First posted on Mark Is Cranky:
Every true music fan has in their pocket a short list: the artists who hold special meaning. Our relationships to those artists are different from the rest. Each release means something. They're not just records, they're events, they're signposts...repositories of all related memories: past, present and future.
Shortly after I cracked open Bruce Springsteen's Devils and Dust, before a single note was heard, a couple of very important memories fell out. The older of the two happened back in 1982. On a routine trip to the University of Maine bookstore I found an astounding and pleasant surprise: Nebraska. This was back before the internet or magazines such as Ice, so there was no advance warning. Here I was on my usual path, attempting to quench the music thirst and I'd been handed an ocean of relief. I remember the feel of the shrink wrapped cover, maybe even a little of that plastic smell. Back at the dorm, when I waved the album in the air so as to tease my friend Ed, his jaw dropped open in awe (we had recently become so anamoured of the Springsteen bootlegs "Live at the Agora" and "Fire From The Fingertips" that we'd been listening to them to the exclusion of most other music).
To be honest, I can't quite remember my initial reaction to the music. Thematically, the material followed Springsteen's penchant for following characters through their bad and good. Musically, this was not The River. Instead, things were all stripped down. I liked what I heard and instinctively knew that it was great....but at the same time...I just wasn't ready for it and didn't know what to think.
A more recent memory was again of a solo Springsteen release. I brought my new copy of The Ghost of Tom Joad over to my fiance's house to give it a first listen. With the "Nebraska incident" fresh in my mind, me & Linda sat on the couch and listened to the record straight though while reading from the lyric sheet. It's easy for me to tear up thinking about this now, because I remember being just so happy at being able to share my discovery of the music with her in this way (something I was never able to do in my first marriage).
Now it's time for Devils and Dust to make its own way. Here I sit very late at night, in a hotel room on the coast of Maine. Linda (you know her as "The Wife") is sleeping soundly, swallowed by the enormous king size bed. In the quiet, I find that it's tough to put the old memories aside to make room for the new ones.
- You have to constantly be writing from your own inner core in some fashion I find y'know?...