"Born in the USA" invalidates any discussion of Springsteen. Too bad, I saw him at college when he was playing with a brass band. So many good songs starting with Asbury Park and then he had to go write his song of loathing for the country that has allowed him to live in an environment where he could achieve such success. Pathetic
To interpret an honest critique of the country's shortcomings as loathing for the country does a disservice to the ideals we hold as what makes our country unique in this world. I was in the service during the Vietnam War and Born in the USA spoke to my generation in a way that represented the feelings of a great many of us. What I found pathetic was the "love it or leave it" mentality that existed during the war.
"Born in the USA" invalidates any discussion of Springsteen.If you run every artist through a judgmental political filter, you're going to miss out on a lot of great art, including music. I've never understood those who will only associate with those with whom they agree politically.
@mitchchavis If you served in Vietnam then I can see how some of the song's lyrics spoke to you. I guess I am bothered that we hear it played at sports events and political rallies as if it extols the virtues of America. My negativity may also be colored now with all of the flag protests going on. I believe in a person's constitutional right of free expression but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I truly do thank you for your service in Vietnam. It's so sad that so many Veterans returned from southeast Asia being treated with disrespect and disdain. I don't know how you guys did it.
Thanks for sharing your story. Perhaps I have more soul searching to do about Mr. Springsteen.
@cleeds Please read my post above. My opposition to the song stems from what I see is its use in inapproriately patriotic celebrations. I agree with your comment that political messages have a long and storied tradition in American music. I have CS&N, CSN&Y and particularly Y solo albums, Dylan, Baez, the list goes on. So much of art, both visual and musical is an expression of the world's state at the time of its production. I have not and will not in the future let their political expression that I may or may not agree with keep me form listening to their music.
Thanks for your post.
Bravo to everyone's civilized comments. My problem with "Born In The U.S.A." is it's obviousness and literalness, a failing of Springsteen in general imo. That and his "tightly-wound"/strained/1-dimensional vocals. I have never understood his mass popularity. Plus, his band is SO pedestrian! They have yet to progress beyond their Bar Band beginnings.
@bdp24 +1 Part of me believes that the rawness the sound is part of the appeal. His recordings are more organic and less slickly produced. As an audiophile I prefer to listen to music where the recording quality was a higher priority to the finished release. Many such recordings are the most real sounding of all!
While Born in the Usa isn't my favorite Bruce album, I find even his last 4 or 5 released to have some amazing and insightful tunes. I think he's one a a handful of artists who has evolved over the years instead of recycling their old ideas.
The Wall has some great lyrics about McNamara, the wrestler, Terry's Song. Anything off the rising or Devils and Dust.
I've seen him live about 70 times (including his solo tours)but sadly I've had to curtail arena shows because they are too loud for me, even with earplugs.
Most of Bruce's albums are among the worst sounding albums I have (except Darkness, Tunnel of Love, Lucky Town, Human Touch (last 3 Bob Clearmountain)) and his last album. It's inexcusable that with so many resources at his disposal in the studio, SQ takes a back seat. I believe that is one (a small one) of many reasons why he is so much better live than on record.
He is one of our best modern musical artists IMHO although he can be wooden or shrill at times. Then again, in a different way, so can another of our great artists-----Bob Dylan.
Note---today is Bruce's 67th birthday.
i shoudn't wade into tis polemical fray, though i do find it surprising that people would disqualify springsteen's music on patriotic grounds--whether or not you agree with his politics, it's hard to fault the guy for expressing his opinion. to me at least, he's always registered as sincere and charitable, or at least as sincere and charitable as a mega-rich rock star can be. as for his music, he's a good-to-great writer--tuneful, insightful and funny--and i think "born to run" (esp. if you listen to his acoustic take on "tracks") is a great blues song. however, like bdp i personally find him hard to listen to--his voice grates and the band just don't swing. i also agree that he's been badly served by his producers--his best records (btr, darkness, the river) all sound dark, compressed and unnatural.
My issue with Springsteen, in general (and his politics in particular) is that IMO his political awakening moved him radically away from his greatest musical strength. Those songs on the first three records, with their stories of triumph over long odds, played perfectly to his anthemic music. Swelling horns herald victory! It was truly rousing music, IMO.
Once Bruce focused on the bruising reality, rather than the inspiration victory, it all got smaller, darker, and less fun. That put a huge burden on the music to be insightful, deeply moving, and desperate. For some, he obviously succeeded. For me, not so much. I just don’t think he’s great at it.
