Bruce Springsteen’s album Born to Run changed my life. I know. It’s the kind of claim that hyperventilating music journalists make all too frequently, and Born to Run may have been the object of more fawning critical adulation than any other rock album. But it’s true. I can’t help it if all the ‘70s hipsters at Rolling Stone got it right too.
I was twenty years old when Born to Run was released in November of 1975, pondering what to do with my impending, useless Creative Writing degree, utterly clueless about what to do with my life, but full of passion and energy and general piss and malaise. Nixon was a crook and Ford wasn't much better, progressive rockers and sixties hippie dinosaurs were ruining everything I cared about in music. I was scared shitless about the future, my girlfriend had dumped me, and the radio sucked.
Into that swirling vortex strode Bruce Springsteen, a scruffy kid from the
Amazingly, I got my opportunity. And in the annals of Great Celebrity Encounters it was a certified bust. In the spring of 1976 Bruce Springsteen came to Athens, Ohio and played an impossibly great, sweaty, three-hour concert at Ohio University that just about convinced me that I was not alone in the universe, and that if rock 'n roll was no substitute for divine revelation, then it was at least damn close. After the concert, my ears still ringing and my heart still pounding, I wandered to the bagel buggy, a popular late night haunt in
“Great show, Bruce,” I said.
“Thanks, man,” he said. And then he was gone. So much for fawning adulation.
And now thirty years have passed. I’ve hung with Bruce for the duration, heard his music change, watched his metamorphosis into folkie troubadour, witnessed the breakup and re-formation of the E Street Band, that marvelously well-oiled musical machine that propelled his greatest songs. The songs a man sings in his twenties can sound ridiculous when sung by a man in his fifties, and Bruce seems to know this intuitively, tinkering under the hood with “
The lavish, 30th Anniversary re-packaging of Born to Run is the Holy Grail for longtime Springsteen fans – a cleaned-up, remastered album that still retains that marvelous wall of sound, a DVD full of reminiscences and behind-the-scenes footage, and, best of all, a complete concert circa 1975, a scruffy Bruce playing the wondrous songs of his youth as if his very life was hanging in the balance, looking just like he did in Athens, Ohio.
I wanted it, wanted it badly, but it turned out I had to wait for it, just as I’ve had to wait for every good thing in my life, and couldn’t find it by simply getting in the car and driving to a new destination. I went to two music stores the day the Anniversary edition was released, only to find that both stores had already sold out by the time I arrived. Apparently there are other Bruce fans out there, and some of them appear to care intensely too. And so I went the complacent middle-aged route and ordered it online. But it arrived, and it reminded me again of desperation and faith and the youthful passion that still smolders. I returned from my search empty-handed. But on my way back to work, returning to the jungleland of corporate cubicles, I rolled down the window of my decidedly suburban minivan and let the wind blow back my thinning hair, for old time's sake.