Tag Archives: Bruce Springsteen

Lone Wolf

When I lived in Boston it was not at all unusual to bump into rock and roll legend Peter Wolf.

The former late night DJ and the longtime front man of the J. Geils Band lives in Boston and often walks its streets. Whether meandering down the famed, exclusive Newbury Street or perusing additions to his vast music collection in Boston’s few remaining used record stores, the man was, to put it simply, not hard to miss. Dressed always in his ubiquitous black, from head to toe, and never without a chapeau of some sort, the slight and perennially pale Peter Wolf pretty much kept to himself. Pity the poor soul who chanced to approach him. The result was inevitably a disappointingly brief conversation consisting of a few brief words. So people would most usually leave him alone. He may have been the wild man of Borneo on stage or a mad gabber jabber on alternative radio all those years ago (“Wolfa Goofa Mama Toffa” was his nickname), but out in public and away from the spotlight, Peter Wolf is a man of very few words.

It’s really no wonder. The man born Peter W. Blankfield seems tailor-made to keeping his thoughts to himself. His own musical cohorts and influences, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan, both make it a habit to speak in riddles and rhymes when they speak at all. The Chicago and Delta blues men who Wolf holds in the highest of esteem were men who spoke little and let the music do the talking.

Wolf’s history is a fascinating one. Once arrived in Boston in the 1960’s to attend art school, he was scooped up by recently acquired “progressive rock” radio station WBCN. Wolf said in a recent interview on NPR that he was offered half ownership in BCN for just $10,000. But Wolf, at the time was barely eking out an existence and says he barely had ten dollars. What Wolf did have was an incredible musical library, both LPs as well as an incredible variety of his beloved 45’s or singles. And so BCN, hoping to get their hands on all that music, offered him the overnight shift on the air. Wolf was on from Midnight until 7:00 a.m. and in addition to playing his own favorite mix of rock, blues and rhythm and blues, he also played requests. The program was a huge underground sensation and Wolf found a comfortable place behind the microphone where he discovered he had, well, the gift of gab.

But Wolf was not long for that vampire radio shift, which brings many men and women to their knees, and in 1966 Peter Wolf became part of a popular Boston-based band, The Hallucinations. A year later he went to see a performance by the J. Geils Band and quickly joined that group, becoming the hopscotching, fast on his feet, charismatic front man. That band lasted from 1967 to 1983. They played both blues standards and originals and they had a legendary live show, captured on three different live albums, all recorded in Detroit Rock City. Geils, as they were sometimes called, were soon one of the hottest rock bands in the country, playing to packed theaters, auditoriums and arenas from coast to coast and even garnering the coveted cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.

I had a chance to see Wolf at his most outrageous, two times and both in Syracuse, New York. The first time was at the cozy Landmark Theater, where Wolf and the rest of the J. Geils band nearly blew the roof off the place. At one point during the climax of the show, Wolf left the stage and danced and weaved his way up and down the aisles of the theater “high fiving” with his fervent fans. The second time I saw him, he looked like a different man in 1982 when the band was on top with huge hits like “Centerfold” and “Freeze-Frame.” Wolf had shed his long locks of hair and streamlined his stage show. But behind the scenes the band was, unknown to many, ready to implode because of “artistic differences” between Wolf and keyboard player and fellow songwriter, Seth Justman.

I worked at a rather large local college radio station I remember foolishly going backstage after the show. “Oh Jesus,” I remember thinking in the middle of the clumsy introductions, “what in God’s name am I doing here.” Wolf politely shook our hands staring blindly into the distance, barely even there. He seemed ten million miles away. And I felt bad for his discomfort.

With the band no longer a going concern, Wolf was left to retreat into the blackness of the Boston night, showing up here and there at bars and occasionally joining in to jam. I remember seeing him take the stage many nights in Boston with his pal Bruce Springsteen, but he never seemed comfortable in the guest spot, especially at larger gigs. He used to rule that city and now he seemed a drifter and a stranger in a strange land. Wolf eventually teamed up with some local musicians and made a series of solo records, none of which seemed to click until he finally found his way on 2002’s excellent solo album, “Sleepless.” It was ranked on Rolling Stone Magazines, “500 Greatest Albums Of All Time.” Meanwhile, with rumors all the time of a J. Geils reunion, Wolf stayed silent on that subject, instead seeming comfortable to perform with his own group of new musicians and living off royalties.

