The problem with growing old is that the older you get the faster time seems to speed up. Today my girlfriend commented that the first decade of the new millennium was almost over, and I had to pause a second before I realized that she was right.
How in the hell did that happen? It seems like the Bush-9/11 years went by in such a rush…not that I’ll miss them. I remember when I was young and a night could last indefinitely, a year as a lifetime and a decade was forever.
It makes you wonder if it’s time that’s changing or merely our perception of it, although I’ll put my money on the latter…and no other artist that I know of has been able to capture that feeling of expanded time quite like Bruce Springsteen did in his 1975 masterpiece, “Born to Run.”
Born in 1949 in New Jersey, Bruce had a hard time relating in school, but like most music legends of the time he heard Elvis Presley and knew he had to rock…getting his first guitar at age 13 for a whopping $18. Three years later his mother would take out a loan to buy him a $60 Kent. He languished in High School…never really fitting in to the point that he skipped his own graduation. He spent some time in community college before deciding that school wasn’t for him and dropping out. In 1965 he went to a local couple with a reputation for sponsoring new young bands, Tex and Marion Vinyard, who got him his first gig as head of a group called The Castiles where he was lead guitar…and soon became lead singer as well.
BY the late 60′s he was making waves with a power rock trio called Earth, where he earned his nickname “The Boss” for being the guy in charge of getting the bands money from the club owners and distributing it to the band. Let it be noted that Bruce hates this nickname, so if you run into him try and refrain from calling him “The Boss” since he hates bosses. From 1969 to 1970 he played with a band called Steel Mill which included many future members of the E Street Band, but despite great reviews and a cult following in New Jersey Bruce was not satisfied. He was a man in search of a sound who wouldn’t stop till he found it.
For the next few years he formed a number of bands as he hunted the sound and formed his core band…groups like Dr Zoom and the Sonic Boom, the Sundance Blues Band, and The Bruce Springsteen Band. As word of his talent grew, he garnered the attention of Columbia records who signed him in 1972.
In the studio, Springsteen brought out the still yet to be named E Street Band to help record his debut album “Greetings From Ashbury Park, NJ” The album was a critical success, but was easily dismissed by many to be just another Dylan or Van Morrison knock off. In 1973 he released his next album “The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle” with the songs getting bigger and better and the band hitting a more soulful R&B vibe. But as much critical acclaim as he was gathering…commercial viability still alluded Bruce and it was slowly draining him.
But in early 1974 Bruce found a new ally in music critic Jon Landau, who after seeing the band perform declared “I saw the future of rock and roll, and it’s name is Bruce Springsteen.” Landau became Bruce’s new manger and the producer who would help him finish his last chance album “Born to Run.” Bruce was given a huge budget but had gotten bogged down in the studio searching for the Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” feel. It took 14 months to record the album, with six of those months devoted to the title track alone. A release of an early mix of the album to progressive rock stations was already beginning to grow the buzz, and Bruce was determined to get it right…becoming angry and frustrated by the fact he couldn’t translate the sounds in his head to the recording. Steven Van Zandt came in the nick of time to help Springsteen polish his sound and get some of the sounds in his head on tape, but even the finished product didn’t please Bruce who chucked the album into an alley.
Luckily it didn’t stay there. On August 13th, 1975 Bruce and the E Street Band began a five night ten show run at the Bottom Line Club in New York. Broadcast on FM radio, the shows silenced any detractors once and for all and let everyone know that Bruce Springsteen was the real thing. When the album dropped a few weeks later, the commercial success he had been searching for finally arrived with it.
I always knew I liked Springsteen, I just didn’t know much about him growing up because my sisters really didn’t listen to him and that was my only influx of modern music in the house. Now after years of listening I feel safe pointing all non believers in the direction of this album because it’s such a pure example of rock and roll. I defy you to listen to it and not feel good. Some may say “Darkness on the Edge of Town” was a better album, and I’d be inclined to agree with them…but it just doesn’t make you feel like “Born to Run.”
BTW: These videos are from Bruce’s performance at the Hammersmith Odeon Theater from November of 1975. You should own that too.
I’m just sayin.