I'm driving a big lazy car rushin' up the highway in the dark I got one hand steady on the wheel and one hand's tremblin' over my heart It's pounding baby like it's gonna bust right on through And it ain't gonna stop till I'm alone again with you
A friend of mine became a father last night When we spoke in his voice I could hear the light Of the skies and the rivers the timberwolf in the pines And that great jukebox out on Route 39 They say he travels fastest who travels alone But tonight I miss my girl mister tonight I miss my home
Is it the sound of the leaves Left blown by the wayside That's got me out here on this spooky old highway tonight Is it the cry of the river With the moonlight shining through That ain't what scares me baby What scares me is losing you
They say if you die in your dreams you really die in your bed But honey last night I dreamed my eyes rolled straight back in my head And God's light came shinin' on through I woke up in the darkness scared and breathin' and born anew It wasn't the cold river bottom I felt rushing over me It wasn't the bitterness of a dream that didn't come true It wasn't the wind in the grey fields I felt rushing through my arms No no baby it was you
So hold me close honey say you're forever mine And tell me you'll be my lonely valentine
The simplest thing to say from a consumer guide perspective is that if you love Bruce, you'll like this movie. If you love his latest album, you'll love this movie. If you don't have an opinion about Bruce Springsteen, I'm not sure what you'll think, but it will give you insight into a 70-year-old rocker who still has a lot to say.
There are two things to address here. One is the music. At its core, Western Stars is a concert movie, where Bruce and a large band play the songs from the Western Stars album. He has a huge string section, and they kick ass ... their unison playing gives the songs something of a Phil Spector feel. As is often the case with Bruce, the songs benefit from being played live. Favorite songs are even better, songs I didn't much care for are better than I thought. If you're looking for familiar faces, you'll find Patti and Soozie and Charles and Lisa. The music sounds great played in Bruce's old barn.
The other thing is the movie-as-movie. There is no escaping the fact that the songs, and their performance, are what matters. But it's a gorgeous movie, from the way the inside of the barn is lit to the wide-open spaces of Joshua Tree. The brief commentary that accompanies the songs is just enough to expand our appreciation. It's hard to find anything to fault in Western Stars as a movie.
I don't know if a newcomer to Bruce would be convinced by this film. Emotionally, the songs represent a culmination of his life's work, but the music is different from his usual, and I don't suppose you should start here. But for long-time fans, the movie adds greatly to the album. The intimacy is lovely and rewarding.
Nothing new here ... check out the posts tagged "Bruce Springsteen" for the stuff I've written over the years. Two videos I've posted many times:
First, "Dream Baby Dream". My instructions are always the same: look at the faces of the fans.
And second, the song I've always associated with Bruce talking to his fans. "I'm comin' to liberate you, confiscate you, I want to be your man." From the Darkness tour, 1978:
And a bonus. This came up on Friday ... I'll post a different link today. Play this at my wake:
I got a picture of you in my locket I keep it close to my heart It's a light shining in my breast Leading me through the dark Seven days, seven candles In my window lighting your way Your favorite record's on the turntable I drop the needle and pray (turn it up) Band's countin' out midnight (turn it up) Floor's rumblin' loud (turn it up)
Singer's callin' up daylight (turn it up) And waitin' for that shout from the crowd (turn it up) Waitin' for that shout from the crowd (turn it up) Waitin' for that shout from the crowd (turn it up) Waitin' for that shout from the crowd (turn it up) Waitin' for that shout from the crowd (turn it up) Waitin' for that shout from the crowd
Turn it up, turn it up, turn it up Turn it up, turn it up, turn it up, turn it up
The latest movie in the weekly trip to the theater that my wife and I have started since she retired. This was my choice, although I was really just making good on a plan we hatched with a friend back when Blinded by the Light was first announced, that we would go see it ASAP.
On seeing the film, Springsteen reportedly said, "I don't want you to change a thing. It's perfect." Which reminded me of an anecdote Pauline Kael told about the 1940s musical Night and Day, a biopic about Cole Porter.
"William Bowers, one of the three scenarists, said later that he was so ashamed of this picture that about a year after it came out he called Cole Porter, whose biography it purported to be, and told him how sorry he was, and Porter said, "Love it. Just loved it. Oh, I thought it was marvelous." Bowers says that he told Oscar Hammerstein how puzzled he was by this, and Hammerstein said, "How many of his songs did you have in it?" Bowers answered "Twenty-seven," and Hammerstein said, "Well of course he loved it. They only turned out to be twenty-seven of the greatest songs of all time. You don't think he heard that stuff that went on between his songs, do you?"
It's hard to imagine a subject for a film that would be more appealing to me than the story of a person transformed by a love of Bruce Springsteen. Oh, I had read enough advance reviews to know that Blinded by the Light would probably be kinda sappy, which isn't my favorite thing, but c'mon, it's Bruce! It has lots of his songs! He liked the movie!
