February 3, 2009

"I love Bruce for the simple reason he is, from all appearances, a social phobe and a depressive."

Says Stephen Metcalf, bemoaning the fact that Springsteen gave a powerfully energetic performance at the Super Bowl halftime.
Nothing will ever compete for sheer tone-deafness with Paul McCartney playing a zealous Super Bowl rendition of "Live and Let Die" at the height of the Iraq war. But Springsteen would have put America on its ass—its mind shortly to follow—had he strolled out with a Martin and played "The Wrestler."... The national mood is sober bordering on a galloping panic. Lively as he was, I wouldn't say the Boss did much to either banish or capture it.
Yeah, why doesn't Bruce help us plunge ever more deeply into depression — mental, to go with the economic?

102 comments:

Henry said...

Why did the Steelers have to win? Why couldn't both teams lose?

fcai said...

He is old an he does not sing well. His act is hackneyed and annoying.

It was good to see Silvio in his natural habitat.

Bob said...

I hate him for Born To Run and his soul patch, myself.

Original George said...

Exactly, that's the spirit, Mr. Metcalf, critic-at-large.

During time of war, let's have a Super Bowl halftime act that "put[s] America on it ass--its mind shortly to follow."

Yes, let's feel like losers. Let's feel bad.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I rank him as a close second to Bob Dylan in singing talent.

k*thy said...

What the what the?

pro said...

I don't think this person has ever been to a football game or a Springsteen show. We drink beer at these things.

He needs to listen to Live 75-85 to get a better idea about Bruce's "failing souffle" and "unsure" manner.

Bissage said...

When the hell was Springsteen ever an acquired taste?

He was from day one a Jersey version of Van Morrison.

There's nothing wrong with that but Mr. Metcalf should know better than to pretend that Springsteen’s relatively slow start off the line ever had anything to do with his being avant-garde.

Simon said...

What a dreary little man this Metcalf is.

TitusWantsToRecruitU said...

I hate his politics but grudgeonly thought he performed well.

That was hard for me to admit.

jayne_cobb said...

I thought it was pretty good, but i could have done without the crotch shot

blogging cockroach said...

hi professor
pardon me if i don t hear a note of true
reciprocity in that review
i mean between metcalf s ears brain and fingers
wow that is my candidate for most depressive
schitzo review of a performance by a has been
rock n roller in the past year
you know i have the transmigrated soul of a
composer so i was a real music snob and didn t
pay attention to rock and pop but i sure did
pay attention to music reviews oh yes i did
as someone who specialized in dead end music
i gotta tell you it s all over when the reviewers
start getting all sociological and
start in on postmodernism and angst etc
not to mention the agglomerating powers of the mass
you know i specialized in music that came out of the
angst ridden vienna of freud mahler expressionism
and general fin de siecle decay
what i want to know is what is this guy s excuse
cause if we re going to do angst and fin de siecle
decay they really did it right back in old vienna
plus they got lulu and venus in furs out of it as well

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

Like pro said, i don't believe this guy has ever seen Springsteen live. Bruce is a great performer and showman. You don't go to one of his concerts to get depressed.

Larry J said...

I rank him as a close second to Bob Dylan in singing talent.

SLAM!

Really, I've never been a big Springsteen fan but I though his halftime show was better than average although not by much. He does have an exceptional sax player in the band.

Tibore said...

"But Springsteen would have put America on its ass—its mind shortly to follow—had he strolled out with a Martin and played "The Wrestler."... The national mood is sober bordering on a galloping panic. Lively as he was, I wouldn't say the Boss did much to either banish or capture it."

Well, Mr. Metcalf, you're completely blind and tone deaf on the former - banishing it - and you're utterly stupid on the latter. Who the hell are you to impose such a social duty on the halftime show?

This is why I scorn so much of the supposedly intellectual elite nowadays, and the writers with pretensions of belonging in that class. They confuse drudgery with depth and then cite it as a national imperative. I don't dig Springsteen myself, but I've read a bunch of posts on the net saying "What a show!", enough to where I'm happy that other people enjoyed the heck out of it. That's something that the killjoy Metcalf doesn't seem to want to acknowledge - that the show was in fact enjoyable and pleased a great number of people - and in fact, half seems to think should be ruined (the other half wanting the negativity he feels to be "banished", but wallowing so deep in his pit of national despair that he couldn't bring himself to recognize that many others not anchored to such faux-poseur delusions of depth and feeling enjoyed the show just fine. Here's one example).

