Today, Jeep released their Super Bowl ad for 2021. It features Bruce Springsteen.
Bruce had never done an ad before this. It helps that he isn't hurting for money ... he hasn't had to pick up the extra dough. But now, something changed.
I think it's depressing that he did a commercial.
Nobody is perfect. If you look up to someone, you don't expect perfection, but it is good to feel as if that someone represents our better selves, even when they, like all of us, fuck up.
Call me naïve, but the fact that Bruce Springsteen did a Jeep commercial for the Super Bowl is extremely dispiriting.
He doesn't need the money, he doesn't need the exposure. It is rare, if ever, that he could be accused of selling out, which makes this all the more depressing.
I do not have much issue with what Bruce says in the commercial. I am uninterested in coming together with the middle, but that's not the problem. The problem is that the one artist who has held out against the use of his work as fodder for advertising has broken the faith. He has many outlets for his message, and there's not much new in what he says in the ad. I just really wish he hadn't decided to do it in a Jeep commercial.
Everyone else is doing it, and it seems like a nice sidebar to recent Music Friday posts about concerts.
First concert: Judy Collins, Berkeley Community Theater, March 4, 1967.
Last concert: Sleater-Kinney, Fox Theater, Oakland, November 17, 2019.
Best concert: Bruce Springsteen, Winterland, San Francisco, December 15, 1978.
Worst concert: Edgar Winter, San Diego, September, 1975. Brother Johnny was also on the bill, but we left before he came on. Sound was awful, so I can't really say how good/bad Edgar was.
Loudest concert: Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Cow Palace, San Francisco, October 22, 1978. This was the concert filmed for the movie Rust Never Sleeps.
Seen the most: Bruce Springsteen (36 times), Sleater-Kinney (17 times), Lou Reed (a lot), Prince (6), Pink (6), The Clash (5).
Most surprising: Probably an opening act, since by definition I didn't expect much out of them. Examples that come to mind: Rockpile (1979 opening for Blondie), The Gossip (2000? opening for Sleater-Kinney), Matt Nathanson (2006 opening for Pink at the Fillmore).
Next concert: Whatever it is, I fear it will be virtual.
Wish I could have seen: Elvis Presley, '68 Comeback Special sit-down session.
Last week, I wrote that I was "going to turn Music Friday into a random look at concerts I've attended over the years." The choices aren't really random this week ... Bruce Springsteen has a new album out, so I'll showcase Bruce and three acts I saw with him.
One thing the pandemic does is prevent us from going to concerts. I've seen Bruce 36 times, and more than most musicians, his music benefits from the live setting, such that I've never been able to really judge one of his new albums until I've heard it live. And that's not going to be happening for a while. So any response I have to Letter to You is partial. For now, I'll repeat what I said on Facebook ... the sound is interesting in its retrograde feel ... it always sounds like old-school Bruce, but it never sounds like the same old school ... one song sounds like it came from Working on a Dream, another from The River, another from some random Tracks era. Based on sound alone, it's obvious why some people are so taken with it. (And I'll add, where's Soozie?)
Bruce famously drops in on the shows of others. We got to experience that once, in 1981, when Bruce turned up at a small club for five songs with Gary U.S. Bonds when Bonds was touring behind his Bruce-enabled comeback album, Dedication.
1978 was the greatest year of my musical life, when we saw Bruce three times during his legendary 1978 tour. He would close with this Gary U.S. Bonds number ... we saw him sing it on five different occasions:
While Bruce has appeared with other performers as part of benefit shows, we only saw one person open for him at a regular Bruce concert: John Wesley Harding. It was the first time in 20 years that anyone had opened for Bruce. Harding has written four novels under his real name, Wesley Stace.
We saw Bruce on his 39th birthday as part of an Amnesty International show. Joan Baez was one of the many artists who appeared, and she sang him "Happy Birthday". She was in the crowd in 2006 when we saw him with the Seeger Sessions Band ... she came onstage to help sing "Pay Me My Money Down". Here is Baez with Mercedes Sosa in 1988:
Finally, here is the Seeger Sessions Band with "Pay Me My Money Down":
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