This is about a Brumance.
As a freshman at Ohio University in 1978, walking down the dorm hall, I heard it. A guitar rip that stopped me in my tracks.
My RA’s door was open. I asked, “Who’s that?”
It was Bruce Springsteen, and it was Born to Run. It was the album, but more importantly to my music future, it was “Born to Run,” the song.
I’d heard of him, but didn’t know him. I do now, nearly 40 years later, at least as much as a fan can know someone she’s never met.
I’ve collected just about every song he’s recorded, probably twice, starting with LPs and moving through to MP3s. The iTunes library says 1,000-plus. Duplicates? Sure — studio albums, live shows, with E Street and solo Bruce. I never get bored.
I was always a music kind of person, not so much into lyrics. Give me a beat and put me on the dance floor. That changed with Bruce.
He’s a storyteller. Serious, lighthearted, deep, whimsical, fun, and most very personal — a personal that can relate to anyone’s life. Struggles, disappointments, searching, success, love and loss.
He writes about the transformation of his music in his autobiography, “Born to Run.” The man was driven from an early age; he’s still driven and admittedly somewhat of a control freak. It’s worked for him as he’s molded his music and career into a vision he’s had since he picked up a guitar at age 12 thanks to Elvis and The Beatles and The Stones.
He’s transitioned well into his later years (he’s 67). His stories change and reflect a different time in his life and ours. Perspectives change, and so goes his music.
I’ve seen Bruce in concert 16 times (peanuts when compared to some fans who hit the 100 mark or more); it’s not a concert, it’s an experience. Nearly four hours every time of boot-stomping entertainment — fan or not, it’s a good time, a great show.
My first Bruce concert was in 1979 in Cincinnati. Four of us loaded into my car at 3 in the afternoon, road-tripped to Cinci, had our “experience,” road-tripped back to Athens at midnight and still made it to our 8 a.m. classes.
My favorite concert of the 16 was during the Born in the USA tour in 1985, he played in Cleveland Stadium. I was 14 or 15 rows back from the stage, standing, jumping and dancing on top of my chair. I swear I caught a couple of the man’s sweat beads. I was in Springsteen heaven.
He’s said many times each show is a first and it’s his job to make every moment count for the audience. He more than delivers.
During “Born to Run” everyone in the audience is standing, singing, screaming. We take over; Bruce and the band are drowned out.
More Bruce and the band concerts? I sure hope so. I have a good feeling about next fall for some reason. He’s headed Down Under in January. I’m hoping for a U.S. tour later; the stage is his home.
It’s hard to pick favorites, but if I was one of E Street Radio’s guest DJs, you’d hear:
— “Backstreets:” He writes a heartbreaking song about losing a love and a friend (“And after all this time, to find we’re just like all the rest, Stranded on the backstreets … Where we swore forever friends, On the backstreets until the end”)
— “Badlands:” He sings about hope in desolate time (“For the ones who had a notion, A notion deep inside, That it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive”)
— “The Rising:” Reflecting on 9/11 (“Sky of blackness and sorrow, Sky of love, sky of tears, Sky of glory and sadness, Sky of mercy, sky of fear)
— Just because I like the dark and dirty beat, “Harry’s Place,” a story about gangsters hanging out in a bar and drug den.
— “Brilliant Disguise:” (“We stood together at the alter; the gypsy swore our future was bright; But come the wee wee hours; We maybe the gypsy lied”)
— “She’s the One:” The instrumentals are raw and powerful. (“But there’s this angel in her eyes; That tell such desperate lies; All you wanna do is believe her”)
— “We are Alive:” “(We are alive; And though we lie alone here in the dark; Our souls will rise; To carry the fire and light the spark; To fight shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart; Let your mind rest easy; Sleep well my friend; It’s only our bodies that betray us in the end”)
— “Blood Brothers:” “We stood side by side each one fightin’ for the other; We said until we died we’d always be blood brothers ; Now the hardness of this world slowly grinds your dreams away; Makin’ a fool’s joke out of the promises we make”)
— And, circling back to what started this all in a dorm hallway, “Born to Run:” (“I want to guard your dreams and visions, … Together we could break this trap, We’ll run till we drop, baby we’ll never go back … The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive, Everybody’s out on the run tonight; But there’s no place left to hide, Some day girl (Wendy) I don’t know when, We’re gonna get to that place, Where we really wanna go, And we’ll walk in the sun, But till then tramps like us, Baby we were born to run.”
I’ve never had the courage to take my life “out on the run tonight,” but Bruce takes me on a ride every time I hit the play button.
p.s. Bruce, if you happen to see this and are of a mind to help make a check mark on someone’s bucket list, I’d have the courage and be honored to shake your hand, and maybe offer a hug. My list has only one line, and your name is on it.
p.s.s. Jeanine didn’t talk about my favorite Bruce song, “Death to My Hometown.” – Bobby