Oddly, I also think it fully explains the misappropriation of Born in the USA. The music is rousing (just like the good old days) and the refrain sounds patriotic enough at first listen, so people jumped on it as a return to the good old days. People wanted Bruce to be the old Bruce, so that’s what they made of the song - despite its obvious message to the contrary.
I never blame Springsteen for either the politics or the misuse of BITUSA, but I just don’t find much of his stuff after Born to Run particularly effective. Again, YMMV.
i'll agree with marty that his music started sucking post-BITUSA when he started trying to write major statements--i feel the same way about jackson browne and the much less gifted john mellencamp. he did get off a good one now and again after BITUSA (as stated above, I did like his lowkey woody guthrie thing), and his records certainly sounded better, but the for me all his essential stuff was pre-1985 or so.
He was interesting early on and from DOTEOT into the 80s but not so much to me of late. I probabably should give some of his later stuff more of a fair try though. I think he took offense to BITUSA being used for political purposes and that seemed to trigger a bigger focus in political things to counter that with him. That whole deal did not help with me but in all fairness I’ve not given much of his later stuff a chance and he has had his moments over the years that can stike a chord with me from time to time, more so when romanticizing about more everyday things in regular peoples lives (at least those in Jersey) as he did in a lot of his early classic works or just having some fun and rocking out. Pink cadillac is a great rock and roll tune!
I am not from Jersey but went to school at Rutgers during his earlier heyday years. He was the rock God there for sure. I never quite saw him that way but learned to appreciate why most there did.
Cleeds---Au contraire! Lots of Rock 'n' Roll swings, even The Beatles. Ringo is known to swing pretty well; listen to "Kansas City". Rock 'n' Roll drumming was created by New Orleans drummer Earl Palmer, one of Max Weinberg's (Bruce's drummer) heroes. Terry Williams of Rockpile and Dire Straights swings like crazy, as did (R.I.P.) Tom Ardolino of NRBQ.
But "swing" does not just mean to play in a "shuffle" rhythm, it means being loose and flexible, reacting to what the other musician's are playing. Max Weinberg is a very "stiff" drummer, like a boring drum machine. One drummer who values swing a lot is Charlie Watts, though he doesn't get much opportunity to display his abilities at it.
I suppose one could differentiate between Rock and Rock 'n' Roll, but that could lead to a LOT of disagreement!
My post partially quoted by Cleeds was removed because I used a bad word. Here it is with a less naughty word substituted.
That's it Loomis---The E Street Band doesn't swing! Look at the drummer; he sits straight up, like the stick (no pun intended ;-) up his rear (that's what his playing sounds like) extends all the way up his back.
Really?! It's music if you don't like his music whether it's because of his politics or you don't relate, appreciate or dislike the quality don't listen to it. You don't like the show change the channel. There's a lot of music I don't like. I don't feel it necessary to let everyone know what I don't like. On the other hand if I hear something I do like I'd rather share that information. The idea that our musicians and artists need to be republicans or democrats is nauseating. Do we really want to stifle creativity and self expression that much. Personally I think Springsteen is one of the best songwriters in the last 60 years. He's probably second only to Dylan and in the last 20 years he's written a lot better than Dylan. But that's just my opinion and it means little to anybody else but myself.
I can't tell you anything about the beginnings of Bill Chinook's career, but i did work with him in the late 80's, providing the PA and mixing his shows that he did up here in Maine. I don't know that I would say we became friends during that time, but it was more than just a business relationship. Bill lived nearby to me and I would see him at Radio Shack or at the hardware store, and we would always chat for a while.
Bill was a talented and passionate musician for sure, but honestly I don't think he was on the same level as Springsteen. He was however, a consummate professional, very demanding of his crew, his fellow band-mates, his producer, and mostly of himself. He was also gentle and kind to everyone he met, and he really took care of his 'band of brothers' while out on the road. He gathered quite a following up here in Maine for many years.
I was fortunate enough to see him perform at one of his last shows and caught him during a break to talk to him about the old times. He seemed very down and I asked him how things were going. He just said it isn't like the old days is it? I had to agree. I do wish I had followed up with him, in retrospect.
Love Chinnok. Badlands is one of my favorite LPs and definitely stands the test of time. I don't remember why I bought it, but I'm glad I did. Never heard much about him and I don't think I ever met anyone else who ever heard of him. I noticed that Vinie Lopez appeared in the credits (Irene Cara, too. Weird combination); but I never knew of the closer E Street/Springsteen ties. Live and learn.
Greg, I hope your story is a one-off. It's sad when heros get too human. Hope he's doing well and thanks for the thread, Pigdog.