Sunday, July 11, 2004

When The Boss was king

Had a most unexepected gift handed to me yesterday morning in the form of a DVD. My son Ryan's baseball coach is a huge music junky and was telling us one night at the local watering hole about his collection of concert DVDs. I've never been a big concertgoer, but there was one that made me sit up and take note.

When I was in high school and college, there simply was no greater musician and band on this earth than Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. His 4-1/2-hour 1985 concert at Cleveland Municipal Stadium was a highlight of my young life. And Rich was telling me that he had a bootleg DVD of his Born in the USA concert from Toronto that year. That was the gift in the DVD box.

I popped it in last night and was instantly not-quite-18 again. My husband laughed at me a bit and then made some inane remarks about my high school boyfriend's dorkiness quotient, but I think he missed the larger point of my reminiscing.

I worshipped Springsteen. My angst-ridden teenage heart listened to his albums for hours, as much for what he had to say as for the music. When he sang:
"The screen door slams
Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that's me and I want you only
Don't turn me home again
I just can't face myself alone again"

My dreamy self became Mary, waiting for my boyfriend and yet terrified and trembling at the same time. His songs were always about rebels, which many girls whether they chose to admit it or not found attractive. But they weren't gearheads or blockheads, they were rebels with soul. Could there be anything more seductive?

Just recently, some moms and I were at the pool laughing about how our kids are into some of the music we grew up with (in large part thanks to actor Jack Black and the movie "School of Rock"). We talked about albums we had and I said I'd gotten rid of them all—except my Springsteen. Just can't seem to part with them, nevermind that I don't even have a turntable on which to play them.

Ironically, the only one I bought on CD was "Born to Run." I had to, its title track is one of the only songs that contains my name:

"Wendy, let me in, I wanna be your friend
I want to guard your dreams and visions"
AND
"Together, Wendy, we can live with the sadness
I'll love you with all the madness in my soul"

The Boss could write. He wrote anthems. Hell, "Born to Run" used to kick off every weekend in Cleveland when Kid Leo would play it at 5 every Friday on WMMS. (I taped Kid Leo's Friday show before I left for college my freshman year.) He wrote dramas "Jungleland, The River," he wrote humor, "Sherry Darling" and he wrote bluesy grooves "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, Pink Cadillac."

I can still recall the surreal feeling of driving home in my boyfriend's Vega listening to Springsteen's music echoing back. (WMMS was playing every song from his concert that night.) We hardly spoke because we witnessed something spectacular—beyond description. And we were moving on, heading to college in a few weeks. During the fall quarter at OU, I would tutor a guy in my poli sci class in exchange for a program from the Boss's concert at the Meadowlands. It was well worth the trade.

As we drove up through our town in the middle of the night, the road leading to my house was a little foggy in the late-night air. I tried to catch the screen door before it slammed in the darkness, hoping not to wake my parents. It was the moment before everything changed...

"They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines roaring on
But when you get to the porch they're gone
On the wind, so Mary climb in
It's a town full of losers
And I'm pulling out of here to win"
—Thunder Road





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