Wednesday, July 27

The summer of my education in rock and roll

Like I’ve said before on this blog, the summer of 2013 was the summer I properly discovered Bruce Springsteen. The summer I roamed his back catalogue, walked the length and breadth of it, sniffed all its corners. Every couple of weeks a new CD dropped onto the doormat. Born to Run was love at first sight; it always had been. Born in the USA saw me through a heatwave and a re-exposure to the vibrations and emotions that hang in summer air. Then I followed Darkness on the Edge of Town into autumn, treading golden leaves as Bruce howled and smouldered. 

These three albums in particular distracted me from the more subtle joys of his first two creations (Greetings From Asbury Park, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle), so it wasn’t until early 2014 that my ear turned to WIESS. And suddenly everything was about that album, it was all I could listen to. E Street Shuffle on the walk home from work, the way Incident blurs into Rosie, and the soaring of the strings in New York City Serenade. In April 2014 I visited New York for the first time, and as the plane descended into JFK under a blazing sunset, I listened to that song. It was a good moment.

Three long, long years passed. I listened to other music, of course, but Springsteen was always the background hum. Every summer swung around to crush hopes of UK shows. And then 2016: at last, Bruce was back on British soil! I booked tickets in the midst of a stressful second year at university; the tour dates were a finish line, glowing at me. And finally it was June, and I was standing at the front of the crowd, in Glasgow and then in London, and then in Denmark, dancing and shouting and touching Bruce and, oh boy. The aftermath of those shows. 

In the days immediately following, I couldn’t see a way out. I couldn’t see how my own reality would ever live up to those few hours of ecstasy. It was as if I was on a plane, the dull grey spread of real life far below. I was running solely on E Street time.

It was the rebirth of teenage infatuation. I couldn’t contemplate anything but Bruce, couldn't listen to anything else, couldn't sleep, wasn’t hungry, was inexplicably close to tears all the time. I would go for long walks listening to the same Bruce songs over and over, because they made me feel close to him and close to the happiness I felt at those shows. And it was annoying, man! I thought I’d put all that teenage crap behind me. I watched footage from just about every show he’d ever played, every documentary and interview I could find. I wallowed for days in the world of Bruce Springsteen, like a long soak in a hot bath, the door to the rest of the world firmly shut.

Now, as that toxic pink cloud of love starts to clear a little, and I emerge, flushed and wrinkled and smelling of bath salts, I really begin to listen to what Bruce is saying in all of these songs and conversations, and I reach for the back catalogue of his musical influences. So just as the summer of 2013 was the summer of discovering Bruce Springsteen, the summer of 2016 has become the summer of my education in rock and roll music. 

Finally, I can begin to feel like I can offer a semi-educated opinion or thought about music. I get the references of other musicians and music writers. I can string songs together to form a rough chronology in my head. I can hear strands of one genre in another. Record stores have become treasure troves. The world of music is opening up to me in a way it never has done before, the doors flung wide, nooks and crannies increased tenfold. And through this I am starting to understand how I can maybe make my own reality enough, somehow; how I can wade and wallow in music and keep it a big part of my life without the disappointment of, say, not being at a Bruce show.

I start with Bruce’s 2012 SXSW keynote speech, and I go from there. 

(photos taken from the front row at the Horsens show last week!)

1 comment:

  1. Lovin the pace and breathlessness of your storytelling