Vital Signs

Bruce Springsteen

For the life of me, I can’t see why anyone under the age of, say, 55 would want to listen to Bruce Springsteen, never mind revere him as a deep and important artist, or pay upward of $200 to be crammed into a football stadium to attend one of his concerts.  Surely the only pertinent use for Springsteen was as an interim stage in rock music’s passage from tuneful banality to today’s relentless diet of screwed-up nihilism and phony salves.  His 1975 album Born To Run was perfectly timed for those of us coming to terms with the fact that the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan had all either broken up or succumbed to self-parody.  Even then, it’s sometimes forgotten that many of the more artistically pristine reviewers savaged the record.  Springsteen was to earn the critical yappings and shin-bitings that invariably seem to greet a shamelessly commercial, and successful, product like Born To Run.  “The album is as stiff as a frozen mackerel,” said the supposedly influential trade magazine Creem.  To one British publication, “Most of the songs are clichéd, as if he wrote them to suit the bank manager . . . Hideous . . . The strength, spontaneity and visceral rush of the early music are gone.”  This was a theory heard frequently among Springsteen’s few but intensely loyal first-wave fans, who suddenly saw the masses coming up behind...

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