During my summer travels I spent a couple of days with Abacus, and as always with Abacus, many interesting topics came up.* One such subject: Bruce Springsteen. I am, of course, a devoted Springsteen fan.** Abacus is familiar with and a fan of some of Mr. Springsteen's catalog. Turns out that Abacus is mostly familiar with The Boss's massive chart hits, which isn't surprising -- considering that he has 18 singles that peaked in Billboard's Top 40, it's easy to have heard a bunch o' Boss on the radio while hardly penetrating his ~300 song catalog.
Somehow we came up with the idea that I should write a list of "Springsteen Songs You Should Listen To For More Depth," or something like that. (I just remember there were a lot of capital letters.) Hence, the following list.
Most Springsteen fans and many 80's general music fans will probably say, "Hold the phone. These aren't obscure songs at all," but that's okay. I classify this list as songs that you may have heard on the radio (or should have seen on MTV) but didn't hear nearly as often as Hungry Heart, Dancing in the Dark, and Born in the U.S.A.
- Girls In Their Summer Clothes. This may be my favorite Springsteen song. It's from the album Magic, 2007. As poetry goes, the lyrics are very concrete imagery, about a guy who realizes that he's fairly far through life, is still working uphill to be successful with his business and romance, but is hanging on to some optimism.*** It's a beautiful song, with excellent music, even better lyrics, and a lot of feeling. I'm going to keep hitting Springsteen concerts until I hear it live.
- For You. For this one to be on your radar, you have be a) a Springsteen fan, b) around in the early 70's when it was a staple, or c) reading this list. You may have heard the electronified Manfred Mann version.**** This song must be one of the reasons critics hailed Bruce's talent as a poet early in his career. (But please don't use the "he's the next Bob Dylan" comparison. He wasn't the next Bob Dylan, he was the first Bruce Springsteen.)
- No Surrender. How do you make an awesome song somewhat obscure? By including it on the album Born in the U.S.A. If No Surrender had been on a less successful album, it might have been a bigger radio hit. However, my theory is that the massive Born overload kept No Surrender from getting more airplay -- there were already a half dozen other songs popping up once per hour on FM stations nationwide.
- Bobby Jean. It goes hand in hand with No Surrender. Both songs evoke the memories of your best childhood friends, with Bobby Jean being a bit more on the bittersweet side -- the friend in this case is gone, seeking his/her way elsewhere, and the narrator is hopeful that one day they'll talk again. If John Irving novels had soundtracks, Bobby Jean would be one of the first songs listed.
- My Lucky Day. This one's from Working on a Dream, in 2009. Many Springsteen songs are about hope. (Yes, many are about cars, too, but hope is also a prevalent theme.) This is a favorite in the hope category. It's very specific: things really suck, but because I have you, I have reason to hope.
- Drive All Night. Some of my Boss-fan friends will roll their eyes that I included this ballad from The River, and sure, it's a little sappy, but I think it's pretty awesomely sappy. Like My Lucky Day, the theme is pretty direct and concrete: the subject of the lyrics is the only person who matters in the singer's world, and you can easily replace "sappiness" with "devotion" if you give it a chance.
- Santa Claus is Comin' To Town. Oh, yeah. It's hands-down my favorite rock Christmas song. Besides being a great version of the song, it was the first song my youngest daughter ever requested in the car. She heard it once, and for the next two years asked me to play it every time we got in the car. During the song someone "ho-ho-ho's" a few times in the background; I'm pretty sure it's Clarence Clemens. However, my daughter was convinced it was Santa Claus himself, and she wanted to hear it over and over again. For someone who loves music, that bonding experience with your kid is priceless.
There you go -- seven slightly lesser known Springsteen songs for you to start your music appreciation lesson. Give these in a try, and next time I blog about The Boss, I'll reach a lot deeper into the catalog and share some more recommendations.
*Sure, anyone in the vicinity is probably bored to tears listening to what we find interesting, but if you choose to hang out in said vicinity, you get whatever we're serving up. We don't write custom content for non-paying audiences, you know.
**After all, I'm reasonably civilized, and I like good music.
*** My interpretation. I haven't finished Springsteen's autobiography yet, and if he goes into detail about Girls... I haven't gotten to that part. Also, he's never called me to discuss the song, but I'm keeping the phone lines clear, just in case.
**** Trivia time! Name three Manfred Mann covers of Springsteen songs! (For You, Blinded By The Light, Spirit in the Night.)