Archive for the ‘Bruce Springsteen’ Category

We finished the second and final season of Joan of Arcadia yesterday. For those of you counting at home, that means we whipped through the 23 Season 1 episodes and 22 Season 2 episodes in exactly 22 days. One of the things I like about the series is that it avoids the typical pitfalls associated with dramas that explore faith and humanity. Within the show, as in real life, faith leads to questions, doubts and realizations, but never easy answers.

One of my favorite moments comes near the end of its run, in the “Common Thread” installment. God commands Joan to return to knitting, a hobby she stopped when she was a kid. As always, there’s far more to the episode than just that; we don’t just see Joan casting on, stitching and purling for the next 40+ minutes. I’ll skip the rest of the story, however, to the moment in question, when Joan gently rebuffs her folks, who are trying to ease her guilt regarding a bad decision made by her former boyfriend, Adam. “I mean, we’re all connected like the scarf. One piece of yarn, if you cut it up into little pieces, it’s useless. You can’t make anything out of it. I am responsible, partly. We all are…for everything that we touch and everything that touches us.”

It’s never us vs. them, as much as we sometimes wish it so. It’s us vs us. 

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Of Questions & Faith (aka Joan of Arcadia, Part II)…

1) Kasey Chambers – “Abraham”

2) Van Morrison – “When Will I Ever Learn to Walk in God”

3) Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer – “Into My Arms”

4) Bruce Springsteen – “Rocky Ground”

5) Paul Weller – “Can You Heal Us (Holy Man)”

And two bonuses…

6) Natalie Merchant – “I May Know the Word”

7) Maria McKee and Bryan MacLean – “Sweet Dr. Jesus”

Here’s an unlikely opening: On May 24, 1984, President Ronald Reagan introduced the Navy’s first female ensign, Kristine Holderied, during a press event at the White House.

That clip, I should mention, is well worth watching in full. It features all of President Reagan’s public events on this specific day. In addition to Holderied, he meets with National Wildlife Federation president Jay Hair; the Multiple Sclerosis Society’s mother and father of the year; AMVETS’ commander; and Chiu Luu, who arrived in this country from Vietnam in 1979. Luu, I should mention, taught himself English after arriving on these shores and, by the time of this meeting with America’s 40th’s president, was graduating as valedictorian from City College of New York. 

The clips are interesting for several reasons. First and foremost: Reagan’s affection for those he meets. He doesn’t seem to think of these greetings as a chore, in other words, or as something to be endured, but as events to be cherished. When you see him reading the notes on Luu prior to meeting with the young man, one sees admiration sink into his face and demeanor.

I share that, along with this: I wasn’t a fan of Ronald Reagan or many of his policies. But I did agree with him when it came to his unbridled optimism in America, and his belief in the “shining city on the hill.” He articulated it throughout his time in the public spotlight, but summarized it best in his January 1989 farewell address:

“I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”

Note that he didn’t say the doors were closed.

But back to May 24, 1984, which was a Thursday. Light rain fell in the Delaware Valley, which saw a high of 75 and low of 54. I’d just wrapped my first year at Penn State Ogontz, one of Penn State’s satellite campuses; worked as an usher at the now-defunct Hatboro Theater; and had purchased a slew of albums over the past few weeks, including the Flying Burrito Brothers’ self-titled third album on the 1st; the Buffalo Springfield’s Last Time Around on the 3rd; Gram Parsons’ G.P. and Return of the Grievous Angel, also on the 3rd; Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual on the 11th; Todd Rundgren’s Healing on the 14th; Rogers Waters’ The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking on the 18th; and, on the 24th, Joni Mitchell’s Blue. Yet to come: Spinal Tap’s This Is Spinal Tap and Van Halen’s 1984, both on May 29th.

And with that, here’s today’s Top 5: May 24, 1984 (via Weekly Top 40; the chart is for the week ending May 26th). Unlike other looks back, I’m going to hop, skip and jump down its rungs…

1) Deniece Williams – “Let’s Hear It for the Boy.” This effusive song, which is ingrained in my brain due to its inclusion in the Footloose movie, landed at No. 1 this week. As I said above, I worked as an usher at a movie theater – and the film flickered across our fraying screen for at least two weeks, and I worked more nights than not. Unlike the other Footloose songs, it’s one I never grew tired of.