There are times when I wonder if the terminally depressed just manage to find ways to find a megaphone, or if there's something about writing to a mass audience for certain large publications that turns people into killjoys. I also wonder if there's something about that class of writers that makes them wish for someone else to raise them out of their pits of gloom, then turn on their supposed saviors on a dime when they sense the least bit of disappointment (witness the buildup of his worship of The Boss before the climax of the putdown at the end) while failing to realize that they were the ones building them up too falsely to begin with (and as a side note, who wants to take bets on who'll first spurn Obama and write viciously about him? It's bound to happen). These folks love to project illusions of profound thought, but they flutter their intellects here and there like moths near a flame, and in the end do nothing more than display all the depth of a cookie sheet in their writings. They fail to do anything more than depress people who read their work. Guess that's their definition of profound: Do you feel like crap afterwards?

Shallow hack, that writer.

Tibore said...

"Original George said...
Exactly, that's the spirit, Mr. Metcalf, critic-at-large.

During time of war, let's have a Super Bowl halftime act that "put[s] America on it ass--its mind shortly to follow."

Yes, let's feel like losers. Let's feel bad."


Amen, George. That's exactly how I feel; the writer feels like shit and wants the rest of the world to follow. Most middle schoolers go through that phase with Emo poetry and Goth clothing, but he chooses to display it with words.

What a hack.

SteveR said...

Maybe with Bush out of office, noted pop critic Steve Simels can be freed from his impeachment crusade and return to his true calling and tell us what Bruce Springsteen did at the Superbowl.

Too many people on stage (six guitars!!), Clarence playing a cowbell, Max gives his Conan boys some glory and the American Idol like insipid arm waving crowd.

John said...

In a word Bruce sucks. He hasn't done a decent record since Human Touch. Even his good records are wildly overrated. Yeah, there are some good songs but try listening to Born to Run or Born in the USA front to back sometime. Just try. You find some good music, but you will also find a lot of over done crap to. Further, Bruce is an intellectual fake. He wrote his entire new record he claims as an expression of his rage at George Bush taking away the America he loved. Really? What America would that be Bruce? You mean the one you spent the last 30 years trashing and writing songs about how horrible and inquitable it is for the common man? Gotta get out while were young, right Bruce?

The funny thing is that at least in the 70s Bruce was never big in the heartland he claims to speak for. Cities like Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City always belonged to the much more authentic Bob Seger than they ever did to Bruce. Bruce was always just a prop for east coast white guy psudointellectuals to feel some kind kinship to the working class. He was and always will be, despite some good work, a poser. That would be okay if he any sense of self awareness. But since he doesn't, his schtick gets more annoying by the day.

Revenant said...

I don't think this person has ever been to a football game or a Springsteen show

Heh, that was my reaction too.

Maguro said...

It would have been great if Bruce had walked out and played the first four tracks from Nebraska at halftime of the Super Bowl, if only to see the look on Roger Goodell's face.

At least Patti Scialfa didn't have a wardrobe malfunction.

Sigivald said...

Live and Let Die was, after all, a James Bond film theme.

And nothing is more American (oddly!) than Bond films.

(Plus, his complaint makes me think he never listened to the words of the song, either.

I guess the "insensitive" part is how the "ever changing world we live in" makes you "give in and cry", replacing your previous "live and let live" with a "live and let die"...

And how in wartime, I guess that would be applied to the civilian-targeting insurgents the US was spending so much blood and treasure fighting?

How insensitive to sing about letting them die, after being driven to tears by their actions?

What? That criticism doesn't even make any damned sense, textually.)

Revenant said...

In a word Bruce sucks. He hasn't done a decent record since Human Touch. Even his good records are wildly overrated. Yeah, there are some good songs

How can a rock musician "suck" if he has "some good songs"? Does not compute.

but try listening to Born to Run or Born in the USA front to back sometime.

I would recommend that people do the same thing, but for the opposite reason; the album holds together really well in its entirety, in my opinion.

Born in the USA, yes, I agree on that. But Born in the USA was, at the time of its release, the worst album Springsteen had ever done. :)

blogging cockroach said...

sorry but i want to make a correction
that wasn t my candidate for most depressive
schitzo review of a performance by a has been
rock n roller in the past year
no
that s most depressive schitzo review e v a r
geez
it s bruce springsteen at the super bowl for chrissakes
what does he want the ending of wozzeck
or maybe transfigured night to cheer us up

peter hoh said...

I felt the Slate vibe coming from that snippet before I clicked the link.

John said...

"It would have been great if Bruce had walked out and played the first four tracks from Nebraska at halftime of the Super Bowl, if only to see the look on Roger Goodell's face."

That would have been awesome. Bruce would have become my favorite artist ever. As I recall the first four songs on that record, his only real memorable one for my money, are

1. Nebraska - good country death song about a teenage serial killer. Yeah that will get the crowd of paid extras rocking.

2. Atlantic City - A good dirge about the evils of gambling and having "debts no honest man can pay". I am sure Goodell and the seven point underdog Cardinals would have loved that one.

3. Mansion on the Hill - Rich envious of poor. Should go over great with millionaire owners and athletes

4. Johny 99 - Would the part about closing down the auto plant in Mahawa late last month be in bad taste considering the auto bailout?

John said...

