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Friday, November 18, 2005

Ode to the Boss

There’s been a lot of celebration this week on the release of the 30th anniversary box set of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” CD. Since my time is so limited for posting this week, thought I’d share my own Boss anniversary piece that I was unsuccessful in selling . Some readers may remember a similar post from the summer of 2004. Anyway, here’s my ode to the Boss:

Twenty years ago this past August, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band came to Cleveland Municipal Stadium for a thunderous, soul-stirring 4-1/2-hour performance that to this day stands as my all-time standard for brilliant rock performances.

I was digging around my CD collection recently for some music to download onto the iPod before a run when I spotted the black and white album cover as familiar to me as my favorite black leather bag. I pulled it out, blew off a bit of dust and popped the CD into my laptop. It took only a few bars of harmonica and piano to transport me to 1985 — the summer before I left for college.

I worshipped Springsteen. My angst-ridden teenage heart rode the wave of emotions in his lyrics, while I spent hours hypnotized by the alternately driving and melancholy sounds of his music.

When he sang…

“The screen door slams
Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays”

…I was sure his soulful rebels were talking only to me. These guys were deep and stood for more than fast cars and fast women. In their white T-shirts and faded jeans, they seduced me with their dreams — my dreams — of something better.

Man, 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 p.m. on Fridays back in the heyday of WMMS. He wrote dramas such as "Jungleland,” “Sandy” and “The River"; he wrote humor in "Sherry Darling"; and he wrote bluesy grooves like "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” and “Pink Cadillac."

But his genius was his ability to entertain a crowd — even 60,000-plus — as if he were playing in the intimate Stone Pony bar where he got his start in New Jersey. His set list from the Cleveland concert contained no less than 28 songs — from “Born in the USA” to “Thunder Road” to “Sherry Darling.”

My Boss record collection includes the five-album live set from the “Born in the USA Tour.” After that album, I didn’t buy anymore. I suppose it’s because his early albums still capture my inner 18-year-old — when I stood looking upon the innocence of adolescence while tiptoeing into the promise of adulthood.

Driving home in my boyfriend’s Vega after the concert, a midnight haze of fog hung over the road leading to my house. Adding to the surreal quality of the night was Springsteen's music echoing back from the radio. (WMMS was playing every song from his set list that night.)

Looking back I realize that his blue-collar work ethic, his intoxicating energy and marathon performances were the antithesis of the ’80s rock concert experience, the stuff of world-class athletes more akin to Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France than the 2004 Cleveland Browns. It was easy to believe the Boss was as regular and hardworking as the guy standing next to me singing at the top of his lungs.

I found it heartening that his music still stirred my soul, feeling as if all the promise of the future still lay before me and tapping the energy that is his essence.

So I finished stretching, pulled on the headphones and headed out to the street. There was never any question which tune would kick off my run.

“Wendy, let me in, I wanna be your friend
I want to guard your dreams and visions” — Born to Run

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