2) Cyndi Lauper – “Time After Time.” Rising from No. 6 to No. 3 is this classic Cyndi Lauper song, which she co-wrote with Rob Hyman of the Hooters.

3) The Go-Go’s – “Head Over Heels.” In its 11th week on the charts, this infectious single reaches No. 11. Here they are performing it at the Greek Theater in August ’84…

4) John Mellencamp – “Authority Song.” Mellencamp’s “I Fought the Law” rewrite rises a notch, from No. 16 to 15…

5) The Style Council – “My Ever Changing Moods.” Further down the charts, at No. 34 (up from No. 36), is this classic tune from Paul Weller’s second band. It was the lead single from the Style Council’s debut album, which was titled Café Bleu in the U.K. and My Ever Changing Moods in the U.S. 

And three bonuses…

6) Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – “Dancing in the Dark.” Entering the charts this week, at No. 36, is this lead single from Springsteen’s now-classic Born in the USA album, which would be released on June 5th. Brian De Palma directed the video, which features a young Courteney Cox as the fan the Boss picks to dance with him on stage.

7) Joe Jackson – “You Can’t Always Get What You Want (’Til You Know What You Want).” Jackson’s Body and Soul, from which this song is drawn from, is a true overlooked gem. That this song would eventually hit No. 15 was a surprise to me then and now, given how out of step it was with the times. This week, it’s still on its slow upwards climb, landing at No. 29.

8) Wang Chung – “Dance Hall Days.” One of the week’s power plays, at No. 45, is this nostalgic New Wave pop tune from the U.K. band. In a sense, their “Come Dancing” or “Ballroom Dancing”… 

Fun, but frustrating. That, in a nutshell, summarizes my reaction to the Facebook challenge of naming 10 all-time favorite albums over the course of 10 days. I have far more than 10 all-time favorites, many of which are equally weighted on the scale I employ to rate records. (Among my measurements: “wondrous,” “wow. just wow,” “sublime,” “mesmerizing,” “transcendent” and “it takes you there, wherever there is.”)

Selecting them also meant adopting a different mindset than when choosing my ballyhooed Album of the Year honor. There, I look back at what I’ve bought and played most often during the previous 12 months, and gauge what resonated with my soul at such a deep level that I know, just know, I’ll be listening to it for the rest of my life. (Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong.)

Memes weren’t created to be fair, however, but to entertain. And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: 10 All-Time Favorite Albums, Part 2. (Part 1 can be found here.)

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Day 6: Juliana Hatfield – in exile deo. I’ve yet to feature this album in my “Essentials” series, but will at some point. It’s one of Juliana’s best albums – and her second to nab my esteemed Album of the Year honor.

Day 7: Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – I Love Rock ’n Roll. It may not be Joan’s best album (her debut, Bad Reputation, is likely that), but it’s her most important – and, in my estimation, one of the most important albums in rock history. Thus, its “Essential” status. 

Day 8: 10,000 Maniacs – Our Time in Eden. As perfect an album ever released, in my opinion. And another “Essentials” pick.

Day 9: Stephen Stills – Manassas. A two-LP (now one-CD) gem. Another “Essentials” pick.

Day 10: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – Darkness on the Edge of Town. This 1978 album is one of the greatest albums of all time. What’s amazing about it, to me, is that the themes that Springsteen explores, both lyrically and musically, speak to their time and to all times. (It’s a future “Essentials” pick, in other words.)

And a three non-Facebook bonuses…

Day 11: Dusty Springfield – Dusty in Memphis. Another perfect record. And another “Essentials” pick.

Day 12: The Jam – Snap!. One of the greatest best-of compilations to be released on vinyl, and a set I’ve listened to as much in the past year as I did in the first year I bought it. It never grows old. (It’s an “Essential,” in other words.)

Day 13: Courtney Marie Andrews – Honest Life. It may be a relatively recent album, and as such doesn’t qualify for “essential” status just yet (my homegrown rule is an album has to be at least five years old for that), but it shot to the top of my internal charts the moment I heard it, and hasn’t left. It’s everything good about music. 

