When I was fifteen, I totaled my father's car, turned it upside down in a ditch beside the highway. Therefore for the past three or four decades, I have been vulnerable to Bruce's music—and especially to the songs about his issues with his father. I am particularly vulnerable to that drum solo in the live album version of "Growing Up." Good thing that part of the song doesn't last more than a minute or two."
How to Enter a Cosmic Quirk
for Amy Appel
You need a car with a pretty good sound system. You need “Growing Up,” Track #7 of Disc 1 of Springsteen & the E Street Band--
Live/1975-85, and you need to be driving on a highway where there’s not a lot of traffic. Time of day or night doesn’t much matter, but ideally you’ll be up on the Blue Ridge Parkway mid-morning with a little coffee buzz going for you. When the tune starts up, listen at any volume--Bruce’s words tumble out and the band’s beat generates that antsy energy of a kid about fifteen who’s smart and mouthy and recently wise to the stupendously deep bullshit of the adult world. The spirit here is Dylan Thomas updated, Americanized, & surly with a guitar & drum set installed in his brain. But right now you don’t have to try to listen carefully, you’ll hear all you need to with only one ear. The first couple of verses will slide right on through your skull, then there’ll come this electric pinging, one note, maybe an E-flat an octave and a half above middle C. This is where Bruce starts up his monologue, and it’s pretty good the first fifty or sixty times you hear it, very New Jersey and funny and it’ll win your heart for the kid that Springsteen must have been, precocious musician probably from about age 12 and therefore at odds with his family in general and his dad in particular. Here you need to turn the volume up a couple notches just to keep track of where Bruce is in the narrative, because he’s taking his time, building up to what really matters. When he gets to the part where his dad is bugging him about his career choices and his
mom is advising him that he oughta be a lawyer or an author because that way he’ll get a little something for himself, why then you need your fingers on that volume control, the moment is very close and you’ll want to time it precisely. Bruce’s voice will lift, he’ll almost shout, Well, tonight they’re just gonna have to settle for ROCK & ROLL! Right THERE you want that volume maxed up as high as you can stand it without deafing yourself, because what happens now is every drum kit and electric guitar all up and down the Jersey Shore has suddenly joined in and simultaneously begun generating the most prison-breaking, lobotomizing musical thunder a human being will ever experience--it’s this gorgeous rolling wave of noise that contains your birth, your childhood, peace, war, blues, jazz, the deaths of your grandparents, and the future of your unborn children. That sound will resonate through your whole body, it will carry you out to sea to play with the dolphins in the bright sunlight, and then when Bruce picks up the words again, you can gradually turn the volume down, because you’re being carried back home in the arms of your dad who will kiss your forehead and put you to bed. That’s when you need to check out your speedometer, because you’ll be speeding alright, and if you don’t get that vehicle slowed down pretty quick, you’re going to fly right off the highway and meet a tree or a rock or maybe run your car right through the middle of somebody’s living room. Trouble is, you won’t mind a bit--you’ll already have flown with the angels who have loved you.
HEAR "Growing Up" HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBOMXBbQnw4
©2016 David Huddle
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