During the 1990’s and into the new Millennium, Wolf continues to be seen around town. I would often be surprised when I got to a show early, only to see Wolf already seated, by himself, and waiting for the show to begin. I began to feel bad for him. Was this a chosen land of exile or did it reveal some deep loneliness. Nobody knew but Wolf and he wasn’t talkin’.

One night I went to see Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard at the Orpheum Theater in Boston. I bought a ticket from some guy about ten minutes before the show and it was in the very last row of the theater. During the opening acts, I was scouting an empty seat closer to the stage and out of the corner of my eye I spied one next to the soundboard. I asked a very attractive young lady if the empty seat was taken, she said no and invited me to sit down. It wasn’t until after I had taken off my coat that I realized that I was two seats away from Peter Wolf and the attractive young woman was his date.

During intermission, I introduced myself to this woman and to Peter Wolf and he greeted me with a thin smile and handshake. I had just happened to have finished reading a book about rock and roll called “Mansion On The Hill,” in which he was quoted extensively. So I asked Wolf about his impressions of that book. Speaking softly he told me he thought it was “just okay.” Conversation over? Not quite. Wolf actually surprised me by asking me what I thought about it. I told him I believed the author was too critical of Springsteen’s manager Jon Landau, who Wolf knew from days long ago in Boston. Wolf responded saying he thought it was too critical of a lot of people, including his friend Bruce. Then he got up and went backstage alone, ostensibly to say hello to Dylan, leaving me to have the most pleasant conversation with his knockout beautiful date.

I stayed and watched Dylan’s entire set sitting next to Wolf, looking over occasionally to see a man deep into the music. I left the theater, with the nice buzz that comes after a great show. But I was also happy to see that Wolf was not alone on this particular night.

After all, one can’t remain a lone wolf forever.

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Backgammon, Bootlegs and Best Friends

In 1978, I was 17 and newly arrived at Syracuse University. SI can still remember how nervous I was that first day, as my Dad and I drove up the long driveway to Mount Olympus. That’s where my dorm was – Flint Hall. I didn’t know a soul in Syracuse. But I was fortunate to meet a guy in those first days who became my best friend in the world. His name was Kevin and from the time we first met, we were inseparable.

Kevin had it all and was everything a guy could ever hope for in a friend. He was incredibly kind and polite; he was deeply considerate, sensitive and sometimes shy. But what was most important was that we loved the same things. Kevin and I loved the same music, the same books, the same movies. And Kevin was from New Jersey, that mystical place in my mind from whence hailed my rock and roll idol Bruce Springsteen. Kevin also shared the same passion for Springsteen and he taught me all I needed to know. From then on it was Kev and Kel (me) and we made quite a team.

Except for when we were in classes, or on certain weekends when Kev would drive to visit a girl he liked who was going to school in Springfield, Massachusetts, we were always together. Whether we were going to see a film on campus, or spending some time being recruited by the fraternities that we secretly swore to never join, Kevin and Kel were pretty much one. We go to all the frats and drink their beer and eat their pizza while we secretely vowed to never join one. We’d go to “floor parties” in the dorms, where we met other great friends. Guys who lived on my floor like Mike and Eric, not to mention the girls who lived on the upper floors of Flint and all over Day Hall.

And the one thing that we both loved to do in those quieter hours after finishing with studies was to play backgammon.

I remember we played mostly in Kevin’s room (his room being “cooler” than mine that freshman year) and we played all the time! We were both about equally good (or perhaps equally bad) but we just loved to play. We played to beat the band and the band of course was Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band.

Of course we had to have a soundtrack on those halcyon evenings, and Bruce and the boys delivered on that. We had all of Springsteen’s regular releases and his bootlegs too. We’d listen to them over and over wearing out the grooves in the vinyl. He had an old fashioned turntable and stereo that he and his Dad had rigged up and it always sounded great. And when it came to bootlegs he had his favorite and I had mine.
His was a show from the Paramount Theater in Passaic:

Many Springsteen fanatics, like myself believe this to be his greatest recorded show of all time. But for me, well, I had another favorite that I found down on Marshall Street in the grimy, dusty used record store. It was know by just one word, but it was a thing of beauty and joy forever. It was “Winterland.”

