Bruce Springsteen / Ragged Glory 1973 – 2002

 

1973 – 1982

 

01 Growin’ Up / Greetings From Asbury Park January 1973

02 Lost In The Flood / Greetings From Asbury Park January 1973

03 4th Of July Asbury Park (Sandy) / The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle September 1973

04 Rosalita / The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle September 1973

05 Thunder Road / Born To Run September 1975

06 Tenth Avenue Freeze Out / Born To Run September 1975

07 Backstreets / Born To Run September 1975

08 Born To Run / Born To Run September 1975

09 Racing In The Streets / Darkness On The Edge Of Town June 1978

10 Promised Land / Darkness On The Edge Of Town June 1978

11 The River / The River October 1980

12 Stolen Car / The River October 1980

13 Wreck On The Highway / The River October 1980

14 This Land Is Your Land / Live 1975-1985 Recorded December 1980

15 Born In The USA (Demo) / Originally Unreleased Recorded January 1982

16 Nebraska / Nebraska September 1982

17 Atlantic City / Nebraska September 1982

 

1982 – 2002

 

01 State Trooper / Nebraska September 1982

02 My Fathers House / Nebraska September 1982

03 Pink Cadillac / Single B Side May 1984

04 Downbound Train / Born In The USA June 1984

05 I’m On Fire / Born In The USA June 1984

06 Bobby Jean / Born In The USA June 1984

07 Tougher Than The Rest / Tunnel Of Love October 1987

08 Two Faces / Tunnel Of Love October 1987

09 Viva Las Vegas / The Last Temptation Of Elvis Compilation Recorded September 1989

10 I Wish I Were Blind / Human Touch March 1992

11 If I Should Fall Behind / Lucky Town March 1992

12 Streets Of Philadelphia / Single A Side March 1994

13 This Hard Land / Greatest Hits February 1995

14 The Ghost Of Tom Joad / The Ghost Of Tom Joad November 1995

15 Balboa Park / The Ghost Of Tom Joad November 1995

16 Dry Lightning / The Ghost Of Tom Joad November 1995

17 Dead Man Walking / Dead Man Walking Soundtrack January 1996

18 American Skin (41 Shots) / Live In New York City Recorded July 2000

19 Lonesome Day / The Rising July 2002

20 My City In Ruins / The Rising July 2002

 

   To anyone who doesn’t know any better, Bruce Springsteen is usually bracketed with the likes of Bon Jovi or Bryan bloody Adams. It’s frustrating that they can’t or won’t see the difference but I guess that says more about them than it does about him. But, as much as they don’t get it, for once I most definitely do and always have, the words of ‘Born To Run’ scrawled large on my 15-year-old bedroom wall, a reminder that escape from this humdrum world is always is possible.

   It’s impossible today to convey the radical and profound impact of Springsteen during the mid 70’s. In the years since Born In The USA he’s become more of an icon, a walking statement, and through no fault of his own, a prototype caricature embraced by meaningless good time party bands. But in the mid 70’s it was a revelation to see a man so low on pretence and so absolutely devoted and committed to the possibilities and magic of rock’n’roll. On record, but especially live, Springsteen broke down the barriers between himself and his fans ,most likely because he was first and foremost a fan himself, and used catharsis, devotion and boundless energy as the method and the goal as ends in themselves.

   Both his first two albums passed me by, being a little too wet behind the ears to appreciate what was after all a low-key start. Young and a little over excited, a folky Springsteen recorded Greetings From Asbury Park as a semi acoustic debut in thrall to the trail blazing names of rock’n’roll, from Elvis and Dylan to the Beatles, Stones and Van Morrison. The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle managed to mix the hopeless arrogance of youth with romanticism straight from the film screen best heard on ‘Rosalita’, one of his very finest. From these foundations Born To Run was built.

   A last chance saloon due to the sales disaster of its predecessor, Springsteen had a hugely ambitious aim to capture the romance of New Jersey life within a production to make Phil Spector proud. Almost abandoned because he struggled to capture the sound in his head, Born To Run was deeply rooted in emotive, rock’n’roll idealism fuelled on a litany of lovers, loners and losers. The thundering title track took me away from my middle class suburban home, inspiring me to chase that rainbow, preferably with a leather jacket, a Cadillac and a girl called Wendy. Not many songs do that!

