Here's the thing. Is it the music? Is it the words? It it the singer? Is it the song? Is it the moment? What sticks? Why? Discuss.
There's probably amongst you readers, reviewers, bloggers, voyeurs etc,, a biological, physiological, psychological theory or two as to why some people are Wagner fans, some are John Denver crazy, some people prefer The Stones to the Beatles and there must be a reason why 1D top the hit parade and sell
vinyl plastic coding-that-isn't-a-tangible product in its millions. Here then is what one man and his offerings did for me, to be considered, examined, referenced and understood in relation to impact and personal effect that I know others will find an affinity with linked with their sentiments to other esteemed artists. Maybe my take on it helps aid understanding to answer the exam question posed above.
You'd be forgiven for assuming this will unfold into a one woman testimony to Marvin Lee Aday - otherwise known as Meatloaf - but it's not. (Thank God - Ed.) That line just helps explain the circumstances and paint the picture giving rise to my awakening. It was indeed a hot summer evening when as a pubescent 12 year old. I rode in the back of what I'd like to say was my wild-living whisky-drinking brother's "67 chevvy"; it was in actual fact my Beethoven-loving teetotal-sister's somewhat dilapidated 1968 Hillman Imp. It was August 1978 and the vehicle was struggling in first gear on the twisting uphill road that takes the traveller to the summit of Portland in Dorset, having crossed Chesil Beach from Weymouth.
Breathing a huge sigh of relief as the car rallied into second and then third gear I looked back down across the beach to glance the glistening sea in the evening sunshine. It was at this point that David "Kid" Jensen announced to the listener on the mono car radio that he was about to play what was then considered to be the greatest song ever by an artist who been christened 'the future of rock and roll' by an early reviewer. The opening bars of a song that is as good today as it was then crackled out of the transistor. Not to be too dramatic but I can safely say, in that 4minutes and 30seconds, my life gained point, purpose, depth and meaning that it still holds to this day. Celebrating its 40th birthday last year, "Born to Run" changed the course of musical history and changed the 12 year old me.
I'd like to say it inspired, it cajoled, it released me into a life where I broke away from a town that 'breaks the bones from my back' and that 'tramps like us' were indeed freed as a consequence of the rallying cry but that's not - strictly speaking - true. As the youngest child of Irish immigrant parents in 70's Britain, the best I was striving for was to be one better than the previous generation. That meant working inside rather than outside; factory not farm; colour not black and white TV; having a house phone, not using the call box on the corner. Hopping on a Harley and riding out of town didn't feature on the radar for anyone at Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Secondary Comprehensive. Not before that evening anyway.
What Bruce did for me was to set me apart from my peers. For starters no one had ever heard of him. So he and his music was all mine. Exclusive. Not the property of my friends or siblings. As was our want in the mid-to-late 70's, buying an LP (long player) and walking around with it neatly peering out from under a strategically placed arm so onlookers could see it worn like Sunday best clothes with enormous inner but outwardly nonchalant pride, Bruce made me special and different. Born to Run, the album, existing in a gatefold sleeve complete with "the words" only added an extra degree of indulgence and pleasure that was all mine. It made me an individual while everyone else was busy being too alike to be distinguished. They were the masses and I was unique. I'm not convinced I thought about it in those terms, in fact I know I didn't. I couldn't have articulated it in that way but I knew it made me different, it began to set me aside and mark me as separate. Underlying all of that, it made me interesting and unattainable to the hordes. Not that the hordes were sniffing exactly, but I reckon subconsciously it made me better, wiser, cooler, a cut above the rest.
It made me both attractive and unattractive in different quarters. Musically, at least. So Bruce led me to Patti, way before 1979's massive "Because the Night". It being so massive, it massively pissed me off as others jumped on the PSG bandwagon. Much as I felt from 1984 onwards - about Bruce. Born in The USA hit the streets and every fucker loved, wanted and owned him. I went off him a bit and played down my love of everything he'd done to that point, claimed others didn't really know him as I did. How very pretentious of the 18-year-old me. Who, it has to be noted, had turned out to be "born to run" to the security of a local civil service career (in its loosest sense) that still features some 30+ years later.
I digress. So back to the point. I woke up in that first hearing of the title tune. I developed a lust and a desire and a thirst and a love. Not many songs have marked my right of passage in any similar way. I didn't become more obscure in my likings. I didn't develop a broad American pop collection. I just developed a deep appreciation of all things Bruce or Bruce-inspired to that point and slightly beyond. I nursed The River upon release, I played "Candy's Room" from Darkness... repeatedly on a C60 tape of mixed up Bruce that I made myself - even describing this seems archaic and will be lost on anyone under 30 - but that's how it was. I marvelled at showing off my knowledge of things he'd written that others had made popular. "Blinded by The Light" being my favourite of his made commercial by others.
However, like any relationship of this kind there were rocky roads ahead. I fell out with him upon his first marriage (which I'll gloss over) and then late 80's onwards I lost interest. I expect my settled life and acceptance that I wasn't born to be running anywhere made me prickly with him and his back catalogue. He stopped touring and I stopped listening. I didn't engage and I drifted. In so many ways.
Cue 9/11. The Rising, an indirect direct response to that event woke me up. Bruce was back with an almighty bang. He'd never really gone from me, we'd just drifted apart as most couples do. He hit the road, I got tickets and I stirred again. The cycle of life's ebbs and flows changed me, changed things around me, the world changed with that once cataclysmic event as the twin towers crumbled and my inner self morphed again with "Into The Fire" as the theme tune.
I've not looked back.
The times I've seen him since (6) have been almost spiritual experiences. Every rendition of "Born to Run" transports me back to that moment of revelation and awakening. The opening chords enough to stir my Proustian memory and actually smell the heat in the air of that '78 evening, like it had been bottled and packaged especially for me. And to remember the hope, excitement and potential I felt it afforded me. Every occasion is now a marker in time as he and I and most of his audience age into 60 being the new 50 (being the new 40) as we try to preserve or recapture all that we've lost along the way. I walk away inspired and hopeful, frightened and scared of a diminishing number of future years. Quite the opposite to that hot hazy night.
Lots of happy memories though, more good than bad. New favourite tunes, new favourite and breathtaking moments. 2012 in Manchester when the crowd fell silent mid song as during "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" ('a change was made in town and the big man joined the band') with larger than life, recently deceased E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons staring out at 50,000 silent fans from the safety of the stills projected on the backdrop stage screens will live with me forever. "Girls in their Summer Clothes" becoming my new favourite favourite, along with "Outlaw Pete" and many more besides. Less precious now, I'm happy in a maturity that allows me to share and allows everyone to have a bit of Bruce in their life.
So make of that story and association what you will. Was it the music? Was it the words? Was it the singer? Was it the song? Was it the moment? What made it stick?
It was all of those things, perfectly captured in a Sliding Doors moment. 4minutes and 30seconds of pure, unadulterated, inspired musical pleasure. What would I have been like if he'd played Dylan, Bowie or any other 'great' - think it's my good fortune that the dice gave me Bruce that day.
Cheers matey, I owe you a lot.
My only brother passed away suddenly on my birthday in December 2013. We played "Rocking All Over the World" by Status Quo at the crematorium for his departure from this world on 10th January 2014. On 17th February that year, I was in the audience in Adelaide, Australia as Bruce opened his encore with that very song. His one and only airing of the classic. Life, Bruce and mysterious coincidences never cease to amaze me.