It's been a long time. How many years? Oh, 23 or so. 1984. That was the year that Born In The U.S.A. came out. That was the year that I got out of school, felt lonely, spent too much money on records and beer, got a job, got married.
It was also the last time that a new Springsteen album came out exclusively on vinyl. Records. You know, those big black circles?
Tonight I got home to relive a big part of my past. Those who are purely from the digital age might not get this, but the unwrapping of the album and the first examination of the package is important. The cellophane comes off and the album unfolds. The artwork, the lyrics, the liner notes, heck, even the smell — all part of the experience. I'm instantly transported back through all of those years of listening to records, growing into adulthood, and trying to figure it all out.
Things are a little different now. Of course, I'm a different person. So is Bruce. And then there's the technology. Not that leaks were impossible in the past, but today, the Internet and the digital transmission of music have made early bootlegging quite common. This goes both ways. Many of us were quite sure that the "leak" of the single "Radio Nowhere" was intentional, an example of the new "viral marketing." The reasons for releasing Magic on vinyl are in question as well: is it an early boost for next week's CD release, or a cynical move that qualifies the record for the 2007 Grammy cycle.
Everything is in question, amplified by the ever-present Internet chatter. Why did Bruce do this? Why did he do that? Why did he not do that? He can't be sincere, he's worth too much money! Patti is the E-Street Yoko. Clarence is too old. Oh, and let's not get started on the political statements. Obviously, Springsteen has forgotten his roots and has become mired in a greasy pool of self-indulgence.
Don't you believe it.
I've listened to Magic twice this evening. There are echoes of Bruce's recent past, his middle years, and most definitely his roots. Put plainly, the record flat-out rocks. Walls of sound. There are grinding guitars, pounding drums, ghostly keyboards, piano, glockenspiel, snarling guitar solos, harmonica, melodies galore, cool vocal harmonies … and Clarence. The BigMan. The longtime friend. The anchor. Bruce's singing on Magic takes some interesting turns as well, with swooping melodies pitted against a few very different song structures. While listening to "Girls In Their Summer Clothes," I scribbled down "…I've never heard Bruce sing like this before."
Magic ends with the hidden track "Terry's Song," a heartfelt tribute to his longtime friend Terry Magovern, who passed away at the end of July. One line brings into focus the many reasons why I love this music, and why music in general is so important to me: "Love is a power greater than death."
As I've said before, it's not "just" music.Powered by Sidelines