"How can a rock musician "suck" if he has "some good songs"?"

By becoming a 20 years past his prime humorless fake. That is how. Does Elton John suck? Well if he would have died after his 5th record no way. But as things stand now and considering his body of work over the last 25 years, absolutley Sir Elton sucks, even though once upon a time he was great.

As for Born to Run, who other than die hard Bruce heads listens to Born to Run, 10th Avenue Freeze Out, and Thunder Road off of that record? That is three songs. Is it a good record? Yes. But it isn't even in the top 100 all time. Easily the most overrated record of the 70s.

EDH said...

The major on-sale date for his tour was the Monday following the Super Bowl. So, think of his upbeat performace as "counter-cyclical stimulus."

Springsteen certainly isn't a "social phobe and depressive." Sure, when he's off stage but around or before the public he tries to be low-key. But I think that's because of his aversion to the ra-ra hero worship that dates back to the 1980s. That stuff understandably makes him uncomfortable. Otherwise, he'll often take the time to thank those who work with and for him, and he does seem to like to meet fans in small groups (outside of structured meet and greets) when it's least expected.

John said...

"Sure, when he's off stage but around or before the public he tries to be low-key. But I think that's because of his aversion to the ra-ra hero worship that dates back to the 1980s."

I think that is probably true. Further, after what happened to Lennon, I think super famous musicians are more than a little afraid of their fans. I don't blame them. I would be to.

ricpic said...

Springstein would have put America on its ass.

When did it come to be that so much weight was given to a purveyor of pop-culture? Would a member of the generation that came of age in WW II have ever made the claim that anything Sinatra might have sung "would have put America on its ass?" Don't tell me it's not significant that so many since "the great change" have their priorities wrong.

Maguro said...

Springstein would have put America on its ass.

Better not mention Springstein unless you want to provoke a 500-word Cedarford post on Jew rock-starring.

I think we'd all like to avoid that.

blogging cockroach said...

ricpic
bingo

TMink said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TMink said...

Stepen Metcalf is a script writer. He should be excused for his bullshit, it is his line of work. You can tell this type of "review" quite easily if you know what to lok for. It speaks more about the writer than the music.

Slate is a decent bunch, they should get someone who knows something about music to critique it. It would help if the person did not have borderline personality disorder as well. It usually does!

I nominate my good friend Steve Simmels.

Trey

John said...

"Slate is a decent bunch"

Any publication that hires a nasty, bitter moonbat like Dalhia Lithwick is certainly not a decent bunch.

Pogo said...

The US will be put on its ass soon enough, along with the rest of the world, so Metcalf should be happy then, except mebbe about the "no work for script writers" part.

Revenant said...

By becoming a 20 years past his prime humorless fake.

It happens to everyone who doesn't drop dead at a young age. :)

John said...

"It happens to everyone who doesn't drop dead at a young age. :)"

Some have a sense of humor or a sense of self. Robert Plant refuses to trade on his past or tour with Led Zepplin even though it would make him tens of million if not a few hundred million dollars. Instead he does bluegrass with Allison Krause and plays small venues. All that even though, unlike Bruce, Plant really was a rock star in the 70s.

Revenant said...

As for Born to Run, who other than die hard Bruce heads listens to Born to Run, 10th Avenue Freeze Out, and Thunder Road off of that record?

Of the eight tracks on "Born to Run", the only two that don't get airplay on classic rock stations are "Night" and "Meeting Across the River". Besides, if your standard for "good album" is that people who aren't hardcore fans like every track on it then every album ever made is a piece of shit. :)

Revenant said...

Robert Plant refuses to trade on his past or tour with Led Zepplin

Ok, I'm a huge fan of Led Zeppelin but that's a big ol' pile of bullshit right there. Yes, there has never been a reunion of the full band but he has teamed up with Jimmy Page to re-record old LZ songs and tour. His objection to the attempted LZ reunion this last year was that it was too much of a pain in the ass, not that it lacked artistic merit. Anyone who thinks Plant "refuses to trade on his past" obviously fell into a coma in 1981. :)

You can quibble on the "humorless" thing (which I don't think particularly applies to Bruce either), but Plant has most definitely been living off his past successes for the better part of 30 years. The first decent new thing he's done since the Carter administration were his duets with Alison Krauss, and he was definitely the lesser light on "Raising Sand".

Hazy Dave said...

It's nuts to diss a Super Bowl half-time performance that was energetic, self-aware, and even contained some good music.

I'm particularly astonished Metcalf wasn't receptive to the upbeat mood, reflecting the nation's new-found Obama-inspired optimism (or whatever) - Wall Street notwithstanding. I imagine he would've been happier if the game was played before January 20, and Neil Young were booked to sing his crowd pleasing "Let's Impeach the President" instead...

