I bet you did not realize this, but I love making lists. When I coached, I would plan my practices down to the second, and I used to compile those practice lists with notes about the successes and/or failures of various drills and workouts. Since my lovely wife believes that I may very lie on the autism scale in some highly functioning area, I thought I would list my seven favorite artists. In numerology, seven is allegedly a whole number, which means something I’m sure. But, since I don’t really believe in that crap, I don’t know why I even mentioned it.
So, enough of my ramblings! Let me introduce you to my Seven Favorite Rock Artists, all of whom have complete album discographies in my collection. At number seven are Talking Heads. Number six are Daryl Hall and John Oates. In the fifth position are R.E.M. In what very well may be a surprise to you all is that Bruce Springsteen is my fourth favorite artist. Which means, that my top three artists in descending order are (3) Tom Petty, (2) Cheap Trick and (1) Prince, though I feel that you all may have surmised those three from my past entries in this blog.
The one artist of whom I have written little is “The Boss”. That is due mainly that I really have nothing to add to the knowledge base of his rabid fanbase. Although I am not a “nuts-o” Springsteen fan, I will go through periods of time during which I will read everything that I can get my hands on, though I seem to have left most of those days back in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties.
Now, I do have a very vivid memory of first hearing Springsteen’s music. It was early December 1975, on a Sunday morning, during which my family, in its last Christmas as a family intact family before Dad left to divorce Mom, we were decorating the house for the upcoming yuletide season. Mom always loved Christmas and would always decorate the house’s interior to reflect her love of the season. For some reason, maybe it had to do with getting in late from a basketball game the night before, but we did not go to church that day. Instead, we decorated the house. And, while doing so, my parents allowed me to listen to American Top 40 on the family room stereo.
Even though the song had nothing to do with Jesus’ birthday celebration, I was listening intently for Casey Kasem to tell me where in the Top 40 Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Nite” had landed. So, while anxiously awaiting Kiss, I heard a song at number 22 that totally blew me away. It was the anthemic “Born to Run” by some guy named Bruce Springsteen, who apparently had recently appeared on the covers of both Newsweek AND Time magazines during the same week during the previous month.
What I was hearing was like nothing I had ever heard both, yet it was eerily familiar in some manner. As the song plowed ahead through the static of AM radio through the mono speakers of the console stereo. Nothing had really prepared me for the aural onslaught I was receiving during this song. I felt like it was some call to arms to break loose of the constrictions of my hometown. I was ready to rebel, although I had yet discovered my cause. That song spoke to me during that moment, though I was not mature enough at 12 to understand exactly what The Boss was telling me. So, that song entered my DNA, without any reaction.
Three years later, again I heard another Springsteen song on Casey’s Countdown, “Prove It All Night”. Once again, I felt moved but unprepared to respond. Finally, in 1980, everything came together when I heard “Hungry Heart”. I then acted upon it and bought The River, and the rest is history. I was now a Springsteen disciple of sorts. And by the time I graduated from college for the first time in 1985, I had every Springsteen album on vinyl, as well as several of his singles, both 7″ and 12″.
Today, my boys and their wife/wife-to-be are Springsteen fans, much like their mother and father. Back in the Fall of 1985, my wife and I saw Bruce on his Born in the USA Stadium Tour when it stopped at the old Hoosier Dome. So, today, in honor of Son #2’s fiancee’s birthday, I am ranking all 20 of Bruce Springsteen’s albums.
20. Human Touch (1992). What was Bruce thinking by recording an album with studio musicians with sub-par material?
19. Lucky Town (1992). What was Bruce thinking by recording TWO albums of sub-standard material without the E Street Band’s mojo to fix everything? Just because Guns N’ Roses did this doesn’t mean that Springsteen should have. Put together the two albums’ best material and we would have gotten a decent six-song EP out of it.
18. Devils and Dust (2005). The Boss attempts to find the demo folk magic of Nebraska on an album that is only note-worthy because it contains a song during which The Boss records his first F-bomb. Like I said, who cares?
17. Working on a Dream (2009). I really don’t know Springsteen on a personal level, so I do not know the ages of his children. But, the lyrics on this album sound like a parent who is about to send his kids off to college and he is trying to hold onto them as children. At least, that’s what I was going through at the time, so I may have projected myself onto his lyrics. This is my present-day go-to Springsteen album because it speaks to me.
