The Rear-View Mirror: Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band, Live/1975-85 (1986)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Bruce Springsteen seems to be a part the bedrock of the music business, but he is the first to admit that he is a fraud. He has never held down a working-class job in his life, he has never seen a factory from the inside. (If you don’t believe me, then go watch Springsteen on Broadway, currently on Netflix.) He is one of the greatest posers ever. And yet nobody sees him that way because he has unearthed something, a kind of poetic common denominator, an idealised, romanticised version of the USA, or of working class life, or of being young – maybe a bit of everything. There is a sense of wanting to get out of this town that he caters to with his music. Or why do you think his biggest hit is called Born To Run?

Most other artists don’t have half of his charisma; he cuts through the fog because he doesn’t do scandals or drugs. The Rolling Stones might have the same aura about them, but Springsteen has never been the bad boy. And it’s surprising to realise that he is bipolar while he exudes a kind of primordial steadfastness. There is nothing that sums up his music quite like the 5-LP box set Live/1975-85. Most songs I knew, others came as a revelation to me. Springsteen is essentially a live musician, best enjoyed in a stadium. Herein lies my problem: I don’t like the crowds that such an event would attract, and I am not willing to sit in the back row half a mile from the stage. That box is as good as anything he ever recorded. It’s twice as long as his four-hour monster concerts. It features the despair of Nebraska as well as the songbook-quality of Born In The U.S.A.

To me, Springsteen works in two ways: the first one is when you are young and are dreaming of girls and cars and getting out of this one-horse town. Then came a few years where I still listened to the album now and then, but Springsteen’s new stuff didn’t really grip me. Now, the album serves as a kind of nostalgia machine – not for the songs, but for me.

The Rear-View Mirror will return every Friday, looking further and further into the past. Fasten your seatbelts: it may just be a bumpy ride.

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