Tuesday, May 03, 2005


The Problem With Springsteen

From what I remember, Bruce Springsteen approached the status of being a god to me early on. I don’t really feel guilty about that, since a child of two can hardly be expected to understand the repercussions of idolatry. I’m not sure, but I think my first words may have even been “Blinded By the Light”. (If my mom’s reading, she can hopefully confirm this.)

At any rate, I'm a music fanatic. As such, I am of the belief that music, in those certain surreal moments, can provide us with our closest glimpses of the afterlife. And Springsteen jumpstarted my own musical journey. Greetings From Asbury Park remains a treasure to me. Born to Run was no small feat either. But then, somewhere shortly thereafter the Boss, or shall I say the man-who-would-become the Boss, lost his way.

(As an aside, I’m not trying to demean everything the guy has done thereafter. Born in the USA provided a vivid, mid-80’s soundtrack for my childhood. I may be a music snob, but I can still admit to liking “Glory Days” and “Dancing in the Dark”. But do they rise to the caliber of “Thunder Road” or “Lost in the Flood”? Puh-leeze.)

A new article at Slate.com does a great job of detailing the change in the Springsteen persona. He went from “a scrawny little dirtbag from the shore” to “a majestic American simpleton with a generic heartland twang”.

At the time, I was too young to perceive the dumbing-down of Springsteen that was transpiring, but now it seems obvious. It also seems to have been calculated, as the article detailed. The Boss wanted to live up to a caricature of himself that was emerging so he transformed into “Joe Sixpack from the Heartland”. But the truth was bound to surface and it has, of course. And it hurts.

Look, here’s the deal. I would never expect Thom Yorke’s political beliefs to align with mine. I’m not naïve, and I don’t even mind that the politics of 90% of the musicians I admire most are to the left of mine. The difference is they didn’t put on a façade in the first place. Radiohead never pretended to patronize people who live in Flitwick, England, or Arkansas, for that matter.

Honestly, I could care less as to the nature of Wilco’s politics or even whether they choose to spout them off in concert. As long as I get to see them at Red Rocks Ampitheatre on June 17th, my summer will be complete. The point is I’m not being a whiner about musicians and their politics in general. I am expressing a certain beef I have with Bruce Springsteen, his politics, and his fabricated self-image.

I don’t want Bruce the Anti-War Protestor (and neither does "the Heartland" for that matter). I want Bruce the Entertainer. I want Bruce the fun-loving, frolicking dirt-bag from the Jersey Shore, not the Bruce who’s droning the blues in a Tunnel of Love.

Where the hell did the socially conscience political activist come from? Who is this guy? And why was he campaigning last fall with the French-looking stiff from Massachusetts? Some people have never liked Bruce. I did, however, and that’s why I feel betrayed… by a not-so-Brilliant Disguise.

Some may chalk it up to “enlightenment”. I attribute it to That Thing I Hate Most. Phoniness.

Wilco at Red Rocks...now that would be amazing. One of the many costs of leaving CO, I guess.
Yeah, I've only been in CO for 3 years, but it would definitely be hard to leave here. Have you seen any shows at Red Rocks?
Yeah, a few. Neil Young, a couple all-day mini-Lollapalooza concerts, notably incl. Sonic Youth and Primus (maybe it was Lollapalooza itself, I dunno - over 10 years ago!) and at least one more I'm forgetting. It's a fantastic venue.

I will be completely and inconsolably jealous if you post about the amazing Wilco concern next month. It's almost impossible to get tickets to a Wilco show in Chicago.
Yeah, it doesn't get much better than Red Rocks. I'd imagine Neil put on quite a show there.

I'd be happy if they just play Yankee Foxtrot from start to finish. In any case, I'll make sure to post scenery, set lists, back stage pics, etc.
Chad, i've got my tix to wilco also.. what a great show that will be.
did you catch radiohead or coldplay last year? both phenomenal shows although i thought coldplay was especially entertaining.
i had to listen to the boss on my i-pod this morning after reading
your latest. it is indeed ironic that bruce has identified himself with progressive causes. when i hear a rock star telling what to think i just have to laugh. whether it's the boss, bono or bon jovi, i fell like shouting: shut up and play the music! i'll ask the boss for his take on globalization right after i consult with my hair stylist for legal advice.
Jon, I saw Coldplay and Radiohead both there as well, although it's seems like 2 years ago. They were both amazing.

Yeah, I don't think too many of these rock stars could carry on a very coherent political discussion, but that doesn't stop them from shouting out largely uninformed views anyway.

Personally, I wouldn't lump Bono in there though. Maybe it's just because I'm a big fan, but I also think the guy is really sincere and informed.
point taken... bono really doesn't get mired in our political processes the way some of the others do. he is driven by a much more focused brand of activism. bono used his celebrity to bring attention to AIDS or famine... that's a lot different from using your celebrity to get a candidate elected (the latter drips with vanity in my book).
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