I have my own reservations about Broooce's albums of the last thirty years in general, and have little attraction to stadium-size rock concerts, but calling Born to Run overrated is ridiculous. Allow me to sniff in disdain at whatever you consider the best album of the seventies.

John said...

"His objection to the attempted LZ reunion this last year was that it was too much of a pain in the ass, not that it lacked artistic merit. Anyone who thinks Plant "refuses to trade on his past" obviously fell into a coma in 1981. :)"

Plant never did LZ songs during his solo tours in the 80s. Yes, he toured with Page but he refused to call it LZ. Him and Page could have called Jones, hired a session drumer and walked away with millions anytime they wanted to but never did. The Eagles made $100million in the mid 90s. Imagine what Page and Plant could have made if they had just been willing to slap the LZ label on their tours. Short of outright denying he ever played in the band what exactly should he have done for you to say he didn't trade on his past.

As far as the Zeppelin re-union last year. That tour would have been the biggest ever. I find it hard to beleive that Plant walked away from it and a cool eight figure salary because it was a pain in the ass. Either Plant is the laziest person on earth or he has an objection to touring under the name. Again, if he just wanted to trade on his past, why didn't he and Plant call their tours in the 90s Led Zepplin and take in 10 times the money?

Original George said...

Re: Plant

Back in the day, Linda Ronstadt said he had the perfect name, considering that his vocal stylings were inhuman.

Plant was good with Krauss, but she was better by far as she is possessed by angels from Neptune.

John said...

"I have my own reservations about Broooce's albums of the last thirty years in general, and have little attraction to stadium-size rock concerts, but calling Born to Run overrated is ridiculous."

Only if you have decent taste in music. The lyrics to Born to Run itself are so over done they border on comical. It is as if The Onion decided to write a Dylan album. Further if there is a poorer excuse for a hook guitar riff than the opening riff to Born to Run, I can't think of one. It is like bad Eno Morricione. Terrible. Just unlistenable and it gets worse every year and that is one of the better songs on the record.

Just for the record it is not as if I can't appreciate some of Bruce's music. Nebraska is a brilliant record. Human Touch is quite good and Darkness on the Edge of Town has its moments. Hell, Greetings from Ashbury Park is at least playable on occasion. But Born to Run? No way. That record needs to be forgotten.

John said...

"Back in the day, Linda Ronstadt said he had the perfect name, considering that his vocal stylings were inhuman."


Back in the day, Zeppilin was loathed by all right thinking music literati of which Ronstadt was one. The critics were too busy praising ELP and Born to Run to worry about Zepplin. Of course quality wins out over time. Who listens to Ronstadt anymore?

John said...

Just off the top of my head

The Police, Oulandod d'Amour
Led Zeppelin, IV
Elton John, Goodbye Yellowbrick Road
Marvin Gaye, What's Going On
Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers
Rolling Stones, Exile on Mainstreet
The Alman Brothers, Live at The Filmore East
Bob Dylan and the Band, The Basement Tapes

Were all released in the 1970s and are all vastly superior to anything Springsteen did. That is just what I can think of sitting here.

Pogo said...

The best album of the Seventies was surely Peter Frampton Live.

I never owned it or listened to it, but there was that one song on the radio all the time, and I saw a copy in damn near everyone's house for years afterwards. It seemed as if it were compulsory, and I was afraid I'd get caught when the PF house checks started.

Oh yeah, that's it:

I'm in you...
yer in meeeeeeeee.....
I'm in youuuuuuuuu...."


God I hated that song. What did everyone do with all those albums anyway?

John said...

"I'm in you...
yer in meeeeeeeee.....
I'm in youuuuuuuuu...."


That wasn't on FRampton Comes Alive. It was on his horrible followup. And I don't care what people say, "Do You Feel Like I Do" is a great song!!

Revenant said...

Plant never did LZ songs during his solo tours in the 80s.

He made it all the way from 1980 to 1988's "Now and Zen" before he started recycling Zeppelin material, yes. That was 20 years ago. What was that phrase you used for Springsteen, again? Oh yes -- "20 years past his prime".

Yes, he toured with Page but he refused to call it LZ.

By that logic Springsteen wouldn't be "trading on his past" if he spent his time covering his old hit songs but replaced half the E Street Band first.

Him and Page could have called Jones, hired a session drumer and walked away with millions anytime they wanted to but never did.

So your argument is that while Plant's a sellout, he's not as big as sellout as he could have been?

Short of outright denying he ever played in the band what exactly should he have done for you to say he didn't trade on his past.

He teamed up with his former bandmate and songwriting partner to do an album and tour consisting almost entirely of cover versions of Led Zeppelin songs and you're asking me what he could have done for me to say he didn't trade on his past? Have you got any other stupid questions?

traditionalguy said...

This thread gives me no satisfaction. On Buddy Holley Memorial day we should exclude all Undocumented workers from England, at least until midnight tonight.

Pogo said...

"That wasn't on Frampton Comes Alive."