And so there we were. The world could be coming to an end but it wouldn’t bother us. Kevin and I had our backgammon, our Bruce and our friendship. We’d sit and play game after game and talk. We’d talk about the girls we liked and some who liked us. We’d talk about our classes and goofy professors. We’d talk about our pasts, presents and we’d talk about our futures. Kevin swore that one day he would own his own Taco stand in San Diego (while he hardly owns a Taco stand, he currently lives just outside San Diego…how prophetic!).

Life was good. The wicked ways of the world hadn’t had their chance to turn us back. We were young, and free and having a hell of a time.

And the first snowflake hadn’t even fallen.

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Human Rights Now! Tour – Chimes Of Freedom

Yesterday I wrote a long post about my encounter with Bruce Springsteen and the Human Rights Now! tour as it stopped in Philadelphia. I got an incredible amount of positive feedback to my humble story and I thank every person who contacted me to tell me how it touched them. I was my pleasure to write.

Today, as something a little different, I thought I’d let you sit back and enjoy the amazingly inspirational song that was such a big part of that tour, Bob Dylan’s, “Chimes of Freedom.”

May it inspire you as it inspired me.

For all time!

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Bruce Springsteen And Me On The Streets of Philadelphia

September 19, 1988. A warm autumn day and cool night that I will never forget. It was my first real close encounter with Bruce Springsteen. And it all took place during the Human Rights Now! tour stop in the city of Philadelphia.

I was working for a radio station just outside Boston and it was a big enough radio station to secure me press credentials for the Human Rights Now – Amnesty International tour stop in the city of brotherly love, about eight hour train ride from Boston.

I have relatives who live outside Philadelphia with whom I spent an evening. The next morning I took commuter train downtown and found my way to the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Phlly. That would be the location of an early afternoon Amnesty International press conference and with nothing else to do, I made sure to get there nice and early.

In fact, I was one of just a few folks on the second floor lobby of an over-sized ballroom when I arrived around 10:00 a.m. Indeed it was quite fortuitous that I was there so early, as I would end up with a seat in the front row in that big old ballroom, which by the time the press conference began would be packed to the rafters. But not quite yet.

I had been looking forward to this day in September for quite some time, not only because it would be the occasion of a monumental, historic concert, but perhaps even more importantly because I was a card-carrying member of Amnesty International. Meaning that I believed fervently in their mission and had pledged to do what I could to advance their cause.

I was also excited because I has passes to the pre-concert press conference. And there was an extremely slim chance that I might be able to ask, Bruce Springsteen, my favorite Rock and Roll musician a question at the press conference.

Once arrived I was offered a cold, refreshing glass of orange juice and I showed the kind Amnesty International hosts the credentials from my radio station. They checked off my name and gave me a bevy of press passes, stickers and lanyards, as well as a concert ticket for that night and some reading material in the form of a huge pamphlet about Amnesty International and the Human Rights Now!

A brief time later, they opened the doors to the ballroom where the press conference would take place. There was an long table at one end of the ballroom where the Amnesty International organizers and concert performers would “meet the press.” The only slight problem problem was that nobody had placed name tags on this monster of a table, so I had to guess where to possibly get a chance to ask Bruce a question. Not an easy task considering the length of the table, but as you’ll see, luck was on my side.

Then came The Long Wait. It seemed like days, but it was probably three or four hours. During this time I had an opportunity to read the material I was given three of four times over, get to know a very nice young lady who was seated to my left. She was very sweet. Eventually it was time for the press conference to begin and I was shocked when I looked behind me to see the room filled to capacity, but also were more still and television cameras than I had ever seen in once place before. It reminded me of Sting’s line, “Too many cameras and not enough food.” I felt like the whole world would be watching. Imagine this and multiply it by fifty.

Finally all the Amnesty organizers and performers filed into the room single file to bits of applause. Bring up the rear of the parade were Peter Gabriel, Sting and Bruce.

You can imagine my delight and Bruce proceeded to sit directly in front of me, with Sting and Peter Gabriel to his immediate left. Now I had been to my share of Bruce Springsteen concerts in my life and once of twice I had been fairly close to the stage, but this was the closest I had ever been to the man, Bruce Springsteen. If you’re a fan and never been up close and personal, I can only say it is a surreal feeling. However, I tried to remain cool, especially since I was on assignment as a journalist and I did my best to listen and not stare at Mr. Springsteen, who looked like he was still shaking the cobwebs out just five feet away. You think it’s easy? Try it sometime.