Ah, 1978. I remember it well. But I have no memory of ever having seen or read this magazine, a bi-monthly that, due to the lack of advertisements within its pages, looks like it attempted to subsist on subscriptions and newsstand sales. There’s a full-page ad for Carole King’s Welcome Home album on the inside front cover; another full-page ad on the inside back cover for YSL Records, which specializes in Japanese imports; and there’s an ad on the back for Intensive Care, an album by jazz musicians Louie Bellson, Ray Brown and Paul Smith that’s billed as “the first audiophile release from Discwasher Records.”

Beyond that? There’s a half-page “classified” section that charges 50 cents a word; and this Akai-infused subscription pitch:

The magazine itself, as the subhead promises, offers “in-depth coverage of rock, jazz and classical music.” Here’s the contents page:

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: October 1978 (via Record Review Magazine).

1) The Rolling Stones – “Miss You.” Jon Sutherland thinks much of the Stones’ Some Girls album, which he says is “the most sweeping and powerful Stones production since Sticky Fingers” and “their finest album in nearly a decade.” He also takes a shot at the punk scene: “The Stones created the spirit the punks are now borrowing, but the punks don’t have the touch of the masters.” Ouch!

Sutherland concludes his love-fest with “[t]he Stones started the trend toward hard rock and the tenacious comment that goes with it. No one does it any better. Probably, no one ever will. The Rolling Stones are the greatest rock and roll band in the world and Some Girls is a reconfirmation of that fact.”

2) Cheap Trick – “Surrender.” Page 11 features Record Review Interview: Cheap Trick, by Boni Johnson, which mixes critical insights with quotes from Rick Nielsen. Of this song, Johnson writes that it’s “as definitive of the Cheap Trick sound as anything they’ve recorded. The melodic guitar lead, strong hooking chorus line, the dash of pop sensibility, and the simple instrumentation are all evident.”

The band had yet to break big in the States, though they had overseas. “In Japan, we’ve done very well. ‘Clock Strikes Ten’ and ‘I Want You to Want Me’ (both from In Color) were hits and we’ve scored gold albums, but it’s just a matter of time before it happens in America too,” according to Nielsen.

That time came the following year, of course, after their at Budokan live album was released.

3) Bob Dylan – “Where Are You Tonight?” Michael Davis weighs in on Bob Dylan’s legacy as well as the bard’s latest album, Street Legal. “There are those who consider Dylan close to a god, and others who regard him as a has-been with the majority somewhere in between. That he should inspire such a wide disparity of views should come as no surprise since the man has followed his changeable muse throughout the last two decades…”

Of the album itself, Davis concludes “I’m a little disappointed, but there are rewarding tracks here. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop listening to the ones that puzzle me; I know Dylan’s music well enough by now to know that the pieces don’t necessarily fall together at the beginning.”

4) Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – “The Promised Land.” Davis also tackles Springsteen’s third album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, his first since 1975 due to a legal fight with his former manager, Mike Appel. “It appears that he was determined not to lose touch with the streets that inspired most of his songs,” writes Davis. “But of course that environment changed for him. The people that he draws his material from in Darkness on the Edge of Town are no longer street urchins, hanging out on the boardwalks and endlessly cruising and fighting their time away. They are working men who put in 40-hour weeks at jobs that slowly eat away at them, and though they try to ease their frustrations through love relationships with women and competitive relationships with other men, they are only partially successful.”

This song, says Davis, exemplifies “Bruce’s vision of working life existence.”

5) Buffalo Springfield – “Rock & Roll Woman.” Richard Nisley delves into the short but storied catalog of one of greatest rock bands of the 1960s, Buffalo Springfield. The band “had  a string of hits in the second half of the last decade, among them ‘For What It’s Worth,’ ‘Bluebird’ and ‘Uno Mundo,’” explains Nisley. “But they are better remembered for having Stephen Stills, Neil Young, and for their last album, Jimmy Messina, as members. Each went on to become a superstar in his own right, a status the band never achieved. Not that it didn’t have the chance; what it needed was time. The band was together about two years and had another year passed it likely would have emerged from the pack that included the Jefferson Airplane and the Byrds as the country’s top rock group.” Perhaps. Perhaps not.

And in the end…there’s this preview of a surefire box-office hit…

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