   Born To Run pushed Springsteen into the big time but he had to wait three long years to follow it up. Bothered by record company hype and legal disputes with his then manager, he was angry as hell, finally purging himself through Darkness On The Edge Of Town. Steering away from escapism the characters were set in the middle of a community under siege, the claustrophobia of the songs resonating with punk, even if the styling never could. The River was an altogether brighter affair, filled with exuberance only the E Street band could bring although it was balanced out with some dark, sad, sad songs.

   Then came the first big change in direction. Sparked by new manager Jon Landau’s gift of a Woody Guthrie biography, Springsteen made his first overtly political comments from the stage while tapping into the bleak and solitary forms of old folk and hillbilly, in particular the beauty and purity of Hank Williams. Meanwhile Guthrie’s quasi-revolutionary anthem ‘This Land Is Your Land’ went straight into his live show.   

   In decades to come when the Stadium extravaganzas are forgotten it will be the core values of Springsteen’s songwriting that determine his place in history. On 3rd January 1982 he went back to basics. Recording on a four-track tape deck at home, with just an acoustic guitar, he took a hard look at America and was dismayed by what he saw. These recordings, with Hank Williams as a ghostly presence, unintentionally became Nebraska, one of the most pivotal albums in his entire catalogue. Originally ‘Born In The USA’ was included, possibly the most misunderstood song of all time. Written as a dark, slide guitar blues it was a cynical critique of post Vietnam American society, the later anthemic album version latched onto by Republican puppet Ronald Reagan. Clearly he never bothered listening to the words.

   Born In The USA, the album, was different again. The lyrics remained brooding tales but the songs were a string of upbeat, fist in the air anthems that turned Springsteen into a global superstar. The albums primary function was to make you feel good, despite offering very little hope at all. It was near impossible to follow that so on the underrated Tunnel Of Love Springsteen chose to pull back from his trademark thunder to contemplate his disintegrating marriage and the uncomfortable shackles of his own stardom.

   Five years later in 1992 he found himself at 40 with a new wife, kids and very, very rich. After a youth spent selling rebellion, the romantic beatnik life and escape, he was, not surprisingly, struggling for inspiration. Human Touch contained some of the worst material he’d ever recorded. But there were three or four songs that if swapped for some of the dead wood on the simultaneously released Lucky Town, would have earned their place on what could have been, if not a classic, then a very good album.

   The Oscar winning ‘Streets Of Philadelphia’ certainly was a classic. Singing spine tinglingly of loss and life wasting away it demonstrated his heartfelt understanding of the AIDS crisis. Still struggling for new material Springsteen briefly reunited with the E Street band to record new tracks for a Greatest Hits album. ‘This Hard Land’ was the strongest, utilising a dusty harmonica and mandolin to create a mountain blues setting.

   A full time reunion was expected but Springsteen took the opposite path. The Ghost Of Tom Joad was another deviation from the hallowed path of rock’n’roll with Springsteen, the humanist rock star, singing reflective stories of Americas lost and abandoned. If Born To Run and Nebraska were his first and second career defining albums, this was the third.

   ‘Dead Man Walking’, the theme song of Tim Robbins film was another fine diversion until the long awaited E Street reunion finally became reality in 1999. Springsteen himself was ‘reborn, rededicated, resuscitated, reinvigorated and rejuvenated with the magic, the mystery and the ministry of rock’n’roll.’ His habit of walking like he talked it showcased on the controversial ‘American Skin (41 Shots)’, included on Live In New York City. Pricking the conscience of his audience, it was a meditation detailing the shocking death of the unarmed Amadou Diallo by the NYPD. A new album was the logical next step, his first with the E Street band in 18 years.

   The Rising was Springsteen’s return to rock’n’roll as he addressed America, post 9/11 and attempted to rouse a traumatised nation with a renewed sense of hope. That proved Bruce Springsteen can still be relevant, still able to tap into both his and his nations consciousness even 30 years after his debut. Coming from America and doing what he does and saying what he says I have nothing but the greatest admiration and respect for him. As the man said ‘No retreat, no surrender’.

 

Winter 2005