Him?

You’ve got that itch. Palms are sweating, knees trembling, general jitters. You blink rapidly as you wipe your forehead, trying to keep an eye on the road ahead. How long has it been? An hour? A year? A centu – stop! ‘Pull yourself together, man’, you think, ‘this foolishness has to come to an end’. You’ve got to forget this schoolboy obsession, drive it from your mind – by force, if necessary. It’s unbecoming, and it’s getting harder and harder to hide it from your friends. Besides; he’s all wrong for you, you’re completely different types. He’s not proper, he’s not reserved – why, he doesn’t have an ounce of sarcasm in his body. And have you heard that voice of his? Either a steel-wool bellow or a ‘moon in june’ croon – it’s frightful. No, he’s not our type at all. But then again…it just feels so good. You get excited just thinking about it. The stately piano, the twiddling organ, the chiming guitars, THE WAILING SAXOPHONE! LIL’ DARLIN! JOHNSTOWN! CHEVY! MISTER!

Fuck it, there’s no point in denial. You’re in love with The Boss.

What a mess. God knows you didn’t see it coming. How could you have known when you first heard – and smirked at – the synthetic cheesefest that opens that one-chord wonder ‘Born In The USA’ that in a matter of months you would be flooring it down Warringah Road with the windows down and ‘Born To Run’ pounding out of the speakers for all to hear? No, there was no way of telling that you would soon grow to love the sounds made by this blue-jeaned fool with the infuriating ‘aw shucks’ down-home demeanour. The music was nothing to speak of; a shapeless mix of mid tempo backbeats and bland piano with an unfortunate predilection for saxophone solos, the latter in flagrant disregard of the longstanding ban on such throughout all rock music. And as if the music’s desperately ingratiating ‘rocking’ wasn’t enough to lure in Joe Six-pack, the lyrics sealed the deal through their relentless torrent of platitudes directed towards ‘real people’ that mythologised a distinctly American world of small towns, beat-up cars and broken dreams. You knew then and there that it was either manipulative bullshit or dangerously misguided romanticism, neither of which option made Mr Bruce Springsteen the kind of person with which you wanted to get involved.

And yet here you are. All moony eyed and desperate, waiting for The Boss to call. But why? What do you see in him? You know what it is. Admit it – you want the fantasy. You wake up every day to a world populated almost exclusively by ordinary people, and they’re nothing special. They’re called ‘ordinary’ for a reason. They’re selfish, short-sighted, irrational, pretentious but convinced of their own authenticity, and they can’t stop putting apostrophes where they don’t belong. And you’re beginning to suspect you might be one of them. Bruce is your way out, a temporary reprieve. He offers you forty minutes where you can just barely convince yourself that there’s a romance to it all; that all around you are tales of tragedy and triumph, where even life’s losers are worthy of being mentioned in a song. It’s a whole new world, one where that surly mechanic who keeps ripping you off isn’t picking his nose while he talks, but instead ‘thinkin’ bout Mary Lou / back down Johnstown way / Mister I’d give my soul / to see ‘er jus’ fer one more day’. It’s a world where there’s no problem that can’t be solved by hearing Springsteen’s rusty howl over a self-consciously epic crescendo of strident piano, glistening guitars and a rhythm section set to ‘anthemic’.

But then…well you certainly can’t spend all your time being disillusioned; it’s bad for the spleen. Maybe you’ve earned yourself a little delusion, and it certainly takes some of the edge off the pricks to think that maybe they’re only that way because they’re filled with secret longing and deep thoughts, even if their heads couldn’t generate them without being hooked up to a car battery. Yeah, there’s no denying that Springsteen does like to play for the crowd a bit, to convince them that it’s all a bit more meaningful than it is, but then he was also the one responsible for Nebraska, an album that uses the same palette of small towns and big – sometimes broken – dreams to paint about as stark, and uncommercial, a picture of ‘real’ people as possible. And he does have some mighty good tunes, on that point there can be no confusion. Oh, go on then – enjoy your little crush. Crank the stereo and tap the steering wheel, and tell yourself that you’re just another character caught up in the romantic tragedy of everyday life. Tell yourself that The Boss understands you, that he knows that you’re just trying to play the hand you’ve been dealt. There’ll be time enough for hard-headed cynicism when this infatuation inevitably runs its course. Warringah Road is long, and for the moment there’s nothing to do but enjoy the music.

 

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