Tag Archives: love

A Springsteen soundtrack to the years

Two albums provided the soundtrack to my final years in secondary school. Prince’s Purple Rain was epic, eccentric ’80s pop. Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA was gritty rock’n’roll stories of blue collar struggles and broken dreams. Prince’s characters were all mascara, lavender and lace. Springsteen’s were denim and dust and could have stepped from a Steinbeck novel.

I played both albums so many times I knew every note. School finished. I became a labourer and university student. New friends and long car trips made for evolving musical tastes. Albums like The Triffid’s Born Sandy Devotional, Paul Kelly’s Gossip and U2’s Joshua Tree intersected with my life. Apart from a brief flirtation with Prince, when we partied like it was 1999, the Purple One rarely returned to my stereo.

Mr Springsteen released a handful of albums I didn’t connect with. Rather than waiting for new material I started delving backwards. Albums like Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town were brilliant. The triple-cassette/CD (and 5 LP) compilation Live 1975-85 was the first box set I ever bought and showed me the showman as well as the storyteller, not to mention a band flexing some serious rock’n’roll biceps. That live set has been a regular companion ever since, ensuring Mr Springsteen’s work has chimed through the decades. The first track even provides the name for this blog.

Last Saturday I was part of a crowd of 17,000 people watching Bruce Springsteen and his legendary E-Street Band. The venue was Hanging Rock, about the closest thing I’ll ever have to a sacred site from my adolescence. Old school friends were dotted through the throng, along with great mates from recent years.

Only one other thing could have guaranteed time travel. Sure enough, there she was, grooving like no one was watching. Sighting the unmatched, unforgettable and unrequited crush of my late teen years felt surreal and somehow perfect.

Mr Springsteen and his 15-member band arrived on stage before sunset and launched into three hours of sublime musicianship. There was barely a breath between songs; even the break before the encore was fleeting. The storytelling was left to the lyrics and performances.

Perceptibly, the band were having fun in front of their biggest audience of the Wrecking Ball tour. Their smiles dominoed through the crowd. I saw years and burdens lifted from mates’ shoulders. We’d all named tracks we hoped to hear live; none of us missed out.

Best of all, the highlights came in unexpected places. Pardon the pun but the brass section blew us away, particularly on Johnny 99 and Pay Me My Money Down. Mr Tom Morello was every bit as awesome on guitar as in the clip on my previous post, making The Ghost of Tom Joad soar.

We walked away abuzz. On Easter Sunday morning I told a friend it was the best concert I’d ever seen. He’d been there at the rock too so he understood. He corrected me, “It’s the best concert you will ever see.”

I’ve trawled YouTube looking for a memory to do justice to our experience. There are great clips but nothing that matches what’s in my head. Instead I’m leaping into the DeLorean and travelling back to the celebrated song about writers’ block, Dancing in the Dark. Why? On this post, it feels right.

For the serious Bruce buffs, here’s the setlist from Hanging Rock, 30 March 2013:
1. Badlands
2. Prove it all night
3. High hopes
4. We take care of our own
5. Wrecking ball
6. Death to my hometown
7. Hungry heart
8. Spirit in the night
9. The river
10. Tougher than the rest (duet with Jimmy Barnes)
11. Atlantic city
12. Johnny 99
13. Pay me my money down
14. Darlington County
15. Shackled & drawn
16. Waitin’ on a sunny day
17. The promised land
18. The rising
19. The ghost of Tom Joad
20. Thunder Road
21. If I should fall behind
22. Because the night
23. Born to run
24. Glory days
25. Dancing in the dark
26. Tenth Avenue freeze-out



One of the things I learned during my time as a daily journo is that everybody loves a list story. Whether it’s Top 10 Ways to Avoid Cancer or Top Five Films of the Year, people will read it. To all the web editors out there, it’s a guaranteed way to boost eyeball traffic, surpassed only by headlines such as Win Win Win…. (and other words that most firewalls will block.)

Being a sucker for a list story myself, I read all the Top Albums of 2008 stories and, following my hunches, purchased a couple of the most consistently critically acclaimed for my iPod. One of them strikes me as OK but not what I hoped for. The other got a lukewarm initial response but has subsequently sunk into my bloodstream. I’m starting every day with it. I like the album cover, love the title and am drawn to the story of the creative process.

Bon Iver’s ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ apparently flowed from from a band bust-up, romantic break-up and illness. Muso Justin Vernon headed off to a remote snowbound cabin for three-months’ R & R – but ended up recording an album in seclusion, playing all the instruments and doing all the harmonies himself. It’s raw. The lyrics are elusive. It’s folky and far from rocky. I really like it.

The author part of me is envious of the idea of three months locked away with nature. Silence is golden. It helps clear your head of the white noise of phones, traffic, television and other distractions. With patience and silence, creative ideas can germinate safely without being lost.

The dad part of me knows three months’s seclusion is highly unlikely.

The social part of me recalls that I once went solo wilderness camping for four days and was practically talking to trees in that short period. How would I cope with three months away?

I find myself wondering about the ‘Emma’ from the album title too. I wonder if she’s heard it and how she has responded. She’s apparently a past love of Justin Vernon’s and that gets me thinking of unrequited and lost love. It’s corny but I understand why so many poems and songs are written about loves that never eventuated. I guess it’s because the enticing, addictive possibility of true love will never be tarnished by actuality.

And I wonder about the scars we leave behind when relationships founder. ‘For Emma’ suggests Justin Vernon has collected a few.

Anyway, if you want to see Bon Iver doing their thing laid back and unplugged, check out these beautiful clips from Paris. Great stuff.