Articolo del 1974 quello di quest’oggi scritto da Dave Marsh il biografo ufficiale di Springsteen.
“Walk tall or don’t walk at all”
By Dave Marsh
I’ve seen Bruce Springsteen twice in the last few months. He is better than anything
on the radio, and he has a new single, “Born To Run,” which, if we are at all fortunate,
will be played across the land by now. Given the current paucity of interesting subject
matter, he’s the subject of this column.
When I first saw him, last April in Boston, it was in a sweaty little bar in Harvard
Square, packed to the walls with street kids and college students, rock writers and
general hangers-on, drunks and know-it-alls. I expected nothing; I got everything.
When I saw him again at the Bottom Line in New York, I expected everything, and he
didn’t let me down. Springsteen is the perfect AM performer. His sangs don’t have all
the obvious hooks that wear out after you’ve heard them for a couple of weeks.
Instead, they grow on you, and soon, you’re fascinated not only by the Latin-inflected
soul and rock he’s playing, not only by Clarence Clemons’s magic saxophone, not only
by Springsteen’s voice—which embodies the mystique of James Dean and (yes) Bob
Dylan—but by the tales he’s telling, and the characters he creates.
There is a passion here, for the mythical girl friend, Puerto Rican Jane (known in
Springsteen’s greatest songs as Rosalita), and for everyone else who pops up: the fishwife
in “New York City Serenade” is enough to make you weep.
The magic of Springsteen harks back to a tradition at least as old as “Jailhouse Rock,”
and “Maybelline.” What you discover in the hundredth listening is not only music that
compels you to listen that often, but a tale that deserves telling. It’s not so far
different from trash epics like the cannibalistic “Timothy,” or even a nice little
suicide saga like “Without You.” But Springsteen does it every time out; if he cleans
up his production, there is no reason why the key line of “Born To Run”—”Tramps
like us, we were born to run”—won’t become the rallying cry of the decade.
But “Born To Run” is not Springsteen’s greatest song. His best is “Rosalita,” the tale of
a love affair at least the equal of Romeo and Juliet’s, or Catherine the Great and
Secretariat’s. It begins with a guitar and saxophone swoop into utter ecstasy that I’m
listening to as compulsively as ever I did to the song closest to its music, Van
Morrison’s “Wild Night.”
Bruce loves Rosie, but Rosie’s parents don’t love him; he’s nothing but rock ‘n’ roll
trash as far as they’re concerned. “Now I know your mama don’t like me ’cause I play
in a rock ‘n’ roll band, and I know your daddy don’t like me, but he never did
understand…And your papa says he knows I don’t have any money,” he taunts,
mocking eternal parental misgivings, just the way Chuck Berry did in “You Never Can
Tell.” But Springsteen has it in him to make the story even more magical, certainly
more contemporary. “Tell your daddy this is his last chance,” he exclaims, pulling his
best lines from nowhere, “To get his daughter in a fine romance. ‘Cause the record
company, osie, just gave me a big advance.” And proceeds to crack up his car in a
There’s no tale anywhere in rock. at the moment and certainly nothing on the radio
today, which can come close to matching it. There’s hardly a performer anywhere
who can make you so joyous when he comes out with the gestures that belong to a
movie star and the voice that belongs to an amalgam of Wilson Pickett and Morrison.
“This is music,” a friend of mine said at the Bottom Line, “that can make you care
Which is what I want to do, and what Springsteen offers that no one else does. Elliott
Murphy and the Dolls, as much as I love them, are doomsayers; Springsteen just
comes out and acts like nothing’s changed, or if it has, he doesn’t care very much,
anyway. Wouldn’t it be a pleasure to hear this stuff on the highway? Might up the
accident rate, of course, but then, that is what the best music has always done: it is a
little like drowning. If your entire life does not flash before your eyes, all the best
parts of it do, or all the most special ones.
And whether Springsteen is joking about being “Born To Lose,” which he wasn’t, or
celebrating Manhattan in “New York City Serenade,” with a passion that can bring
tears to your eyes, or blasting onto the stage with “Then I Kissed Her,” or doing his “E
Street Shuffle,” those moments are so special, you know that next time they’ll be part
of the drowning experiences that total immersion in great music brings.
“Walk tall,” he demands, “or don’t walk at all.” Springsteen struts, because he knows,
as if he were 6’6″ instead of as short as me, that he’s as big as anybody who ever took
a stage. I’d trade everything else I’ve heard this year for the evenings I spent with him.
He has everything, the past, the present and the future. For once in your life, do
touch that dial— Springsteen will touch you back. And when you’re rockin’ your
baby, that’s just what you need, just like it is when there ain’t no baby to rock. The
music on the radio is like Springsteen’s “Spirit In The Night,” and you grab that spirit
every chance you get. This is the best chance of all.