I’m pollin’ DOWN: The best of Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen 1 Aug 1985Bruce Springsteen has voodoo — look at the number of critics who included 2012’s Wrecking Ball in their lists of the year’s best. I’m not immune: my favorite single of 2012, Eric Church’s “Springsteen,” used the guy’s name as a peg on which to hang a summer’s worth of memories and untold longings, signified by the whoa-whoa-whoa-oh-oh-ohs punctuating the chorus when it comes ’round. As for the rest, I’m a dilettante. Once I owned Born to Run. Noting the appearance of Nebraska and half of Darkness on the Edge of Town in my collection is like remembering to take my Vitamin C pill with my oatmeal. Every album since reconvening the E Street Band in 2007 chases after a mythos which he once grasped and clenched without strain (Magic‘s “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” is sleazo lust a la “Simply Irresistable” but twice as long).

But the guy has an allure. When I bought Tunnel of Love on a whim in early ’95, a month before the release of Greatest Hits, its “adultness” impressed me. Twelve stately and rather beautiful tracks, meticulously programmed by Springsteen himself in most cases, depicted lusts, romances, failures, and redresses with which at twenty I was unacquainted but envied. I wanted to feel the narrator’s jealousy in “Brilliant Disguise” and “Two Faces” — then was old enough to rue it. It remains my favorite, enough for me to write a defense in 2007 for Stylus where none was needed. I finally bought Born in the U.S.A. a year later — I’d never owned it! A convert loving BITUSA in the nineties was as singular and weird a devotion as a boy venerating the Sacred Heart; this was the time when Bruce grew a goatee and hung hubcaps from his ears, released an acoustic album called The Ghost of Tom Joad, and had to accept feeble cool points from the likes of Rage Against The Machine’s hamfisted cover. But I still love it. Last year I sang the very, very unappreciated single “I’m Goin’ Down” at karaoke. About a quarter of 2002’s 9-11 we-shall-overcome The Rising transcends Brendan O’Brien’s terrible production; if you think Max Weinberg’s drums sound like Gatling guns in 1984, you might ask O’Brien what petroleum jelly he pours on the mixing board in the first Bush administration that coats those drums and guitars. I’ll buy Born To Run again someday.

I don’t know what possessed me to create the ballot I submitted a couple weeks ago to ILM’s Springsteen poll. Look at all those slow ones. Look at “Rosalia” in the top three. But I endorse my album picks.

1. Downbound Train
2. Badlands
3. Rosalita
4. Tunnel of Love
5. Born in the USA
6. Out in the Streets
7. Wreck on the Highway
8. State Trooper
9. Two Steps Up
10. I’m Goin’ Down
11. Dancing in the Dark (Arthur Baker 12″ Blaster Mix)
12. Out in the Street
13. Tougher Than the Rest
14. Because The Night
15. Valentine’s Day
16. Working on the Highway
17. My Hometown
18. Streets of Philadelphia
19. The Rising
20. Tenth Avenue Freeze Out


  1. Tunnel of Love
  2. Born in the U.S.A.
  3. The River
  4. Darkness on the Edge of Town
  5. Born to Run
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