In the film 'Apocalypse Now,' two characters learn the hard way that you 'never get out of the boat.' But today the Soundcheck Smackdown dares to venture into a tiger-filled jungle with a debate over a cultural icon who's pretty beloved in this neck of the woods.
(Learn why you never get out of the boat. Note: explicit language.)
Bruce Springsteen’s stock is pretty high right now. He’s linked to the Obama campaign’s victory in the presidential election. He was a star of a major concert held before the inauguration. His new album comes out today (although many of us got a sneak peek on the NPR Music site). And, he’s set to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday.
But he has some issues. Three of my favorite critics have punched big holes in the new 'Working on a Dream' album. (Read about it here, here and here.) And while Springsteen revived his career 15 years ago with 'The Ghost of Tom Joad' (and got another shot in the arm from 'The Rising' in 2002), it's hard to call him a progressive figure in today's pop world.
His politics, of course, have always been progressive. Yet his decision to sell a greatest-hits CD at Walmart -- a company long lambasted by progressives -- is confusing and maybe a little disappointing.
But in debating Bruce in my head this morning, I keep coming back to a cause-and-effect story from my past.
Cause: My mother is a huge Springsteen fan. (When I was five or six, I was certain that she was destined to eventually marry him. She was divorced, she liked his music, what more did you need?) His albums were a big part of her record collection. Those worn LPs formed the beginnings of my own collection. You could say my love of Springsteen literally passed from her to me.
Effect: As a very broke student at the University of Minnesota, I once agreed to wear a kind of sandwich board for the local Star Tribune newspaper in order to gain entrance to a Springsteen show at the Target Center. The Strib printed up quickie 'special editions' with a shot of the Boss on the front page. I sold them for a dollar to fans on their way in and out of the arena. The sandwich board was a long green smock with slots on the front and back that displayed the Strib's front page. I had to hawk it like a newsie. Naturally, I was seen -- and subsequently ridiculed by -- my ex-girlfriend. But because my situation seemed a bit like a Springsteen song itself, and because I was permitted to watch four songs from the Target Center's rafters, all in all it was a pretty good show.
Tell us: What do you think of Springsteen? Has your opinion of him changed over time? What do you think of his new album? Leave a comment. Note: I'll be sharing your comments with John Schaefer during today's Soundcheck.