Besides wall-to-wall Springsteen hits, the station offers the commentary of Springsteen experts, guest appearances by Springsteen insiders, and what can only be described as testimonials from Springsteen fans who call in to share the manifold ways in which, through joblessness and bankruptcy, illness and bereavement, they have felt Springsteen’s spirit at work in their lives. For such people, and many like them, “Bruce” is less a recording artist than an avatar, a creed, a whole way of life.
On the differences between Springsteen and Dylan:
Springsteen can do anger, certainly, both righteous (“Badlands”, “American Skin”) and otherwise (“Adam Raised a Cain”), but contempt is wholly absent from his music; he has no “Idiot Wind”, no “Ballad of a Thin Man”. When, in “Thunder Road”, he sings “You ain’t a beauty, but hey you’re all right”, the effect is like Shakespeare’s sonnet 130: “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” – the abstention from cosmetic rhetoric registers a deeper, unspoken tenderness. Imagine the line in Dylan’s mouth. It would come across as another tart putdown; you can almost hear him pausing after “hey”, then voluptuously sneering: “you’re all right.”
And an anecdote:
Reading the New York Times obituaries of those killed on 9/11, Springsteen was struck by how frequently his name was mentioned. Thomas H Bowden Jr, of Glen Ridge, NJ, was “deeply, openly, and emotionally loyal to Bruce Springsteen”. Christopher Sean Caton, of Glen Rock, NJ, was a Kiss fan as a boy. “But he soon moved on to Bruce Springsteen.” After his death, his sister “found 35 ticket stubs to Springsteen concerts in his bedroom”. And on it went. Springsteen was so moved that he called up many of the victims’ families to offer his condolences. Hardly a heroic act, in the scheme of things, but still, it’s heartening to know, and somehow not surprising.
My life became infinitely happier this week when I learnt that he’ll be back in Europe this summer. Concerts number seven through to ten, to my indescribable joy, will ensue.