Middle-age affords you a crystal clear looking-glass into your past from which you gain perspective and explanation. When my forty-two-year-old memory stumbles through the hazy maze of marriage, children, anxiety pills and bad stuff I did in my twenties, it occasionally bumps into childhood memories that mean something much different now, than they did then.
In 1984, I turned fourteen in September. Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The U.S.A. was issued to male children on every street and subdivision in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. I was introduced to the Bruce in grade school by my dad and his buddies. The albums Born to Run and Darkness On the Edge Of Town were played in my modest ranch home in the woods. I didn’t worship at the altar of the Boss, but I dug his hard-working style, immediate guitar playing, and songs about getting the hell out-of-town when the opportunity allowed. remembered reading a Rolling Stone magazine story about Springsteen where he was almost kicked out of school for being weird. He was an outcast, posing as one of the boys to get along til his guitar showed him a new world. I related to all of this. He wasn’t my hero, Joe Strummer was, but I got Bruce.
In 1984, Born in the U.S.A. was released in June, on the last day of school. I bought the cassette at the local Turtles record store, the only place in town to buy decent music, and hoped it would be more upbeat than The River and Nebraska, the downer albums that were a little over my teenage head. Dancing in the Dark, a forgettable pop song that featured a short-haired, pre-Family Ties and pre-Friends Courtney Cox dancing with an embarrassed looking Springsteen was playing on MTV. But I knew the time. The Boss had to get on the hot music channel so maybe that was the song that got girls to listen and the rest of the album would rule. It didn’t. It sucked. But I was the only person I knew who thought and like I’ve been prone my entire life, I let it be known. The ostracization that followed was predictable and I deserved it, regardless of how time has shown me to be very very right.
I didn’t get invited to many parties when I was fourteen. I still donned braces. I looked like a ten-year-old chipmunk with the presence of a mortician. I used whatever wit, not yet sharpened, to get by. Not liking one of the biggest records of the year, in a small-town where Prince’s Purple Rain and Madonna’s Like a Virgin were by a “little weirdo” and a “whore” while working class superhero Bruce was kicking ass on the charts made me even more disliked. At the time, I thought it was a personality flaw of mine. Why did I always seem to be contrarian to the group-think? Why couldn’t I just go along to get along?
I have a hard time with social media and blogging sometimes. I don’t “get” the really popular sites and people. I’ll often read posts and tweets by friends I think that are brilliant and they have a fraction of the hits and followers that people called “Internet superstars”. It worries me. Am I the problem? Should I moderate my taste and style?
Earlier today I took a break from reviewing my novel manuscript and went for a long run. I found YouTube on my phone and listened to Born To Run. For some reason that I was only attest to that looking-glass thing I wrote above, I played Glory Days, the lone song off Born on the U.S.A I can stomach. Through the prism of maturity and the decent lyrics about a middle-age guy coming to grips with the bad decisions he and his friends made when they were young, I realized that being contrarian, different, and flat out weird is just who I am. I still think Born in the U.S.A. is lightweight and by far, the Boss’ worst artistic decision of his Hall of Fame career. I’m a Born to Run kind of Bruce fan. While there’s no danger of me hopping on my suicide machine, I’m without a doubt a tramp. And tramps like me, baby, we’re born to run.
I reached out to the Twitter and the Book o Face. https://www.facebook.com/#!/lance.burson/posts/10152552265405024?comment_id=482828318¬if_t=feed_comment There are so many friends on different sides of different fences concerning Bruce. The best comments came from Facebooks, Leah aka @smalltownleah dropped “Springsteen sucks, the end”. Kevin detailed his visit to two concerts. Earl gave me some Jersey history, which is nice. While Kath aka @katstheory delivered sharp analysis “I can’t say worst. After Nebraska, it was like coming out of the darkness.It was fun, it made for great outdoor shows. Before Nebraska was The River, which was a double album of while not totally dark, more on the dark side. While USA & My Hometown gave it something important to say, the rest of the album was basically an easy listen. While I don’t think his next Tunnel of Love was given enough credit…lyrically there are some brilliant things on it. I’ve written about that. Then once you get to The Rising, he hits it full force.” I also think I talked Andra into listening to the Boss’ 70s records.
Here’s Born To Run: