Loose Ends

By JON LANDAU  |  May 19, 2006

As I left college in 1969 and went into record production I started exhausting my seemingly insatiable appetite. I felt no less intensely than before about certain artists; I just felt that way about fewer of them. I not only became more discriminating but more indifferent. I found it especially hard to listen to new faces. I had accumulated enough musical experience to fall back on when I needed its companionship but during this period in my life I found I needed music and people, whom I spend too much of life ignoring, much more.

Today I listen to music with a certain measure of detachment. I’m a professional and I make my living commenting on it. There are months when I love my work and months when I hate it, going through the routine just as a shoe salesman goes through his. I follow films with the passion that music once held for me. But in my own moments of greatest need, I never give up the search for sounds than can answer every impulse, consume all emotion, cleanse and purify—all things that we have no right to expect from even the greatest works of art but which we can occasionally derive from them. 

Still, today, if I hear a record I like it is no longer a signal for me to seek out every other that the artist has made. I take them as they come, love them, and leave them. Some have stuck—a few that come quickly to mind are Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush, Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions, Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey, James Taylor’s records, Valerie Simpson’s Exposed, Randy Newman’s Sail Away, Exile on Main Street, Ry Cooder’s records, and, very specially, the last three albums of Joni Mitchell—but many more slip through the mind, making much fainter impressions than their counterparts of a decade ago.

But tonight there is someone I can write of the way I used to write, without reservations of any kind. Last Thursday, at the Harvard Square theatre, I saw my rock ‘n’ roll past flash before my eyes. And I saw something else: I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen. And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time.

When his two-hour set ended I could only think, can anyone really be this good; can anyone say this much to me, can rock ‘n’ roll still speak with this kind of power and glory? And then I felt the sores of my thighs where I had been pounding my hands in time for the entire concert and knew that the answer was yes.

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