DOORWAYS, SAPIENS

Letter to You

Western Stars

It is a cool, bright evening, and the skies are licking his brow where the skin touches the smeared-paint clouds. He turns to look at the mile sign that whips out of sight as the road furls on under us. The sand is endless, but he does not stop driving. I watch with empty eyes as he lifts a trembling hand to the radio knob and turns it just so, with the practiced hand of a man who knows the station wavelengths more than he knows the details of his own life.

His skin is a sun-beaten nut brown, lined like the reliefs of a topographic map, places of where he’s been, where he’s going. The sand rasps against the pale white hair on his arm, and he takes care to replace it inside periodic intervals, keeping it in the shade of the warm leather interior. He won’t let it get blistered, even though on film he’s often in the heavy black long-sleeves of a villain. He can’t let it burn despite that, because sometimes if he gets lucky he’ll score a bit-part as the old master, come to teach the young hero the ways of good. In those parts he’ll wear cotton blue, and the stylists’ll roll the cuffs up to throw the camera focus onto his liver spots, the good tan of a man who makes his living outside with honest work. The sunburn would obscure the ropey muscles under his skin, take away from the aura of man-at-one-with-the-land that the director wants.

‘Every morning,’ he tells me, without looking my way, facing forward at the endless, endless, sky, bleeding red with a peach moon, eye-winks of stars starting to pearl down at us, looking unimpressed at my silence and his worked, old face. ‘Every morning I wake up, and I take a walk down to the old man’s cemetery. I saw the men on those gravestones die so many times, at the end of my gun, or over a canyon side, or hacked to bits by Apaches with bone-handled tomahawks. I saw the blood burst from them, from their lips and their chests and their eyes. I saw them rattle with consumption, or slump over dead-drunk in a cardboard saloon, or shout up don’t forget me, Johnny as they tumbled over a two-shelf waterfall and held their breath under the surface. They saw me die so many times, too, in the same ways. It doesn’t seem, when you see the same man die a million deaths, that they can actually really kick the bucket. I go to the gravestones to remind my own self of that, when I get too big for my boots. Apart from Clint, I’m the only one left, you know that?’

I don’t know what to say.

‘But Clint is remembered.’ He laughs, long and low. The stars are brighter, brighter, brighter, and they reflect luminescent into the cracks of age on his face, turning the smile-lines and frown-lines and the every-emotion-in-between-lines into long strands of silver constellations across his cheeks. ‘I ain’t nothing.’

But he is something. With the stars over his face, he is everything. The stars, I think, are like his brothers. Celestial, removed, unkillable. Just as he is, and his friends were.

‘I wonder where we’re gonna end up,’ he smiles up at the eyes above us ‘if we all keep driving this way.’

The sand says nothing. The stars grin.

 ——————————————————————

The thing is. I love Bruce Springsteen.

God, no way, you don’t say, Caitlin! I would never have known that about you! It isn’t as if you’ve inserted a reference into every piece you’ve ever written for this magazine, every piece that I have had the misfortune to read. It isn’t as if you’ve told every single person you have met in person or on the faceless web that is online communication that you were, indeed, in the top 0.001% of Bruce listeners worldwide (as per the doyen of all music statistics, Spotify, praise be unto Him). It isn’t as if you have already worked out a deal with your boyfriend that your first born son will have Bruce as his middle name (he likes Iron Maiden, so I’ve sold it to him as being in honour of Bruce Dickinson, but we all know, really, reader, that it is for the man, the myth, the legend, the boss, the BRUCE. There’s only one. All other Bruces, including my future hypothetical son, are always going to play second fiddle).

But I do. I really love him.

This article has been a long time coming, and I have a lot to say. A lot that requires multiple hand gestures that you can never quite convey in the black formality of Times New Roman, a lot that requires us to be sitting together around a fire, with closed eyes, under the same blanket, feeling the sparks singe the edges of our eyebrows and send red blooding under our cheeks, listening to the swells of Clarence Clemons’ saxophone and hearing the crack in Bruce’s voice as he says ‘those memories come back to haunt me’ in The River and I would grab your hand and say listen to it – did you hear it, right there? Did you hear how he did that? And you, because of the atmosphere and the black velvet sky and the dripping music that fills every orifice of your face with sound and also because I’m gripping your hand rather awfully tight and you’re afraid I’ll snap the thin, very breakable bones of your fingers if you don’t, you will get it. You wouldn’t need me to spell it out for you, like I am rather pathetically attempting to do here, in whatever means I am able to do it, probably in little chunks of paragraphs where I make the case basically by picking out lyrics and throwing them at you and saying see! Isn’t that just beautiful? If you were there, you would just get it. If you had the music playing, your eyes closed, the mellow bow-string buckle of his voice sliding between your teeth to fill your mouth with its sound, you wouldn’t even need me to show you the way. You would fall through the doorway with me.

