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Monday’s Suggestion

In Matt, Monday's Suggestion, Music on December 20, 2010 by Two Barbers Tagged: , , ,

Nebraska, by Bruce Springsteen, In Particular, “Highway Patrolman”

Putting Springsteen in the title runs you the risk of turning off hand-fulls of readers at a time, which is why I’ve been waiting for the right set of circumstances to suggest this album, and in particular this song. (There’s just a general weirdness behind the dichotomy of this suggestion that I can’t really explain or justify. It’s like, in a remote way, when you have two people that you call your best friend. I don’t want to just pick one to suggest. I could just suggest the album and, that way, the song would be covered; or just sever ties and go solo with the song; and maybe that’s what I should do since there’s this impulse to highlight it. But I don’t want to. [Additionally, there’s a chance that you may be a reader to whom the top assumption about Bruce Springsteen repelling people sounds really off base because Bruce is first and foremost extremely popular, which means it’s more unlikely to come across someone who wouldn’t be at least interested in reading an article about him. In that case, all I can say is we probably come from different orientations, but we can ultimately agree on how good the Boss really is.])

Anyway, the circumstance is-

  1. it’s the Christmas season, which is steadily on its way to becoming longer than the calendar seasons, and means a lot of hassle, both functionally and psychologically, one driving the other;
  2. work has been overwhelming (not entirely unrelated to Christmas, but now I’m perseverating);
  3. additional pressures pinned to writing (that is to say, trying to keep head above water), and I have a headache tonight.

Now, the reason why this subject fits those circumstances, is that Springsteen is really easy. Everyone knows him and has an opinion that’s set and dried, although this latter aspect could be the cause of difficulty if I was planning on making this about trying to change people’s minds.

There is no reason to think differently about Bruce Springsteen. Or, at least there’s no reason for someone to try to persuade another person against his/her tastes. But despite being aware of this, it’s really hard for me to imagine anyone not liking this song, if not being really moved by it. It could fly pretty well on its own as a suggestion for the week. Structurally, it’s of craftsmanship-grade quality. And artistically, it’s like Cain and Abel set in 20th century America, with irony that is as tragic and profound as the works of Shakespeare. It’s Steinbeck.

But as soon as I listen to the song, I want to listen to the whole album. If you’re the type of person who is turned off by Bruce Springsteen, be apprised that this song and album are NOT what you dislike about Springsteen. It’s not Glory Days or Thunder Road. There’s no saxophone. It is made up of the songs you hear on the radio that turn off the background noise of traffic and stress, with the first thing you hear when your inner monologue starts again being “Wait, is this Bruce Springsteen?”.

Sony has blocked the original recording off of YouTube, which is the best version. But this is the best one I found on YouTube.

Here’s a version by Johnny Cash. So if you hate Springsteen, the odds are pretty high that you’re into, or at least respect, Cash.

Nebraska. This is the title track and probably responsible for the “haunting” descriptor that is probably used most commonly in descriptions of the album as a whole.

Johnny 99. Ok, this one fits more with the popular Springsteen persona. But it’s still fantastic.

-Matt

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