And there was even an added attraction I had somehow missed: among the cast is Hayley Atwell!
It started out OK, although it takes awhile to get to Bruce. We learn about the hardships of growing up Pakistani in the England of Maggie Thatcher. We learn about how Luton appears to Javed (Viveik Kalra), a teenage resident (it sucks). We learn about the struggles of Javed and his hard-nosed father. It's a good setup for the scene where Javed is introduced to the music of Bruce Springsteen. Most people tell him he can't relate to Bruce, a white American who sings about girls and cars. But the setup makes it all obvious ... it's not just that Bruce is universal, it's that he speaks to Javed in ways that are quite on target.
It's when Javed's life is changed by Bruce that the film goes downhill. Granted, this is a good example of Your Mileage May Vary, because most of what I didn't like about the movie related to the style of the film. It's almost as if Chadha and writer Sarfraz Manzoor took this Made for Steven concept and used every trick in the Steven Hates This book.
I like that Bruce's songs inspire Javed, and the movie does a good job of showing that. But for some reason, it didn't occur to me that at times, Blinded by the Light would turn into the kind of musical I hate. It's one thing for Bruce's music to play while Kalra's face shows us the connection, and I even liked the way the lyrics sometimes turned up on the screen. But I really didn't need characters inserting Bruce lyrics into their conversations. It was enough to hear the music and see the actors working with the concept. It was over the top when those characters said things like "tramps like us, baby we were born to run".
Some of the joy Bruce brings to Javed is contagious, and effectively presented. But I didn't need to see "Born to Run" turned into a song-and-dance for Javed and his friends.
So figure it's just me and my taste preferences, and go see Blinded by the Light for yourself, because you'll probably think it's harmless fun. I'd watch a movie with nothing but Bruce Springsteen singing songs. But the last thing I want to see is a musical with other people singing his songs.
I've been spending a little time at the Letterboxd website ... this is what happens when you're retired, I guess. A couple of fellows from Germany uploaded a list of their top three films of each year, and I got inspired enough to create my own list. It starts in 1924 and goes through 2018. Two years (1926 and 1929) only got two movies, so the entire list is comprised of 283 movies. The thing that interested me the most was the recent films, because when I make Top 50 lists or whatever, I always end up with lots of old movies and not enough new ones. By forcing myself to pick three from each year, I was able to give recent years some space. So, to take a couple of years at random, from 2018, Black Panther, Roma, and Springsteen on Broadway made the list, while 2005 offered A History of Violence, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, and Dave Chappelle's Block Party. Top three from 1924? Sherlock, Jr., Greed, and The Navigator (lots of Buster Keaton in the silent years).
We saw Bruce Springsteen four times during his Magic Tour in 2007-2008, twice in Oakland, once in Sacramento, and then, 11 years ago today, once in San Jose. The first two shows were the last time we saw Danny Federici, who left the tour to get treatment for the melanoma that killed him a couple of weeks after the latter two shows. He was the first E Street member to pass away.
Here's "Adam Raised a Cain" from the first Oakland show, October 25, 2007:
And from the next night, "Two Hearts" with the "It Takes Two" coda:
Jump ahead a few months, to April 4, 2008 in Sacramento, and a bit of the opener, "Spirit in the Night":
Finally, 11 years ago today, in San Jose, "Something in the Night":
And, since this is Opening Day, a bonus track: Bruce Springstone with "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" (the story of Bruce Springstone can be found here):
Five years ago today, I posted about an interview Ann Powers did with Bruce Springsteen about his then-new album, High Hopes.
I mentioned on Twitter that I had a favorite part of the interview, but that I wasn’t sure why. It comes when Bruce is describing what it was like making records when he was in his 20s: “It was terrible, you know. In truth, it was awful, an awful way to make records but it was the only way we knew how. Everybody simply suffered through it and the endless, endless, endless hours I can't begin to explain.”
Ann’s response was the part I loved most: “We thank you for those hours.”
I’ve had a couple of days to think about it, and I think I know now why this resonated so deeply with me. When I first heard she was going to interview Bruce, I thought she was a perfect choice, that people like myself would be well-represented. That one sentence is what I meant, when she stepped back momentarily from her professional role and briefly spoke as a fan. I am not the only Bruce fan to spend too much time wondering what I would say if I met him. Part of me thinks I’d just ask him to play “Back in Your Arms” the next time he comes to the Bay Area. That’s part of why people bring signs requesting this or that favorite song … it’s a way to talk to the man on the stage.
But the truth is (and from talking to friends over the years, I know I’m not alone in this), if I had a chance to meet Bruce Springsteen, the one and only thing I’d want to say is, “Thank you”.
So consider this blog post my way of thanking Ann for thanking Bruce on our behalf.
I included a video that is one of my favorites. Here it is again. As always, I tell people, look at the faces ... if you've never been to a Bruce concert and want to know what it's like, look at those faces. As wonderful as Springsteen on Broadway is, it is missing one thing: those faces.