Please, enough torture! I confess, I confess everything!
Did you know that at Gitmo they used Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA in their ‘psychological operations’ (along with Metallica and Britney, amongst others)? Given the song's lyrics, it’s an interesting choice. Defiantly self-aware or appallingly the opposite?
Springsteen is one of a group of Grand Old Men of Rock, the vast and continuing prolificacy of which has seriously affected the topography of my CD collection. The other members of this group are Bob Dylan (obviously), Van Morrison (probably too prolific if we’re honest), Tom Waits (consistently excellent), Morrissey (uneven), David Bowie (even unevener) and, more lately and thanks to the persistent badgering of my excellent friend Martpol, Nick Cave.
Admirable old geezers, all of them, their many albums dominate my shelves. Ploughing on against the odds, in and out of fashion, just doin’ it cos it’s got to be done. Dylan and Springsteen have attained wisdom and musical enlightenment. Van still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. Bowie is as Bowie does. Waits and Cave are cunning old foxes burrowing ever deeper into their mad um, foxholes. Morrissey is still whingeing inimitably away.
The greatest of these is of course Dylan, and I’m going to see him tomorrow night in Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena. So if there are any messages you want me to pass on, just let me know and I’ll bellow them during quiet moments.
But Springsteen is generally underestimated. The Promised Land kept playing in my head as I was writing about a Cardiff stag night and the tone infected the post, possibly because I saw Springsteen at the Millennium Stadium in that very city last year. Anyway, the words seemed apt enough.
It’s interesting to compare the ferocity of that performance of the song in 1978 (embedded in the stag post) with a more contemporary performance. The Promised Land is a lame sort of Obama-ish ‘things can only get better’ singalong these days. But in 1978 when Springsteen was 29 years old, it was about something quite different, and it seems Bruce no longer believes in it.
Now that he’s 59 he believes in very different things: cities of ruins and girls in summer clothes. And devils and dust, and rising again.
Nick Cave doesn't believe in an interventionist God, but Van is still trying to. Tom Waits believes in the Devil and Bowie believes in himself. Morrissey believes everyone is out to get him, whereas Dylan, I think, believes in Love and the meaninglessness of Time.