It’s a new year. I’m not one for making resolutions in January. In fact I try to avoid them as a rule. New Year’s resolutions tend to be about out making changes in your life – giving up smoking, going to the gym, that type of thing (I don’t know why I’m explaining the concept of New Year’s resolutions to you, I’m sure you’re aware of them). So I don’t make any because whatever the resolution is, I will give up on it at the earliest possible convenience.
One time I tried to drink less Coke. Not give up Coke completely because I knew I couldn’t do that. I just wanted to lower my daily intake. I went to the cinema on New Year’s day and got a large Coke. I could have gotten a smaller size to even begin the process but I was worried about drinking it all during the movie and wanting more. The whole process started to hurt my brain so I just gave up completely. Having said that, the one thing I promised myself I would do this year, resolution wise, is listen to new music. That’s not difficult, right? That’s pretty easy to do – Spotify even sends new music to me every week. All I have to do is take a little time and broaden my musical horizons. The year is now a few days old and the only music I’ve listened to is Bruce Springsteen.
For my birthday last year my friends got me a record player. It’s honestly one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. On the night I was presented with the gift I had been, previous to the reveal of the gift, waxing lyrical about the old days. About having a physical copy of an album and how badly I missed the tradition of sifting through racks and racks of albums in a shop. Picking up something I’d never heard of and bringing it home and sitting down, flicking through the liner notes, examining the artwork and spending quality time with the stories that were about to unfold. I’m still unsure of whether my friends steered me towards that topic knowing that they had a record player waiting in the wings as a surprise or whether I just volunteered my sanctimonious opinions on the truest form of absorbing an album.
Since the arrival of said record player I’ve begun, piece by piece, building a collection. It’s been going well, Boxer by The National accompanied the player. The additions include The Decemberists, Band of Horses, Jack White, St. Vincent… but up until Christmas Eve there was a glaring omission from my catalogue. No Bruce. On December 24th my fiancee delivered our first Bruce record. It was a healthy double LP. Both the record and Rachel are doing great. The record’s name is The River. They say the day your first Bruce record arrives is one of the proudest of your life – I was delighted to find out that this was absolutely not hyperbole.
So The River became the first Springsteen vinyl that I’ve ever owned. It was fitting (and of course well thought out) that this was chosen as the first. We saw Bruce together in Croke Park on May 27th 2016 on The River tour and it was the first album that I forced Rachel to listen to intently as homework. The concert itself was one of the most spectacular experiences of my life. I had been to many of his concerts before and every one of them had been an amazing experience for a multitude of reasons. This time was different though because this time there was a moment. A moment when all of life’s problems went away. I was there with the woman I will marry later this year. We had by some fluke gotten pit passes without even trying to. The moment came just as he followed the members of the E Street Band onto the stage, the sun was trying its best to warm us up as the Boss walked up to the mic and said “One..Two..Three..Four…” and played ‘Darkness On The Edge Of Town’… I cried. I cried because for just that moment everything was perfect. There have been so many times in my life when things were so far from perfect and listening to his music has been my escape, my therapy, my friend consoling me. To be there and experience that moment and to have everything line up just right…I’ll never forget it.
Just as an aside I need to point out the level of self control I’m displaying here because I can’t write and listen to music at the same time and I really, really want to listen to ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ right now. But I know I won’t stop there, I’ll want more and two hours will pass and all I will have done is listen to Bruce and drink whiskey. Which on most nights counts as time well spent but not tonight, not when I’m trying to work.
I’m a person who is constantly searching for the connection between a person and their favourite things. I’m constantly asking ‘why’. Why did that film resonate with me so much? Why can’t I properly connect to Hip Hop music? Why is (insert pop star’s name here) so popular? In this regard, Springsteen is an enigma to me. His songs and persona portray the Every-man and I assume that that has something to do with the spectrum of fans he’s accumulated over the years. As an artist I struggle to come up with anyone who has had the same longevity and relevance as him. People like Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones are similar in longevity and cultural importance but neither is as vibrant and alive, for want of a better word, as Springsteen. His cultural standing and significance is for someone a lot more studied and talented than me. I can only speak about him in relation to my specialist chosen subject: me.
I was young when I started listening to his music. I knew the classics, ‘Born to Run’, ‘Dancing in the Dark’ and ‘Born in the USA’ from the radio or from MTV and there was a greatest hits collection in our house that I listened to which would have been the first time I heard ‘Thunder Road’ and ‘The River’. The first song of his that I can say I truly loved was ‘Atlantic City’. I definitely didn’t know then just how sad that song was, I just loved singing it. When I realised later what was happening in the song it all made sense to me, I’ve always loved a good ol’ depressing song, even before I knew they were good ol’ depressing songs! The first album that I owned was Tunnel Of Love which seems like an odd choice but it does have ‘Tougher Than The Rest’ on it which is one of my favourite songs of his.
He really came to prominence in my world when he released The Rising album. I can remember hearing him singing ‘My City Of Ruins’ on the fundraising telethon that ran on TV a few days after the September 11th attacks and being blown away by how great the song was. The album followed the next year and it was a really strong record. Which was important because all of the great songs that he had made were recorded before my time. This album felt like it had all-time great Springsteen songs on it. Songs like ‘The Rising’ which is possibly the most goosebump-inducing song in the history of music. The Rising tour was the first time I saw his legendary live show and as fate would have it he played ‘Atlantic City’.
A lot of his songs revolve around cars. There is nothing I would love more than to compile the ultimate playlist of Springsteen car songs, rent a car and drive across the wide open countryside of America. The only problem is I don’t know how to drive. So what I’ve had to settle for is walking at great speeds instead. Nothing quite compares to walking on the footpath with your earphones in, trying to avoid dog poop, youths of the hooligan variety and cyclists who don’t know how to use a bike lane with the wind in your hair. Alright so it’s not quite as romantic as picking your girl up in your car, putting the top down and riding around town. I also don’t have hair anymore so I can’t even do the only good bit of the walking fantasy so lets just leave it.
Getting The River and Born To Run on vinyl over Christmas allowed me to experience something like what it would have been like to get those albums as new back in the day. So like I said, it is a new year and with that comes the opportunity for a fresh start. But over the course of the year it’s OK to lean on some old favourites if you need some help getting through the day.