But seriously the press conference was both very informational and inspiring; each person at the table introduced themselves and talked about why they were involved. There were tragic stories of Human Rights abuses around the world as well as heroic stories of those individuals who had dedicated their lives to expose and eradicate these kinds of abuses. There were videos shown. And everybody at this long table formally signed a Declaration of Human Rights, in show of their solidarity to this cause.

Then it was time for questions from reporters. I really hoped to ask Bruce a question and now that I was so close, my odds had improved three fold. I had three good ones prepared, just in case somebody else beat me and asked one of my questions before I could. The tension mounted.

I was about to raise my hand, grab a nearby microphone and with hundreds of people watching, listening and taking notes (not to mention all those cameras) ask my personal hero a question. I had no idea whether I would sound like Daffy Duck or Minnie Mouse when I opened my mouth, or if I would lose my nerve completely. But I had the advantage of being in the front row. (Tip to young reporters: Try to always sit in the front seat.) So up went my arm and I was called on and handed a microphone. I had to say my name and where I was from and address the question to a particular person. So with slightly shaking voice I said:

“Bruce, you’ve played some incredibly emotionally moving concerts over the years. Looking back, how do these Human Rights Now shows compare to all of those others over the years?”

Bruce looked at me, gave me a brief obligatory answer, then paused a bit, shifting in his seat. And then he really got into a more sustained answer, giving examples of some of the really incredible moments on the tour to date and saying that on several occasions he was moved to tears during performances. I could be wrong but I think he intuitively knew that I was hoping for a good long answer, not just a short three word response, and he delivered. What a guy.

The rest of the press conference was a blur, except I remember going up to Bruce Springsteen when it was over. Bruce was gathering up some papers and I asked him if he would sign my Declaration of Human Rights pocket book, which he did, and then I shook his hand thanking him for his music. Bruce looked up, signed a few more autographs, and softly said, “I gotta get outta here.” And then did.

As I tell everyone who I tell this story to the concert that night at the now demolished JFK stadium in Philly was icing on the cake. It was a gigantic place and as the crowd trickled in I knew it was going to be a night to remember.

When he hit the stage Bruce Springsteen was absolutely on fire, but that was no real surprise to anyone.

Bruce and the band delivered what one critic called, “a scorching set of music,” with Springsteen pulling the song “Jungleland” out of his hat, after a long absence from his sets. Max later said that he wishes he had a picture of Clarence’s face when Bruce called for that song. Sting took a verse of “The River,” with David Sancious on keyboards, a mini-reunion of sorts. Nobody could have know that night in JFK stadium that these Human Rights Now! shows would be the last shows Bruce Springsteen and The E Streeters would play for more than a decade.

And at the end of the concert, the headlining musicians performed an rendition of “Get Up, Stand Up.”

And we did. We got up, straggled home exhausted but inspired, and many of us that were there that night, myself included, continue to fight for Human Rights for everyone, now!

I hope that having heard this story, you will too.

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Like Manna From Heaven For Springsteen Fans Today

How long have we been waiting for something/anything in the form of official news from the Springsteen camp on the release of a Darkness Box Set. It was a little like Christmas morning when I got up and read this on the Backstreets website:

from the Backstreets.com News page….
DARKNESS BOX WATCH
Package nearing completion, its documentary to premiere next month
Just announced this morning, the documentary that Thom Zimny has been working on for the impending Darkness box will premiere at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival as a Gala screening in September. Zimny created the Wings For Wheels doc for the Born to Run 30th Anniversary box; his new film is titled The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Speaking to IndieWIRE, festival documentary programmer Thom Powers says that The Promise draws on “a treasure trove of footage from the 1970s. You see all the twists and turns of the making of this album. And we’re the first people to announce that this film even existed… It’s been in the works for a couple years now in total secrecy. And we’re very proud to be presenting it.”

The description of the film from TIFF.net: “The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town takes us into the studio with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band for the recording of their fourth album. Grammy and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Thom Zimny has collaborated with Springsteen on this documentary, gaining access to never before seen footage shot between 1976-1978, capturing home rehearsals and recording sessions that allow us to see Springsteen’s creative process at work.”

TIFF runs from September 9 – 19. According to the festival website, a confirmed schedule will be posted August 24. Tickets are available now.

Update: A Shore Fire press release confirms that “Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau Management, and Columbia Records are working on completing a new package related to Darkness on the Edge of Town, which will include the new Thom Zimny film The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town. Further details will be announced when they are finalized.” The statement also gives the date for the TIFF premiere as September 14.

