I'm just a lonely acrobat, the live wire is my trade/
I've been a shine boy for your acid brat and a wharf rat of your state.
The singing and the wail of the harmonica are as tormented as the words. Although Springsteen would later produce more stories of defeat and gloom ("Thunder Road", "The River"), these early ones aren't protected by a surer, steadier hand at the production panel and a more mature musicianship.
Which leads me to feel that this record was Springsteen's Purgatory. To play a heavenly blues guitar, you need to first cleanse your soul, by selling it to the devil. To launch into that type of rock & roll that makes you walk on air, you need to come to terms with the angst. Bear it, share it, and let the force of it propel you into musical proportions you've never known before.
In later works, you feel like you're sitting next to Springsteen in the front of a pick-up as he takes you along on his rock & roll road trip. On Greetings, - you're in the next car peering in at the car rolling slowly down the dirt road, the driver's hand gripping the steering wheel tight, tears at the corners of his eyes. When the record closes with "It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City," you already know that in Springsteen's world, it's hard to be a saint anywhere.
The devil appeared like Jesus through the steam in the street/
Showin' me a hand I knew even the cops couldn't beat/
I felt his hot breath on my neck as I dove into the heat/
It's so hard to be a saint when you're just a boy out on the street.
In so many ways, the picture of a skinny Springsteen grinning like a monkey on the back of the record is really apt. Not yet beefed up like the Boss days of the 1980s — and years removed from the emotional trauma of divorce — Springsteen is almost like a happy-go-lucky troubadour who got caught in troubled waters ever so often.
The music is sparingly simple when compared to the "Wall of Sound" effects on Born To Run. At the time of this record's release, Bruce Springsteen had not yet met Jon Landau, and Landau had not yet heard or seen Springsteen play. Thus, the "future of rock and roll" would not yet be discovered. But his legacy was only just beginning.