It's been a while since proverbial pen has been put to paper on my blog, but a rare night in the confines of my apartment in Galway is leading to the renaissance of "Who Will Stop the Rain." Sometimes I just get in a zone where I want to listen to music and really get lost in it. This usually happens with Bruce Springsteen songs in particular, but is absolutely not limited to them. Tonight is one of these nights I know I am a nerd and a loser. Watching a 2003 live performance of "Into The Fire" from Barcelona is really firing me up. It can be seen here.
Growing up in middle school, I was surrounded by the culture of basketball almost year-round. Along with that, and thinking I was "the man", came a simultaneous upbringing in rap and hip-hop My grammar school team was very good, as we competed for the championship almost every year in the Suburban Catholic League in central New Jersey. I was usually picked to the all star team, all league team (whatever you want to call it), so I was immediately under the disillusion that, like Nelly, I was goin' right out of high school, straight into the pros - Pros meaning NBA, and yes I just quoted country grammar by Nelly. Naturally, I had to listen to all the latest rap to pump me up for all the big games. It started out with Big Willie Style, The Eminem Show and eventually, Get Rich or Die Tryin'. No one could hold me down.
As I moved into the high school game I slowly began to realize that I was never going to have the luxury of cashing a check from the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, or any other NBA team. I wasn't even going to get a college scholarship either. My dreams were crushed, and I slowly started to listen to "white man's music." The first band that started my transition was Hootie & The Blowfish - still one of my favorite bands today. I remember hearing Hannah Jane, Let Her Cry, H0ld my Hand, Only Wanna be With You, Time, Not Even the Trees, and Drowning all on one cd in about an hour's time and I was hooked right away. To this day it remains my favorite album of all time. I have been lucky enough to see them play live three times, and while their show is not on the level of a Springsteen show, it's still like a fun party with your drunk uncles. Springsteen live is a religious experience, Hootie live is a drunken family party. Two completely different types of fun.
As college rolled along I started listening to more and more white man's music. I listened to Tom Petty, Goo Goo Dolls, Matchbox 20, Creedence Clearwater Revival, U2, and so on. Don't get me wrong, I still have a good amount of hip hop on my Itunes; but it's mostly circa late 90s and early 2000s. Nevertheless, my present day favorite artist began to emerge - The Boss had entered my life. I don't remember what or how exactly I started to listen but once I did, there was no looking back. No one has challenged his position on my musical throne since then, and I am confident in saying that no one will. Maybe it is because Bruce is an American rock icon. Maybe it's because we both live in the best state in the USA. Maybe because his E Street Band is a set of motley characters ranging from Clarence "The Biggest Man You've Ever Seen" Clemons to his red-headed wife Patti Scialfi. Somewhere in between is Steve Van Zandt, a former actor on the Sopranos. Maybe it's because Springsteen has delivered top of the line rock albums for 4 straight decades. Maybe it's because he still puts on the best live show out there at age 60. Actually, it's the combination of all of these things an the fact that I am a borderline nerdy music addict. That's cool though, right? Moving on...
I'm surprised that people around me don't get sick of hearing too much Springsteen. Maybe they do, but they bottle it up because my charming personality balances it out. Anyway, for me, no one can compare to Bruce. He does not have the most memorable voice, but his mixture of tone and rasp make it completely unique. Bruce's singing is not his strength as a musicion, though, nor is his guitar-playing. There are plenty of other legends out there who have more natural talent on both the microphone and the guitar. Where Springsteen has everyone else beat in in the lyrics. He is one of the best poets and song-writers of our generation. Every song is a story from his life; and if something happens to you in yours and you need a song to relate to it, Bruce has it. Break-ups, family problems, songs of despair, of triumph, of jubilation, of struggle, of hope, of mischief, of scandal, of the best times, of the worst times, of summers on the Jersey shore, of Growing Up, and of looking back - the Boss has them all. Without further ado, here is my all time top 10, subject to frequent change.
1.) Jungleland (Born to Run): I don't think you can describe this 9 minute masterpiece as anything other than triumphant and epic.
2.) Badlands (Darkness on the Edge of Town): Fires me up for day-to-day life. Sometimes we are at a low point or rough patch in our life, but it's always temporary and no one is ever stuck in the badlands.
3.) Growin' Up (Greetings from Asbury Park): This song takes you on a 3 minute and 6 second ride through your past. It has significant nostalgic value every time you listen to it.
4.) I'm Goin' Down (Born in the U.S.A.): Everyone has had that significant other that they were crazy about, but it was always doomed from the start. This is an anthem for guys (girls too I guess) falling out of a relationship looking for an outlet.
5.) Thunder Road (Born to Run): Similar to Jungleland, this song is an all-time rock classic and has stood the test of time to continue living up to its top-billing.
6.) The Promised Land (Darkness on the Edge of Town): I see some parallels here with Badlands. The promise of a better tomorrow is the main theme.
7.) Into the Fire (The Rising): This song about the brave who risked their life to save others during the 9/11 attacks in New York City speaks for itself.
8.) Long Walk Home (Magic): Anyone coming out of a relationship with a loved one knows all about the proverbial "long walk home." This song is incredible live, with Little Stevie going wild at the end with a solo.
9.) Rosalita (The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle): Bruce probably tried to court 1000 Rosie's in his day, but her parents were very wary of him
10.) Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out (Born to Run): Another classic of Born to Run about the early formings of the E Street Band. It's hard to top this as a concert opener.
Top 5 Bands as of today:
4.) Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
5.) Pearl Jam