16. High Hopes (2014). I realize that this album is full of Springsteen re-imagining some of his older songs, but it’s not a bad album at all. Nor is it a lazy album. This album is just his attempt at giving those songs the proper life they deserve.
15. Magic (2007). So, Springsteen writes an album about adult themes and he is held up like the icon he deserves to be. Then, U2 does a similar thing AND gives the damn album away for free on iTunes and people bitch. Lesson? Sell the damn thing and be a capitalist.
14. The Ghost of Tom Joad (1995). In the mid-Nineties, Springsteen lost his way. So, when he decided to go full-on Nebraska-style folkie on this album, everyone remembered how he was one of the greatest rockers of all time and had one of the greatest rock backing bands ever. Once this was out of his system, he got the E Street Band back together and went through one of most prolific periods in his life.
13. Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ (1973). The debut album that sounds like a debut album, tentative and unsure of the sound the artist wanted to follow. For some reason, critics were calling him the next Bob Dylan. With songs like “Growin’ Up” on here, it was obvious he was the first Bruce Springsteen.
12. Wrecking Ball (2012). This is a latter-day Springsteen classic. It only sounds better as it ages.
11. We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (2006). The Boss brought to life a set of songs that should never be forgotten. And he set those songs to a sound reminiscent of The Band’s early days. I still love this album.
10. The Rising (2002). This album helped a nation heal from the wounds gained on 9/11. It will always hold a special place in people’s hearts for that.
9. The Promise (2010). This double-album was nearly released instead of Darkness. History would have been changed if Bruce had followed this path instead of making a direct statement toward punk that he made on Darkness. Who knows how his career would have turned out as The River would no longer have been necessary. Would he have gotten to mega-superstar status sooner? Or ever?
8. Tracks (1998). Personally, I LOVE previously unreleased material finally being collected and released to the public. This box set proves just how much quality music Springsteen has written and recorded. He and Prince are my favorites in this regard.
7. The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle (1973). I remember my college roommate and me air jamming to this song like the concert video footage that MTV would play on occasion. I was always Bruce, and my roommate, Bruce, was Clarence. We always brought down parties when we would spontaneously break in to concert mode whenever we heard this song.
6. Tunnel of Love (1987). When my wife and I went to see Springsteen in concert back in 1985, Bruce had just gotten married to Julianne Phillips. During the concert, my wife leaned over to me and asked, “I wonder what Bruce’s background singer (Patti Sciafla) thinks about Springsteen being married? They seem like they have some chemistry between them.” Leave it to my wife to recognize that stuff before others do. By the way, she was correct! Oh, this album is about the break-up of Springsteen’s first marriage, before he was photographed with Scialfa in the tabloids.
5. The River (1980). This is a double album’s worth of Springsteen’s ode to the frat rock of his youth. It is full of tales of men being beaten down by life searching for that ray of hope that will pull them through life.
4. Nebraska (1982). This is easily Springsteen’s darkest album. The songs were influenced by murder ballads and novels of the Depression-era America. And, The Boss discovered the bleakness at the dawn the Reagan-era.
3. Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978). The Boss heard punk rock and rose to the occasion by subjugating the fury of punk, both musically and lyrically, into his sound, making The Boss both important and vital. He was one of the first artists, along with the Stones and the Kinks to recognize kindred spirits in the punk movement.
2. Born in the USA (1984). The Summer of ’84 was the summer of Purple Rain and Born in the USA. To me, it was perfect. Prince spoke to my optimistic side and Springsteen spoke to my pissed off side. Between the two, I was able to hold my life together because of these albums. This is a classic, that has angry lyrics set to anthemic music, giving one hope at the end of the day.
1. Born to Run (1975). Born to Run is as nearly a perfect album as Prince’s Sign o’ the Times or The Clash’s London Calling. This album could have only been created by someone from the east coast of the US. The album reflects the claustrophobia and romanticism that only one from the New York City Tri-State are capable of experiencing. The only thing is that feeling of needing to break free of one’s hometown roles that is universal. Everyone feels that, even when you are in your fifties, as I am.
Happy birthday Megan! I hope you enjoyed reading about The Boss. Tell my son to play some Springsteen for you tonight.