Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Album: Chapter and Verse
Release Date: 09/23/2016
For his 67th birthday, Bruce drops the audio companion to his upcoming memoir Born To Run. Yes, there are five pre-Columbia, pre-sainthood tracks kicking off what at first appears like another sure-fire, greatest hits comp, but here’s where I have to put aside marketing cynicism and listen to the man tell my… I mean his… story.
All our journeys start with the British Invasion, and thus, “Baby I” 1966, with the Castiles. A teenaged Bruce riffing Dave Davies-esque behind band leader and co-writer George Theiss, trying to be heard in the primitive mix. A live version of Willie Dixon’s “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover” follows, and it sounds pretty much like we all sounded: eager, restless, rough ‘n tumble. A cross-country trip with future E-Streeters Federici and Vini Lopez to Bill Graham’s California delivers the jam-mad “He’s Guilty (The Judge Song).” Somewhere between the jams (there are much lengthier live bootlegs out there) you begin to hear Bruce looking outward. Van Zandt jumps into the fray on “The Ballad of Jesse James” and the whole road opens up. A solo “Henry Boy,” from ’72, is the DNA of “Rosalita,” and the writing, for phase one of the trip, begins to take shape.
If you’re not familiar with the rest, I can’t imagine where the hell you’ve been for the past 40 or so years, and wish you a whole lotta luck. Sure “Born to Run” breaks the dream open, but it’s the the character studies from Darkness on the Edge of Town, The River and, especially, Nebraska that sets Bruce to studying himself and we all strive forward. The characters as real as you and me, with the specifics and the vagaries often a grey, grainy line (“Born in the USA”). Lost in our own lives, our own loves, our own expectations and rewards. We change (“Living Proof”). The world changes (“The Rising”). Maybe we can change it back. Maybe we can’t. Bring on your wrecking ball.