Hah! I never owned any Framptom albums, but its sheer ubiquity argues for 'best album' designation.

I was off listening to punk myself, so what do I know from good?.

Host with the Most said...

Bruce Springsteen is a talented Socialist. He is not arrogant from what I have read or heard; he;s just wrong about most everything that touches politics.

If you can ignore all of that, he puts on great show.

Revenant said...

Were all released in the 1970s and are all vastly superior to anything Springsteen did. That is just what I can think of sitting here.

To turn your earlier question back on you, who other than a hardcore Led Zeppelin fan listens to "Four Sticks"?

Who but a hardcore Stones fan listens to "Turd on the Run"?

Who but a hardcore Dylan fan listens to... uh, ANYTHING on "The Basement Tapes?

Etc, etc.

John said...

"He teamed up with his former bandmate and songwriting partner to do an album and tour consisting almost entirely of cover versions of Led Zeppelin songs and you're asking me what he could have done for me to say he didn't trade on his past? Have you got any other stupid questions?"

So I guess McCartney is a sell out for playing Beatles songs? They are Plant's song aren't they. Further the E-Street Band example is a bad one. People listen to Springsteen not the "E-Street Band". They are a backing band for the star not a real band. So unless Springsteen wants to change his name he can't avoid trading on his past.

By your standard who doesn't trade on their past? Clapton certainly does everytime he plays Crossroads at a concert. Harrison did everytime he played Something.

Essentially you expect Plant to never work with Page again and never play another Led Zepplin song live in order to avoid the charge of not trading on his past. That is just stupid. Trading on your past is the Eagles getting together to do a nastalgia tour with no new songs and only half of the bands original members and still calling it the Eagles. Plant never did that.

Hazy Dave said...

John, the only thing on your list better than Born To Run is the Allman Brothers at Fillmore East. Maybe Sticky Fingers. LZIV? Give me a break. Police? You must be joking. Elton John on the greased slope of fame is no comparison whatsoever, and Marvin Gaye, the Basement Tapes and Exiles are straight out of the music snob playbook. Tell me how often you listen to those all the way through.

(The other point of this response is to illustrate the futility of criticizing someone else's taste in music.)

John said...

"Marvin Gaye, the Basement Tapes and Exiles are straight out of the music snob playbook. Tell me how often you listen to those all the way through."


Damn Straight I do. You ain't going nowhere is a better song than anything Springsteen has produced. Inner City Blues is fantastic. Hell, I like Marvin Gaye so much I will listen to Here By Dear all the way through, which is another record that is better than anything Springsteen ever did.

As far as Exile goes, it is better than Sticky Fingers. The first side of the four record set is incredible. The last two sides are a bit weak I will admit, although All Down the Line is great. Admittedly it should have been a single rather than a double record. But it still has one full LPs worth of good material, which is a lot more than Born to Run. What would you rather listen to Tumbling Dice or 10th Avenue Freeze Out? Come on, it is not even close.

John said...

Yes,

The Police are a much better band than Springsteen. First, they are better musicians. Second, Sting can actually sing in key and has a vocal range of more than three notes. Third, Police lyrics are often clever and funny. Springsteen has never written anything whitty or ironic or funny in his life.

How can anyone in the 21st Century take Born to Run seriously? Honestly, it is a joke. In many ways Springsteen was a bigger poser then he is now. Now he is almost performance art as some kind of aging out of touch millionaire rock star. Back then he wasn't even that. He really tried to come accross as an everyman singing comically bad lyrics and poorly composed songs. Maybe at the time it spoke to people. I don't know. I was five. But looking back, it just looks rediculous.

Simon said...

Revenant said...
"[If the] standard for 'good album' is that people who aren't hardcore fans like every track on it then every album ever made is a piece of shit."

Dare I even whisper it - even Sgt. Pepper has a lemon on there.

John said...
"Imagine what Page and Plant could have made if they had just been willing to slap the LZ label on their tours."

John Paul Jones' head explode, for one thing.

"[I]f there is a poorer excuse for a hook guitar riff than the opening riff to Born to Run, I can't think of one."

I'm hard-pushed to think of a single memorable Springsteen riff. Even Brian Adams has more memorable stuff.

"Any publication that hires a nasty, bitter moonbat like Dalhia Lithwick is certainly not a decent bunch."

Hey! She is partisan, yes - but she's funny, and an awfully good writer. I rather like her, frankly, although I was very disappointed when she seemed to climb onto the "impeach or investigate" bandwagon, and I do worry about what effect her stuff has on people who follow the courts less closely. Nevertheless, for those of us who understand the material she's writing about, I think she's very enjoyable.

John said...

HazyDAve,

Get off LZIV. Listen to the live versions of the songs on How the West Was Won. Or better yet lesten to How the West Was Won and then immediately listen to Springsteen Live 75-85. Springsteen will sound terrible in comparison. He will sound old, slow and overwrought and that was when he was young.

