Little interview/piece I did for their blog. If you don’t know, Twist & Shout is a dope record store in Denver. Check em out if you’re in the mountains.
“You know, this Michael Jackson thing got us to thinking. Why don’t we ever pay tribute to our heroes when they are alive? I mean, why do these great people have to die before we wax poetic about them? Well, here’s your chance. Pick an living artist that you love and answer the following questions about them.” -Twist And Shout
Bruce Springsteen. Say word. I’m takin it there.
How did you get turned on to this artist?
I was turned on to Bruce Springsteen twice in life. First when I was about 10, by my Uncle Jack. That’s not a metaphor for Jack Daniels. I really have an uncle named Jack. And anyhow I didn’t meet Jack Daniels til I was 12.
The second time I found the Boss was almost 20 years later, on tour with Buck 65. He hipped me to the “Nebraska” album, which I’d never really heard, and I fell instantly in love with it. These days it’s never far from my side, and I might even rank it among the greatest albums ever made.
What was the first record you got by this artist?
Uncle Jack gave me a dubbed copy of a concert recording that I’ve never been able to track down since. I used to fast forward through almost all of it, occasionally stopping to listen to the audience lose their minds when “Born in the U.S.A.” happened. Come to think of it this may have been the first real recording of a concert I ever had. I used to lay in bed with headphones and imagine being onstage. All the girls I had crushes on from school were in the crowd. Aye.
Anyhow, I would fast forward through almost all of this tape except for “Born in the U.S.A.” and “The River,” and the latter was the song I really wanted to hear. I used to just rewind that song and play it over and over until I fell asleep. Even at 10 it crushed me. Without having any real adult experiences, I understood what that song was about on some level.
Have you seen the artist live? What was the best show?
I’ve never seen Springsteen live, but I do highly recommend the DVD of his VH1 Storytellers performance. My favorite Springsteen is acoustic, and the Storytellers performance offers some really great insight into Springsteen’s songwriting process. I can say that I’ve learned things from that DVD that I’ve applied directly to the music I’m making now, and that it’s made me a better songwriter for sure.
For real. Check this DVD out.
Have you ever met this artist? What would you tell them if you
were to have dinner with them?
Nah. I met Huey Lewis recently though. Unrelated.
I dunno man. I feel like me and Bruce wouldn’t need to say anything. We’d just sit at the end of the bar and watch the 40 year old woman sway to the jukebox. Every once in awhile we’d look up from our beers at each other and go “Yep.”
What makes this artist different than others?
For me, Springsteen epitomizes a certain kind of American experience better than anyone else. If you’re interested in music about rural blue collar life then I don’t think anyone is fucking with him. At best, he understands and communicates the poetry of that world without ever mucking it up or making it overwrought.
There’s obvious overlap with people like Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, but I feel like those two are taking the mundane to somewhere else a lot of the time. Many of the go-to Johnny Cash songs are taking that same experience and turning it into something mythic or archetypal, and a lot of the go-to Dylan songs are dazzling me with language and living very much in the mind, if that makes sense.
Not to take anything away from Cash and Dylan, but I think Springsteen has a very zen way of just leaving it all be, by comparison. I’m generalizing a lot here, but I think that’s the distinction, for me.
“Seen a man standin’ over a dead dog
lyin’ by the highway in a ditch
He’s lookin’ down kinda puzzled
pokin’ that dog with a stick
Got his car door flung open
he’s standin’ out on highway 31
Like if he stood there long enough
that dog’d get up and run”
-Bruce Springsteen, “Reason to Believe”
Why do you think this artist strikes a chord with you? This is a
question about you, not the artist.
Well, as I’ve said, I think Springsteen is the poet of a certain blue collar generation, and my parents and their friends fit squarely into that. Uncle Jack still swears by The Boss and The Stones, and still works in the same warehouse he’s been working in for 20 years with my father.
So, Springsteen is forever tied to nostalgia and sentimental feelings about the place I come from, in that way. It’s music that reminds me of the adults I grew up around, that coincidentally might as well be about the adults I grew up around.
Also, what makes the songs last for me is the lack of romance or re-imagining. Nothing is being smoothed over in these songs. Springsteen gets the simple beauty of that life but he also gets the brutal, soul-emptying sadness. That sadness is something so fundamental I understood it when I was 10 years old, and it’s truer now than it ever was.
“Those memories come back to haunt me
They haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse?”
-Bruce Springsteen, “The River”
Tell em Boss.
Bruce Springsteen – “Atlantic City”
Bruce Springsteen – “The River”