——————————————————————

Shut Out the Light

I am standing in the silent room, as I have been standing all day. The air is full of that blue, 3am light, the you-shouldn’t-be-awake-light, and I can see him under the sheets shaking. The cotton trembles with the line of his body, taut-tight and about to shatter apart with the force of the I’m okay I’m okay I’m okay he is whispering to himself, over and over, to the soft arm of his pillow.

His wife is very pretty, in that uncomplicated, milk-maid way. The middle-America way. Her skin is clear, freckled golden with sun spots, her cheeks warm and rosy even in sleep. Her mouth is plush, wet and pink as a camelia rent raw with a spring rain. He does not look at her. She sleeps soundly, the gentle movement of her shoulders under the sheet calm and happy. He is not calm and happy.

He does not see her uncomplicated prettiness, that gentle freshness of her mouth. She would be sad at that, if she knew. She spent the morning walking and re-walking past the window, straightening her skirt, patting down the back of her hair, biting her lips to make them brighter and blush pink of full blood. For a moment, in the manner of that slow prettiness that speckled over her features and sunk into her brain, she considered herself, and unpopped one of the round, red buttons at the collar of her blouse. That was a lot for her to do, gentle as she was, proper as she was. It took the dress from modest, a good dress, and with the soft movement of button through hole made it something different. She was upswept with joy at the shadow it revealed, the hint of breast, the strong line of her collarbone, the petal shaped divot at the base of her clavicle. She had forgotten how it was to feel wanted, and he was almost back to want her.

But he wanted no-one. He thought, when he left Cam Ranh Bay, that he wanted the neat green grass of his yard, which his Dad had been keeping trim and level while he was away. He thought, when he left Cam Ranh Bay, he wanted the stucco whiteness of his own house, the red-edged curtains she had made for him bright behind the windows she kept clean-washed. He thought, when he left Cam Ranh Bay, he wanted the grey smoke-stained front of the shoe factory, the white-sleeved men laughing and slinging cigarettes to one another as the shift bell rung, the pretty new-woman girls tossing their sharp, short haircuts and swinging their plastic leather handbags.

He rose like a ghost, like a man that barely had the energy to shift the thickness of his frame. He didn’t know where he was going, but I followed him. I got into the backseat as he started the car. He didn’t turn the headlamps on, even though the heavy summer darkness was thick enough to cut with a butcher’s knife. It had rained, earlier in the evening, and the air was wet and sweet. He drove and drove and drove and I leant my head on the window, felt it bump and jostle with the rough grit of the road, and I watched him. He barely blinked.

He stopped us at a forest, and he dropped the keys next to the car door when he got out. He didn’t bother to come back for them. He walked and walked just like he drove and drove, and he stopped just as suddenly as someone had grabbed his pendulum. We were far from the car now, far from the light in every direction. Even the whiteness of the empty moon was blocked by the heavy pines, smothering every side of us. He sunk into the water-heavy grass, sunk into the drench-mud, and from here I could feel how cool it would be on his skin, how smothering, like the wetness of the womb. He wrapped his arms around himself, and slowly lowered his head down, bending it to the ground.

——————————————————————

I love Bruce because I think Bruce is a storyteller, and I love stories.

That’s it, really. That’s what he does. I’m no music man, though I forever wish I was. I cannot tell you what the strings in different keys mean, I cannot tell you what that saxophone does at that time. But I can tell you the rhythms of poetry, and I can tell you when a man with a notebook and a pencil can write something better than I would ever, ever be capable of doing.

I recently joined a Bruce Springsteen discord, and let me tell you, reader, boy, are they smart. They’re a ten tonne smarter than me (I know that reader, but you don’t have to say it, okay? Let a girl retain some presence of ego). They trade bootlegs, grainy or sharp recordings of forgotten songs that I didn’t even know existed. They can speak about live performances as easily as breathing – did you think Point Blank in the Roxy in 1978 is more powerful than New York City Serenade in Bryn Mawr in 1975? I don’t know, man. I can’t do that. I can’t speak that language.

I thought I knew everything about him. Which guitarist I liked the best in his band (Nils Lofgren, obviously). His relationship with his father (bad, then good, then bad, then good again). I thought I knew everything about him because his songs felt like I was sitting next to him, and he, like a grandfather with a warm, broad hand and a deep, bright voice, was telling me the winding arteries of his life, who he used to know, who he used to love, the families and friends he watched crumble.

But it turns out, as with most things I think I know a lot about, I, predictably, knew very little indeed.

There was an intricate backstory to every album, to every song from every album. There was an argument between this person and that person. There were albums that were universally agreed upon and others that were contentious battlegrounds. The stories I had taken to be set in stone tableaux that I understood as firm bricks in my understanding of the universe and the world were actually made of silk, and when someone else held them up to the light, what once was blue held threads of gold and silver and melting orange.