As far as LZ IV the studio tracks go. It is not LZ's fault Stairway got played beyond death. When The Levy Breaks is fantastic. Black Dog is still a great hard rock song. When did Springsteen ever write anything that had a swing to it like Rock and Roll? Never.

TMink said...

I must agree with John concerning Marvin Gaye. A troubled man, but a gifted soul.

But I love me some Bruce too.

And I rarely listen to albums all the way through except when I am ripping them. Darn iPod has goofed me up on that.

Trey

John said...

"Nevertheless, for those of us who understand the material she's writing about, I think she's very enjoyable."

I am a former military lawyer. I used to like Lithwick some to. That was until she started writing about law of war related issues. Then she became just a derranged moonbat. I have no use for her now.

author, etc. said...

Springsteen is an occasionally great songwriter but an irritating performer.

His best songs are, in my humble opinion, Thunder Road, The River, One Step Up and Two Steps Back, Meeting Across the River, Tunnel of Love, Hard to Be a Saint in the City, Spirits in the Night, and Racing in the Streets.

As for his performances, when that "Ref" appeared toward the end of the Super Bowl show, it reminded me of the frequent cheesiness of Springsteen's "go all night" stage act. Many years ago he used to have a medical team with a stretcher come and bear his sweatsoaked body offstage. No thanks. Just play the music, please.

Of the E Street Band, the only musicians technically interesting are Nils Lofgren and the piano player, Roy Bittan. The rest, Clarence Clemens especially, are roadhouse hacks who might as well be playing with mittens on.

Frankly, I think Springsteen's artistic downturn began around the time he adopted that high-lonesome drawl with all those weird hard R's and "aw shucks" Appalachian affects in his speech and singing style. He's from New Jersey, for Pete's sake. Not eastern Kentucky.

John said...

"But I love me some Bruce too."

So do I. I just think Born to Run sucks.

Pogo said...

It's hard to beat Bobby Goldsboro's 'Honey' as one of the most beautiful songs of the 70s, maybe evar.

And by 'most beautiful songs' I mean 'a song that made my spleen burst, my fillings erode and expose bare nerves, made my irritable bowel syndrome go to continuous launch mode, and made me bang my head repeatedly on the floor just to MAKEITSTOP!!!.'

John said...

"And by 'most beautiful songs' I mean 'a song that made my spleen burst, my fillings erode and expose bare nerves, made my irritable bowel syndrome go to continuous launch mode, and made me bang my head repeatedly on the floor just to MAKEITSTOP!!!.'"

That was an entire genra in the 70s. Don't forget Helen Ready and Debbie Boon.

Hazy Dave said...

Just how many of LZ's songs did they actually write, anyway? "Dazed & Confused"? "The Lemon Song"? I think of their artistic integrity almost every time a Cadillac commercial comes on the tube. How The West Was Won mostly reminds me of what a good studio band they were. Your arguments fall apart under their own weight.

The last two sides are a bit weak.

No fooling.

John said...

Hazy Dave,

There is no accounting for taste. I think How The Best Was Won is the best live record ever. I don't understand how anyone can listen to it and not be impressed with how well they played and the kind of energy they had in their prime. It blows away anything I have ever heard Springsteen play and I have seen him live twice. Both shows were long and boring with a couple of decent moments.

As far as Led Zeppelin's orginality. They pretty much wrote the book on how you make a hard rock song. Yes, many of their songs were taken from blues songs, but if you think what they played was blues, you don't know much about blues. They played something different. They were not a band like the early Fleetwood Mac that just played blues standards as they were meant to be played. They really created their own music, part blues, part fake hippie, part fake mystic but original. In many ways the were totally shamless and over the top. But, they managed to get away with it. Done badly, you try to do what LZ did and you end up as poison. But that is their genius, they managed to be totally over the top but still have a sense of humor and still make it all work.

John said...

It is interesting that you guys bought into Live at the Fillmore so easily being better than Born to Run. I do think it is the better record. But honestly, has any sober person listened to "Im Memory of Elizibeth Reid" straight through?

Pogo said...

No, but I did listen to Three Times a Lady by the Commodores about a zillion times, and it made me want to skin a live puppy.

Hazy Dave said...

It definitely helps to be shameless when you're claiming authorship for songs you didn't write. Having ruthless management also helps.

I don't see what sobriety has to do with anything. ;-> And I won't be drawn into Pogo's discussion of the most obnoxious hit singles of the seventies, either. Afternoon Delight.

Original George said...

Professor--

The above comments prove conclusively that you have a lot of middle-aged men reading your blog.

The dead rise on Easter. Hallelujah.

Simon said...