Toronto Star movie critic Peter Howell writes that “The pick of the The Promise as a Gala selection almost guarantees that Springsteen will come to Toronto to introduce it to the TIFF audience.”

After the 300 plus pages of speculation, finally this huge news. And not only is it confirmation that a box set is coming, it is news that there will be a SPECIAL DOCUMENTARY ala: Wings For Wheels, produced by Springsteen’s video wonderkind Thom Zimny and featuring rare, never seen before footage of Bruce in the recording studio between 1976 and 1978.

And all to be premiered in the lovely and beautiful city of Toronto, where Janet and I have been talking about going for some time now.

Holy Guacamole! What else could we hope for. Well, that’s an easy one. A full live show from the Darkness tour. Which might send many of us over the edge in anticipation.

All I can say is that it’s going to be a very exciting 50th birthday on December 7, 2010 and it’s going to be one hell of a birthday. Counting down the days now.

Can anybody say….ROAD TRIP!!!!

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My Springsteen Epiphany…Down In Harvard Square

It was the summer of 1976 and I was sitting in the passenger’s seat of my sister Maureen’s Volvo in Harvard Square. (The serendipitous location of where my sister’s car was parked will become apparent as this story goes along.) I had traveled with my sister on a bit of a joy ride that summer day, as I had nothing better to do and because I always enjoyed visiting Harvard Square. She had to drop off some papers and it was my job to ride shotgun and sit in the car to try and avoid any chance of her getting a parking ticket. In return, I think she had promised me that we could visit the Harvard Co-op Store (also known as the Harvard Coop), one of the finest places to go to check out the latest musical releases on vinyl and cassette and also not a bad place to simply “people watch.”

This was the “old Harvard Square;” the quaint, friendly version, the one that still had plenty of independent establishments, cool bars, and even a few hippie-looking places where you might buy, say, some used clothes or even a few head shop items. This was long before corporate America, the ugly commercial chain store America marched into Harvard Square and transformed its look into an ugly consumer shopping and eating chain/mini-mall without much of the old 60’s funk and soul at all.

But on this day in 1976, Harvard Square still had funk and soul. (It’s questionable how much I actually possessed.) I was raised in a fairly traditional suburban environment. I respected my parents to the point where I didn’t imbibe anything smooth and fine (unless I happened to be in the company of my sisters when all bets were off.) I went to school every day, went to church every Sunday and hung out with a few friends in a nice little town called Weymouth where expectations were somewhat low among the families in my neighborhood. I mention this because it was on this very day that I fell in love with rock and roll, specifically the music being made by Bruce Springsteen, and suddenly I experienced an epiphany in which my expectations changed as dramatically as night and day.

And it was all because of the song, “Jungleland.” When my sister Maureen left me alone to go run the errand, I asked her to leave the car running. We had been listening to Springsteen, specifically his masterpiece album, “Born To Run,” which I was just getting to know. On this day, we were listening to it on my sister’s car stereo cassette system. (Remember when they called them “systems”.) And when Maureen got out of her car, I asked her to leave the keys so I could enjoy the air conditioning and get into more of the music. And just as she stepped out, the song “Jungleland” came on. And I turned that sucker way up loud.

So here I was sitting in a car in Harvard Square between Bow and Church Streets. Now I didn’t know this then, but it’s one of the most amazing examples of kismet of my lifetime. For it was two blocks away on Bow Street in 1974 where Bruce Springsteen had been introduced to writer/music producer/future manager Jon Landau, by Jon’s friend Dave Marsh. About 100 yards in the other direction was Church Street, the location of the Harvard Square Theater where Bruce Springsteen would play in 1974 and inspire Landau to write his famous review, writing that he had witnessed “Rock and Roll future” and its name was Bruce Springsteeen. Of course, all of that happened two years earlier. If my epiphany had happened the exact same year in that location….whoa; lookout! But this was 1976. Even still, what are the chances?

So “Jungleland” begins. The gentle symphonic strings and simple piano intro plays. And something must have switched on in my that part of the brain where endorphins are released, because suddenly my surroundings became irrelevant and fuzzy, but I was absolutely transfixed to the music.

And then the strings disappear and it’s just Roy Bittan’s piano that I’m hearing and about 40 seconds into the song there’s another brief swell of strings before Bruce Springsteen begins to tell/sing the story:

“Well the Rangers had a homecoming in Harlem late last night,
And the Magic Rat drove his slick machine, over the Jersey state line…”

I must have thought to myself, “now this is gonna be good.” Springsteen was singing with a slight beach rasp to his voice and a kind of desperate need to tell this tale. It felt like he really cared about these characters who were going to have this “experience,” and if he did then I should too.

“Barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge, drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain
The Rat pulls into town rolls up his pants, together they take a stab at romance and disappear down Flamingo Lane…”

What an introduction to a story. Yes, a story full of vivid details about some gang called “The Rangers,” along with a physical description (the Jersey state line, an anonymous town probably by the beach, some posing by “Magic Rat” in front of this “Barefoot Girl”) and then action, as the guy and his girl take off down this street called “Flamingo Lane.” If that was the script for a screenplay it would be optioned out in Hollywood in about 10 seconds flat.

And so begins the story and I sat, silently wishing that my sister might take awhile so I could hear this whole song by myself, totally transfixed and mesmerized. I was as into the music as I had ever been in my short life of just 15 years. An distant organ sound creeps into the picture, as more of the plot unfolds:

“Well the Maximum Lawman run down Flamingo chasing the Rat and the barefoot girl,
And the kids round here look just like shadows always quiet, holding hands…”

We now have more details of what’s about to come. It seems like the law is looking for the “Magic Rat,” but nobody is saying anything to the police. And then in a triumphant and epic voice, the likes of I’d never heard before, comes this:

“From the churches to the jails tonight all is silence in the world
As we take our stand down in Jungleland.”

In other words, suddenly there is only one story to be told, this story, and there’s gonna be some trouble of major proportions. We’re only a minute and a half into a nine and a half minute song, but the stage has been set and the performers introduced. Time to rock out and settle in for the story, as the entire band kicks in and jams with energy both raw and powerful.

As the “Jungleland” story unfolds with Springsteen’s best, most detailed and vivid writing, I begin to realize that even though this is the only story that matters, it’s also a story that gets played out all the time. At its essence, he’s telling a story about a bunch of townie losers who, at least for this one night, are going to be involved in something great. Something big, and powerful; something romantic and beautiful.

Bruce pauses and takes a break from the action out on the streets for a scorching guitar solo, before suddenly and out of nowhere “Jungleland” takes a 180-degree turn musically. Bruce sings:

“Lonely-hearted lovers struggle in dark corners
Desperate as the night moves on, just a look and a whisper, and they’re gone”

And he runs flat smack into the one of the most gorgeous, meticulously played saxaphone solos ever played. It is said that Bruce Springsteen taught this solo to his sideman and Sax player Clarence Clemons note by note. The music that Clarence plays tells a story of its own and it’s up to the listener now to fill in the blank spaces. By my calculations that sax solo goes on for 2 minutes and 15 seconds but it might as well be two years considering the impact it had, not just on my experience and future, but on that of hundreds of thousands of others. The Big Man says he constantly has people coming up to him saying that sax solo saved their lives. I know it changed mine.

When the lyrics start up again, Bruce Springsteen seems to be in a much different place. Gone is the rock and roll jubulation; in its place we get a much quieter, almost whispered storytelling. And you know that this story isn’t gonna end well. Se we get a slow piano dirge and:

“Beneath the city two hearts beat, soul engines running through a night so tender…”

The rest seems to be a story of the “Magic Rat” and “Barefoot Girl” as they make love, only to have the Rat gunned down by police. Onlookers are stunned and the strings and piano build, but Bruce tells us not even the poets have anything to write or say. Then the long piano roll with Bruce wailing and shouting out as if he might be heard in parking lots from one coast of America to the other.

“Jungleland” is, at it’s core, a tragic story, but it has these moments, long moments of happiness, exaltation and joy. And if rock and roll can really change and save your life, then it did that day as I listened. For I knew if life could be epic and celebrated and triumphant for these characters, then it could be for me too.

No I wasn’t stuck to live out my life, like so many of my friends seemed in the “quiet desperation” of a suburban town. I could follow my dream of becoming a writer, or later a broadcaster and that, perhaps, greatness could be achieved. That’s what this song convinced me off on that summer day in that long, long ago. Sitting in the passenger seat of my sisters Volvo listening to Bruce Springsteen in Harvard Square.

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