president of the U-nited States. Yes, Obama. No… I’m not bullshitting. It’s me. I want you to play to my staff…”

I’d have linked the White House clip here but one of the staffers is singing so badly it kills the song. Here it is loud and live in Scotland instead:

Why Thunder Road?

Someone asked me recently why this blog is tagged Thunder Road. There are a couple of reasons.

One is the Bruce Springsteen song of the same name, one of my personal favourites. I think writing fiction is a leap of faith, similar to the choice Mary is being asked to make in the song. It takes courage to put take yourself outside your comfort zone, to risk releasing your ideas to a carnivorous public. Interestingly, in the clip below Springsteen describes the song as the “invitation” at the start of the brilliant Born to Run album. We don’t get to hear the rest of his thoughts in the clip but I see the song as an invitation to adventure. To leave the everyday and gamble on life getting better.

So what else attracted me to the title? I sometimes think an author’s job is to walk towards the storm and watch how it plays out for the people beneath it. The storm is where actions, emotions and expectations collide. That’s where the story is most likely to be.

Storytellers in song

Back when I was a kid, Dad had a Johnny Cash single in his record collection featuring ‘A Boy Named Sue’ and ‘Folsom Prison Blues’. I don’t ever remember him playing it but the curious title led me to to putting it on the record player one day and I’ve loved those tracks ever since.

I’m generally not a fan of country and western music although some of my favourite artists, such as Paul Kelly, The Waifs and Bruce Springsteen, regularly stray into C&W territory. Despite this I recently purchased┬áthe two Johnny Cash live in prison albums, those recorded at Folsom and San Quentin. I’m┬ásucker for a live album containing artist-audience banter at the best of times* but these are brilliant. Cash, who had his share of dealings with the justice system, really connects with the inmates in his audience. Indeed, I almost wonder why the prison authorities let him return, given his criticism of the correctional system.

Anyway, returning to old favourite tracks made me think much how I enjoy a story told in song and I’ve started putting together a Storyteller playlist. It’s a work in progress but here are some of the tracks and influences that I’d highly recommend.

Johnny Cash – A Boy Named Sue; John Henry’s Hammer; I’ve Got Stripes

Paul Kelly – Other People’s Houses; Bradman; Everything’s Turning to White (based on the Raymond Carver story); Maralinga; Our Sunshine (based on the Robert Drewe Ned Kelly story) and many more

Bruce Springsteen – The entire Ghost of Tom Joad album; The River; Thunder Road; Nebraska; and many more

Bob Dylan – Hurricane (I’m a latecomer to the Dylan canon)

The Waifs – Bridal Train; Vermillion

Weddings, Parties, Anything (and Mick Thomas) – Scorn of the Women; Sergeant Small; A Tale They Won’t Believe; Fathers’ Day

John Butler Trio – Caroline

I could go on but this post, like my playlist, will become too long. My point is that enjoying short stories doesn’t necessarily involve scanning the printed page. Check out some of these lyricists and you won’t be disappointed.

* Springsteen’s Live 1975-1985 is absolutely sensational and contains personal stories as well as his musical snapshots of back-streets America. It’s hard to find but well worth hunting down.