Don’t worry, it’s rock ‘n roll

19 Jan

bruce springsteen (7)_19 jan

It’s the highs and lows, the ups and downs, the light and darkness, the sounds and the silence, it’s the all and the nothing. And it is everything in between.

On the eve of yet another world tour with the legendary E Street Band and just after the release of his 18th studio album, High Hopes, this certainly rings true for Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen. It has ever since The Boss saw The King Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956 and “realized a white man could make magic”.

As he said in his keynote address at the South by Southwest Music Festival in 2012 in Austin, Texas:

“Purity of human expression and experience is not confined to guitars, to tubes, to turntables, to microchips. There is no right way, no pure way, of doing it. There’s just doing it. … Treat it like it’s all we have. And then remember it’s only rock ‘n roll.”

But it’s through “the majesty, the mystery and the ministry of rock ‘n roll” that Springsteen has reached into the hearts, minds and souls of millions of dedicated followers (so much more than just ordinary fans) for the last 40+ years. He has made a communion of sorts with them, one in which every single person counts, every single time he steps onto the stage, doesn’t matter where or for how long.

A lot has happened since those early days with the Castiles in the 1960’s, where he would leap from a lifeguard chair at some point in the show. These days the antics may be a bit more subdued for a man of his age (he turns 65 in September), however, there’s still time and space for some crowd-surfing, a jump onto Roy Bittan’s piano and sliding down the mic-stand, ending up back flat on the floor.

The one constant during all this time has always been Springsteen’s total and utter commitment to his craft, with guitar in hand and that ever present notebook right there. And then there’s been the recognition of those looking up at him night after night. No other performer has been able to do that, it’s this magical connection that has set him apart from the rest.

Springsteen has never been less than authentic with his music and what it represents and stands for. He’s always declared that it will be done when it was done. Taking it back to 1975 and Born To Run when he received an acetate pressing of the master copy of the album and hurled it into a swimming pool because he’d “do things differently”. Fast forward to 1984 when he took an acetate copy of “Dancing in the Dark” to a club in Asbury Park and instructed the DJ to play it without saying a word to the patrons, they went wild. As the first single released from Born in the U.S.A., it went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Springsteen changed his mind about other things too. Signs with song requests started making their appearance during the Reunion tour with the E Street Band during 1999/2000. He referred to them as “fuckin’ signs”. The situation changed considerably in 2008 on the Magic tour when he began calling for the signs to be hauled up onto the stage. Nowadays it’s not a Springsteen concert if the set list doesn’t get altered by these requests.

Another thing about rock ‘n roll, it’s a band thing, according to E Street Band member Stevie van Zandt. And the band is finally getting recognition from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when they are getting the Award for Musical Excellence later this year.

Springsteen was inducted as a solo artist in 1999. He readily acknowledges that bond between all involved in this most mystical of experiences though.

“The life of a rock band will last as long as you look down into the audience and can see yourself and they can look up at you and see themselves. If the price of fame is that you have to be isolated from the people you write for, then that’s too fuckin’ high a price to pay.”

No need to worry about this one, Bruce.

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