John, I didn't mean my comment about Lithwick to sound as condescending as it suddenly looks in hindsight (or to imply that you didn't understand the material); I apologize if it came over that way. I was looking for a way to get the point over that once you know the stuff she's writing about, the idiosyncrasies of the piece qua reporting aren't so bothersome and it becomes enjoyable just as an an/ed piece. In my own view, at least, she's very enjoyable to read. And even to the extent that it's problematic qua reporting, I think the argument could be made that Lithwick's shameless, transparent honesty is an awful lot better than the sort of cloudy mess Greenhouse used to offer up (and Liptak now does).

John said...

"It definitely helps to be shameless when you're claiming authorship for songs you didn't write. Having ruthless management also helps."

You must have a lot of problems with the Stones then. They claimed authorship or called it "traditional" of every public domain blues song they ever covered. The Stones management makes Peter Grant look like a teddy bear.


My affection for LZ waxes and wanes. I loved them as a kid. Ignored them in my 20s but now in my 30s have rediscovered them and have found their music to have aged better than a lot of other stuff I listened to when I was young. Maybe I am wrong about that and just getting old and nastalgic.

Revenant said...

I'm hard-pushed to think of a single memorable Springsteen riff. Even Brian Adams has more memorable stuff.

In a normal "guitar, bass, and drums" rock ensemble the drums and bass provide support for the guitar, which forms the meat of the music. There are exceptions, e.g. Primus and The Police, where the bass is the key, and some bands (e.g. the Beatles) add a rhythm guitar to the mix, but by and large the guitar is calling the shots.

Springsteen's music, at least up to and including Born to Run, adds saxophone, piano, and organ to the mix. If there is a featured instrument, it is usually either the piano or the saxophone. Where a normal hard rock some would have a guitar solo, Clarence Clemmons plays the sax.

BJM said...

Bissage said: He was from day one a Jersey version of Van Morrison.

You steal my heart away.

TMink said...

"But honestly, has any sober person listened to "Im Memory of Elizibeth Reid" straight through?"

That song is on my "Night Driving" playlist. It begins the playlist, and I think it is so perfect for night driving, I let it play through. I even have a very nice live acoustic version of it!

The perfect night driving song for me has a killer, somewhat repetitive groove, and good soloing. "Riders On The Storm" is an about perfect example, as is "Moonlight Drive."

You were right John, there is no accounting for taste. 8)

Fun thread.

Trey

Patm said...

Springsteen is such a posturing phony.

The best Super Bowl halftime show, ever, was U2, right after 9/11. Youtube it. It's phenomenal.

Bono is a posturing phony, too, but he knows it, and therefore he is more sincere.

traditionalguy said...

Hey, for a depressive he sure got everything he ever wanted. He can now make ads for anti-depressant Rx drugs, a la Bob Dole, as he gets older, and older, and older.His ads could also run a warning against periods of happiness lasting longer than 4 hours, telling sufferors to quickly listen to Hard Rock to relieve any weird too happy feelings.

TMink said...

And they are not all by The Doors.

Big Electric Cat - Adrian Belew
I Want You/She's So Heavy - Beatles
Estimated Prophet - Grateful Dead
A Night In Tunisia - lots of folks, I really like a Dizzy Gillespie version that I have
And of course, Moondance, by the Bruce Springsteen of Belfast.

Trey

Maguro said...

But honestly, has any sober person listened to "Im Memory of Elizibeth Reid" straight through?

Hell yes! Great stuff by Dickie Betts and company. My only complaint is that it's not long enough!

Patm said...

So, the people dancing on the field during the halftime show weren't even real audience members? They were hired extras"

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28507559/

Phony.

TMink said...

Patm wrote: "Bono is a posturing phony, too, but he knows it, and therefore he is more sincere."

Thanks, and good catch! I was reading along and was about to write something like "Bono is to Bruce in the poser category what Reagan is to Bush in the conservative category" or something like it, then I read you did it yourself and tied it up with nice reasoning.

Good job!

And I really quite enjoy U2 as well, despite Bono's bombast.

Trey

Pogo said...

I liked U2 until Zoo TV and Bono did that Fly stuff. Yuck.

I'd rather watch dog sausage being made in Botswana.

chickenlittle said...

"But honestly, has any sober person listened to "Im Memory of Elizibeth Reid" straight through?"

Are you effing kidding me?
In Memory of Elizabeth Reed off the Fillmore east album is one of those songs that I never tire of hearing in its entirety--it was very well structured and put together. Read about it on wikipedia some time.

John said...

I can't do Liz Reid. It just goes on and on and on. I love that record but I missed that gene. I understand many people didn't. But I wonder how many people who claim to love that song really listen to it. Some do I am sure but I bet a few don't.

As far as U2 goes, I have always liked them but as we get older we have to face facts about our childhood heroes. Their rythem section has at best primitive skills and Bono's voice is not what it once was. That said The Edge is the most underrated guitarist ever and really the genius in the band.

AJ Lynch said...

Springsteen's The Rising is a great album to take on long drives. You can play it over and over.

