Wednesday, August 6, 2008


I'm not sure that there's another man on earth that manages, on a nightly basis, to make himself so fully a conduit of humankind's capacity for untrammeled joy. One actually feels, watching this low-res video, that one is looking at the promise of American democracy incarnate. That a person could be at once so fully self-realized, so completely the star, and yet so weirdly selfless in his exertions, so utterly without ego or condescension toward the masses of ordinary people he galvanizes -- feels magical and heroic. I can completely understand why so many liberal writers, in particular, feel the urge to rhapsodize (as I have just done) over the man: he is the last remaining link for many effete and disenchanted people, to a dream of the decency and goodness of the American people.

He makes the Stones seems like utter poseurs.


Todd's Girl said...

The Stones are poseurs, but so is Springsteen, as has been rigorously documented by David Hajdu among others. I'll take the fuller range of human emotion, desire, wit, and depravity proffered by the Stones over Springsteen's tepid alternations of self-regard and self-pity any day.


wesley said...

I read that piece too, and I don't buy it. I like the Stones a lot. Exile on Main Street is one of my favorite albums. I like Mick's posing.

It's Bruce's live performances that leave the Stones in the dust. Have you Rock and Roll Circus? They didn't release it because they were worried that the Who had wiped the floor with them in their performance. They were right.

Did you watch the video I posted? If you can't see how vital and raw and alive it is, then I can't help you.

J. Gabriel said...

Fred Goodman's 'Mansion On The Hill,' addresses this (I think) ludicrous assertion that Springsteen is somehow nothing more than a disingenuous, label-forged Dylan-cheapening automaton, and while Goodman is ultimately ambivalent, I am not. Hajdu, so worshipful of Dylan and proto-Dylan-ism, makes the same claims from a typical boomer stance that the promise of American Musical Exceptionalism ended when Dylan fell off his motorcycle, and thus everything that followed was pale echo and dull plagiarism and decline. Sorry Rest Of Time.
Bruce's immediacy and his ability to distill particular strains of American-ness, to be ruthlessly deft where others lapse into the sloppy or just plain awful (Mellencamp, Petty, Fogerty, Forbert; I would make an exception for Seger), is singularly awesome in the history of late 20th century pop, to say nothing of the phenomenon of the live performances.
Also the Who Rock and Roll Circus performance is one of the best things ever done, and regularly makes me call into question the primacy of the Stones by any measure, not to mention Tull.

Todd's Girl said...

"Prove It All Night"—actually one of my favorite Boss songs. Looking at the lyrics,

I'm at first tempted to think the song is about a gangster trying to go straight ("get my hands clean"), but gangsters don't usually live in places where there are dusty roads. Perhaps his hands are dirty from small time hustling ("to steal, to cheat, to lie"), which aren't really the types of things you have to do as a farmer or a factory worker, though those jobs would also require a good scrub of the hands.

Ultimately, the song is about fucking, i.e. the proving it that happens all night. I'm not sure what the line "Girl, you want it, you take it, you pay the price" means, though it implies that sex is both proof of male love and a penalty or cost paid by the female.

But if that's your idea of American goodness and decency, I guess I'm all for it.

The piano introduction is only a couple steps away from Billy Joel, and the Boss's guitar soloing is crude (not that I'd object to that) but more troublingly stylistically generic. He certainly exudes a lot of earnest energy, which is I guess what you're responding to. I don't know, there's something about the Boss that has always made me think, "dumb jock." Sometimes I confuse him with Huey Lewis.

Perhaps what I lack enthusiasm for is America itself.

If we look to Canada, it would be hard to imagine the Boss pulling off a song like "Down by the River (I Shot My Baby"), but Bob Dylan probably could.

As for the question of the Rolling Stones Rock'n'roll Circus, I have been in possession of those recordings since I had access to bootleg record stores in Boston. I've always thought the bit about the Stones feeling inferior to the Who was a little silly. Their performance is pristine, but "A Quick One While He's Away" is a silly song from Pete Townsend's larkish opera writing phase. I prefer stuff like "Who Are You" and, perversely, "You Better You Bet." What the Who have on the Stones are two virtuoso musicians in Keith Moon and Pete Townsend, mostly the former. The best performance of that show, anyway, was "Yer Blues" by the ad hoc supergroup Dirty Mac, featuring John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards on bass, and Mitch Mitchell on drums. The Stones' performance is a bit lackluster, but they were at a certain nadir. Brian Jones was about to die, and the virtuosic Mick Taylor was about to usher in their Golden Age. You can hear that live on Get Your Ya-Yas Out or on my bootleg of the 72-73 tour, Nasty Music, which I'll happily burn and share.

J. Gabriel said...

The Dirty Mac stuff is indeed quite amazing, despite the presence of Clapton and Mitchell, and to round it out Taj Mahal and Marianne Faithfull turn in fine performances too. Good work all around old/dead people!

As far as the central Boss-Stones fight, can't we all just agree that Jethro Tull is an abomination?

Todd's Girl said...

I can't remember what song the Tull played at the Rock'n'roll Circus, but I've always loved Aqualung.