bruce almighty

We don't normally exchange anniversary presents - just cards, hidden in various places around the house - and we give ourselves a celebration instead of tangible gifts. This year, breaking with tradition, Allan surprised me with a fantastic present, which even arrived in the mail on the correct day: the Born To Run 30th anniversary box set.

Attention Springsteen fans. If you didn't get this for Christmas, make sure you get it for your birthday.

It contains a remastered Born To Run, but that alone wouldn't be enough to make me re-buy an album I already own two copies of. There's a book of photos, which is fun, but again, not reason enough to shell out $30 or $40.

The reason to buy this box are the two DVDs. One is a complete concert performance by Bruce and the E Street Band at London's Hammersmith Odeon, in November 1975, their first date outside the US. The other is a documentary about the making of Born To Run, an epic story to match the epic proportion of the songs and the album's impact.

The documentary is an inside view into the strange and labourious task of getting the album made. But it's also a window into the creative process - any creative process. In discussing his feelings about his own working life, Springsteen offers unintentional wisdom to anyone who has struggled to create, to find their own voice, to be heard and appreciated while remaining true to their own vision. I heard some profound truths in these interviews - although I can only marvel at the talents of the man who said them.

I must also mention the stunning fact that the iconic music of my teenage years is now 30 years old. As loyal readers know, I don't mind getting older; on the contrary, I cherish it. I'm just saying: Oh my god, Born To Run is 30.

I don't care how old Exile On Main Street or Blood On The Tracks is - two other "desert island discs" for me - because when I found them, they were already out there. Although Exile is only three years older than Born To Run, it was generationally older to me. By contrast, I can vividly recall the first time I heard "Thunder Road" on the radio. I regard Exile as the greatest rock album of all time, yet it doesn't reflect my life or speak to me personally. In fact, I don't know what it's "about" and never think of it in those terms. Whereas Born To Run, well, my life is in those songs.

That was 30 years ago? Wow.

* * * *

Watching the London concert in the box set, I thought of how access to images like this has changed so drastically in my lifetime.

When I was a teenager, if a band we liked was going to be on TV, it was a small event that you planned your weekend around. Shows like "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert" and the early "Saturday Night Live" were rare opportunities to see live performances up close. (And they were an improvement over the fake live performances from the earlier variety shows like Ed Sullivan or the British "Ready Steady Go".) You couldn't tape the shows, that didn't exist yet. You had to watch them when they were on. They were rare treats, and their rarity made them valuable.

This rarity bestowed legendary status on certain performances. "Rock And Roll Circus", which I blogged about here, was a legend because no one had ever seen it. "Cocksucker Blues" was another Stones legend, and Beatles fans had their own icons.

Going further back, I remember gathering around the TV set to see "The Wizard Of Oz". It was broadcast once a year, with "limited commercial interruption" - two breaks, if I recall correctly, during which you scurried to the bathroom and the kitchen. The television broadcast was a minor event - because there simply was no other way to see the movie.

Now everyone has access to everything. If you have a favourite movie, you can own it, or at least rent it. No one runs to the bathroom during commercial breaks: we just press pause. I'm not in the business of nostalgia; access is a very good thing. I'm just acknowledging that something - some amount of awe and wonder bestowed by the quality of rarity - no longer exists.


allan said...

and for people who didn't live anywhere near big cities where these bands would play, it was even more important.

in the early years of mtv, when they actually focused on music, they would show concerts. that was where i saw footage of bands like los lobos and the blasters before seeing them live.

(actually i first saw the blasters on pbs!)

Mandy & Eddie said...

Bruce also was a HUGE part of my life back in the day. In fact, his Darkness on the Edge of Town tour was my very first concert when I was 14, and after that I was completely obsessed.

I also remember "watching" music on TV. I remember seeing "Gimme Shelter" on one of the four TV stations people had at the time about 2:00 in the morning. I was about 13 years old and stayed up to watch it.
I'm actually a little nostalgic about that, though, and I have to say my children are always amazed at the things we didn't have when I was a kid (of course, there's the obligatory "when I was your age, we had to walk to school barefoot uphill both ways).

laura k said...

I first saw Bruce on that tour too. :)

I was 16, and had been a fanatical concet goer for a few years, but that was the much-anticipated tour. I've seen him many times since then but I'll never ever forget that 1978 tour.