Bruce may be a lib elitist but I ignore that. Just like Alec Baldwin who I think can flat out act- so I ignore their politics.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

U2 and Springsteen are two of the greatest live acts. Their songs tend to sound so much better live.

I agree about The Rising, however. I too enjoy listening to the entire CD while driving.

William said...

In his best roles Steve McQueen looks as caged and pent up as a big cat in the zoo. But there's a resourcefulness in his eyes that makes you think he'll find a way out of the cage....That's the way Springsteen's music hits me. The downbeat lyrics are the cage, but the beat pops free. In the end the energy of the songs is subversive of the downbeat message in the lyrics. The Boss is an optimist in spite of himself and that's the part of his music his fans key on. The lyrics to Born in the USA are not patriotic but people feel a swell of patriotism when they hear the music. Working class Americans know the paces of their caged lives and are looking for a way break out. Bruce's music is a way out.

AimHighHitLow said...

Seen most of the big arena rock bands. Springsteen live sets are best rock performances I have ever seen. His albums are not as good. His Super Bowl set was a lot of fun, and I was glad he kept the politics on the low burner. Why did anybody expect anything other than what was delivered on Sunday?

Regarding Robert Plant and recycling old Led Zep songs. I saw his live set promoting Now and Zen (a very good live set too). He performed some of Lep Zeps less well known songs to a great response. He traded in Led Zep nostalgia after leaving the band, but with a light touch.

Diamondhead said...

Without getting into Bruce Springsteen's lameness (except to say he's not fit to carry Dylan's suitcase), geographically speaking how does the writer place sobriety adjacent to galloping panic? Seems like there'd be some sort of buffer zone in between the two.

sydney said...

I used to be a big Springsteen fan. I still like "Born to Run," but I was a teenager when it came out and it spoke to me. What teenager can't relate to "It's a town full of losers and I'm pulling out of here to win"?

I always regretted never being able to get go to a Springsteen concert. I remember spending entire afternoons trying to get through Ticketmaster without success when sales opened up for his concerts in our area. I was very disappointed in that Superbowl concert. I kept thinking I was watching Tony Bennett doing a Bruce Springsteen impression.

Henry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Crack Emcee said...

Springsteen sucks. Period.

Ever seen a group of black kids listening to him? Ever heard him sampled? Ever heard him even referenced?

The man sucks.

Henry said...

Diamonhead wrote: geographically speaking how does the writer place sobriety adjacent to galloping panic?

Funny! Metcalf must be a happy drunk. Happy -> Sober -> Panicked.

Next year at the Super Bowl, straight from a church basement in your neighborhood, let's give it up for Leonard Cohen!

Back to my first comment. Given that the national mood is moody bordering on surly, how tone-deaf is the idea of "victory" and trophy-awarding? Why couldn't both teams lose?

Revenant said...

Springsteen sucks. Period. Ever seen a group of black kids listening to him? Ever heard him sampled? Ever heard him even referenced?

I'm pretty sure the last black guy to exhibit good taste in rock music was Vernon Reed. :)

Ann Althouse said...

Hey, I never cared about Bruce Springsteen. All that strenuousness and earnestness. The only song of his I really like is "Rosalita."

Darcy said...

Aww, Pogo! I was with you on Honey, but the Commodores?
Loved 'em!

Never got into Springsteen.

chickenlittle said...

Springsteen sucks. Period.

Crack,
I know that's harsh (but I like it).

Revenant said...

The only song of his I really like is "Rosalita."

That's an odd choice for "one song you like". It features prominently in concerts, but doesn't get much radio airplay. I wouldn't expect the average non-fan to even know it existed.

That being said, it is one of my favorites too.

Ann Althouse said...

"Rosalita" played on the Classic Vinyl channel yesterday. I've always liked it, maybe the story line with the record company giving him his big advance or -- even more -- the passion of a guy convincing a girl to walk out of the house when her parents don't approve. It seems very exciting and dangerous. Not depressing like most of the other songs.

Revenant said...

It seems very exciting and dangerous. Not depressing like most of the other songs.

His first three albums were more exciting and upbeat. He took a turn for the downbeat with "Darkness on the Edge of Town, went deeper into it with "The River", and as of "Nebraska" had morphed into full-on Somber Poet of the Working Class mode. This is why I don't own anything he recorded after the 70s -- he hasn't done anything you can really rock out to in about 30 years.

pro said...

All this "yeah, but can you listen to ___ all the way through" is so ridiculous. I feel like I'm watching a middle-aged version of High Fidelity. Anybody can listen to anything all the way through - as long as they got laid while hearing it in the first place.

Pissed Off Hillbilly said...

"But honestly, has any sober person listened to "In Memory of Elizibeth Reid" straight through?"

Surely you mean Whipping Post.

Springsteen sucks balls.
He's gone from a second rate Chuck Berry to a third rate Woody Guthrie.