A dangerous romantic begins to reckon the risks of rebelling
This article originally appeared in the June 6, 1978 issue of the Boston Phoenix.
There we were. The three of us, me and Clarence and Miami. In the middle of New Jersey on this highway in the middle of the night coming home from a show. And all of a sudden we get this flat tire and we pull over. We get out. There’s nothing on the highway, but way over in the distance we see this light. So we decide to go over and see what it is. Right there, right there in the middle of the woods – nobody’s going to believe this, who’s going to believe this? – was a gypsy lady. There was this little hut and right above the door is this sign which says “gypsy lady.” So Miami goes up and knocks on the door and she comes out and says because we found her we can have three wishes, one apiece. We say all right. Clarence wishes – what did you wish, Clarence? – Clarence wishes for his 15th white suit. And Miami, he wishes for, he wishes for Maureen. That’s his girl friend. Me, I’m no dummy. I think about it for a while. Do I want my own landromat at the corner of Kirkland and Main? Nah. What about a million dollars? Nah. What I need is two good lawyers. No, no, no, just kidding. I just want to be – I don’t care about nothing else – what I want to be, what I want to be is a rock ‘n’ roller. -Monologue in "Growin' Up"
Bruce Springsteen used to end this monologue by saying that he wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll star. He would pause and then whisper the words, so that “star” would come trailing out like vapor. Last Monday night’s performance at the Music Hall was the first time I’ve ever heard him change the ending. He almost threw the line away by dropping his voice and slurring “rock ‘n’ roller.” No pause, no dramatic stage whisper – he rushed right on through. It was an unexpectedly self-effacing moment, but not an uncertain one. Springsteen does not avoid spontaneity on stage, yet little of what he does is random, and in switching “rock ‘n’ roller” for “rock ‘n’ roll star” he was drawing a distinction as carefully as he lined out the opening chords of “Born To Run.” Springsteen is a rock ‘n’ roll star, of course: Born to Run (Columbia) and the subsequent tours assured that. On Darkness on the Edge of Town (Columbia), his first album in a little less than three years, Springsteen is a rock ‘n’ roller who’s trying to ensure his place as one of the most important voices of the ‘70s, and who’s also trying to erase any doubts that three-year gap has raised.
No rock performer in this decade, and few ever, have been under quite this kind of pressure to produce a masterpiece. Bruce Springsteen has faced it twice. (The first time was with Born To Run, when his genius had been noisily declared even though neither of his previous two records had proved it.) It’s too early to say whether Darkness on the Edge of Town is a masterpiece (the melodramatic production occasionally approaches cliché, and not all the songs are uniformly effective). Still, it does fulfill the expectations Springsteen’s three-year absence necessarily created. And I have no doubt that it is one of the two or three best records of the year.
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