I've got a piece on Slate today arguing that the element that makes Springsteen on Broadway—which I saw on February 28, the night after I saw Hello, Dolly!—worth the difficulty and expense of getting tickets is quiet. You can read that here, and it is my fond hope that you shall.
And in the spirit of Bruce Springsteen having written more worthy songs for Darkness on the Edge of Town and The River and Born in the U.S.A. than he could possibly use at the time, but contrary to the spirit of him waiting 15-30 years before releasing all those unused songs, which I as a diehard am legally required to claim were better than the ones he put on the albums which by the way is true in many cases... here's a deleted scene from that piece, wherein I expand upon my 20-show record as a Bruce Springsteen fan:
...wherein I join PCHH host Linda Holmes and regular panelists Stephen Thompson and Glen Weldon to talk about where the beloved hit movie fits into director Ridley Scott's oeuvre and its fidelity to Andy Weir's novel.
I suggested How-To Stories as a companion topic, since The Martian — in both its incarnations, albeit moreso in prose than onscreen — goes into unusual detail about the stuff its stranded-astronaut hero Mark Watney must do to survive on a planet that (so far we know) does not sustain life. We all struggled to come up with suitable examples of favorite stories in this genre, and to thread the needle between a How-To and a Procedural. I could've talked about several different Michael Mann films, but particularly Thief, Manhunter, Heat, or even The Insider. As is often the case, I didn't think of that until later.
I was glad as always to join Linda Holmes, Glen Weldon, and – for the first time – Barrie Hardymon on this week's Pop Culture Happy Hour. Here are my notes and ephemera from this exciting episode. Some of it is stuff I jotted down to say but forgot or didn't get the chance, and some of it is stuff I wish in hindsight that I'd been smart or quick enough to say on the fly. (I keep pounding so-called smart drinks hoping that I shall one day develop the ability to think at the speed of conversation.)
Anyway! I wanted to read this brief passage from Nick Hornby's new novel Funny Girl, our primary topic of discussion, because I think it encapsulates the spirit of the book succinctly. It's the first meeting between the book's heroine, Barbara (who adopts the stage name Sophie Straw), and her agent, Brian:
"I want to be a comedienne," said Barbara. "I want to be Lucille Ball."
The desire to act was the bane of Brian's life. All these beautiful, shapely girls, and half of them didn't want to appear in calendars, or turn up for openings. They wanted three lines in a BBC play about unwed mothers down coal mines. He didn't understand the impulse, but he cultivated contacts with producers and casting agents, and sent the girls out for auditions anyway. They were much more malleable once they'd been repeatedly turned down.
That's The Boss's imminent album up there, all right. Over at NPR Monkey See this morning, I ask why it -- like pretty much every album Springsteen has made in the last 30 years (except for The Ghost of Tom Joad) -- must have such a terrible, awful, no good, inexpressive and irreducibly goddamn fugly cover.
I wrote a similar, much longer piece examining the covers of Springsteen's entire official catalog five years ago, after the horrific cover of Working on a Dream leaked.
It’s a death trap! It’s a suicide rap! And so on.
My love of Bruce Springsteen is not exactly news. It may no longer even qualify as infotainment. He played the single best concert I’ve ever seen anyone play, out of hundreds of bands and artists. (This
is merely a partial list.) There is nothing remotely controversial
about the assertion he is the greatest live performer in the history of
rock and roll.
I wrote all of this down three years ago, after I
saw him play his penultimate show of 2009, in Baltimore’s appealingly
small and out-of-date sports area, the end of a busy two-year tour
wherein he also made one of his worst albums. Basking in the glow of
that remarkable show in the days afterward, I knew if I were never to
see Springsteen and the E Street band play again, I’d be fine with that.
I had a Born in the U.S.A. on cassette when I was a little kid, but it wasn’t until college that I became a hardcore Springsteen fan. His Live 1975-85 album (three discs, because I got it in the CD era) and his solo acoustic, recorded-in-his-bedroom Nebraska
album were the documents most directly responsible for my conversion.
At the time I was discovering this music, Springsteen hadn’t toured with
the E Street Band in seven years. Another four would pass before they'd
announced they were reuniting.
Those reunion shows in 1999 and
2000 were remarkable. I saw five concerts on that tour. They were
different from the shows Bruce and the band had played in the 70s and
80s, the ones I had heard only on cherished (and in the pre-broadband
era, expensive) bootlegs. There was no intermission. Bruce’s
meandering, easily parodied, improvised on-stage stories were gone,
replaced by a gospel preacher schtick. The shows tended to be about
two-and-a-half hours long — a generous amount of stage time from anyone
but Springsteen, who had regularly broken the three-hour mark all
through his twenties and thirties.His twenties and his thirties.