Now, if you know anything about my personality, (and over the years, reader, I feel like we’ve built up quite the camaraderie so I’d like to hope you would. I was going to name you godmother/father/parent to little baby Bruce, so you better know my ways! I know yours!) you will be wincing right about now. Oh god, you’re thinking, she doesn’t take lightly to being proved wrong. She doesn’t like to realise that she doesn’t know what she was proud of knowing. And I’ll hold my hands up, reader, I will, that usually, I am a precocious little madame. I’ll admit it! I like being right! I like feeling smart! (Who doesn’t, and if you say I don’t, reader, we both know you’re lying). But don’t worry, remove the hands from the eyes, we’re not about to have a meltdown, here.

Rather miraculously, reader, I actually came to be rather delighted by this realisation.

——————————————————————

The Promised Land

Every waking moment in the oppressive stillness of the town is a moment that is bright and heavy and bitter with the stifling realisation that you are not going anywhere.

That the town has its hand in you, its nails, its wants and its rhythms. They beat in you. You hate it. You can’t breathe with it. You follow the patterns your father and mother have walked, that your brother and sister have walked, and you hate them for it too.

The night is cooling in, and the light is spilling from the streetlights in an ominous yellow, and the dust on your hands is grey from the road, from the residue of work, and from the slight film of greyness that seems to settle like a blanket over the doors, windows, and frames of the buildings. In the evening green, the slightly sickly light-child of the empty blue sky and the muculent glow of the bar-lamps, you are aware of how easily you could, if you wanted, tear every wooden frame of every slightly toppled building apart. They look like they are held together from little more than splinters. And you want to do it. You do.

There is a milky bitterness at the back of your throat, and you cough, hack up the spit and hock it onto the ground. You don’t care enough for the town to bother about making it pretty. You resent it too much.

You remember how much it hurt to bite your tongue and not shout back at your father. How your cowardice felt like a brand on your face. The heat of it, even now, pulses in a warm lock around your heart, and you can feel the bright pain of it. The want to shatter and splinter and destroy all of him, all of the town, everything he has built and bleeds for, the want to sweep it all away.

There is one road out of here and you could walk it, if you wanted to. You could do it. Just walk away from it all.

——————————————————————-

The reason why I was rather delighted was because it confirmed a suspicion I had held for a very long time: that Bruce was indeed, a poet. An author. A canonical literary master in the same vein as Shakespeare (you know him) or Shelley (Mary, the good one. Not Percy, he can rot, and I don’t mind saying it) or Stoker (fang-man extraordinaire. For a module I’m studying I’ve been reading a lot of Dracula and surprisingly there’s a lot more to it than just I vant to suck your blud).

Because, what I believe to be the defining feature of every true literary creator, every true author is a total absence of agreement about what their text actually means.

Think about it! There are writers, sure, many of them – my dad loves John Grisham and the guy who writes Jack Reacher (Lee Child? I don’t know – all I know is that if you bring up Tom Cruise to my dad, he will get started on a truly quite wonderful tirade about how Tom Cruise is TOO SHORT to play Jack Reacher, and actually just does not have the gravitas needed, you know? Now, here are my top five picks that I think would have been a better choice – ). My mum loves Elin Hildebrand and her Vineyard Vines-clad, white-wine-sipping, Nantucket-beach-house characters. I love pulpy horror novels that have swooning women on the front and declare in big letters with bright red font – BLOOD! GORE! SCREAMS! (you know it’s going to be a good one if it has all three). But the thing about these books, these texts, there’s no actual debate about what they mean. It’s very obviously stated. Jack Reacher will always save the day because he’s a big hunky ex-military guy who’s strong and deadly and silent and with his I both rebel against but ultimately support authority stride he promises to restore the masculinity to every man who reads him. Elin Hildebrand’s women will always find family, friendship, and fashion on the shores of the Nantucket beaches, and celebrate their newfound zen with a cook-out near Brant Point Lighthouse. In my horror trash, a scientist will isolate a genome that will ultimately destroy the killer bee/radioactive shark/ravenous zombie (cross off where needed) and the jock man who has been slowly but surely turning the main group of survivors into a Chad-led dictatorship will have his face torn off by the creature’s dying thralls and the pretty blonde will fall into the arms of Dr. Savestheday, and the book will end on a slow zoom into a twitching bee corpse that will quietly again start to buzz.

Simple, see? No debate necessary. They are pretty cut and dry.

But an author? They’ll create something that no-one can ever quite understand. And this is no genre-snobbery, or a suggestion that only the classics can do this. Far, far from it – John Wyndham’s books fit very nicely into my horror/sci-fi orgies (there are cuckoo extra-terrestrial children, alien sea monsters made from sperm-like space comets, massive giant plants that eat people – like he did really just say subtlety? Who is she? I don’t know her). But they are not cut and dry. Do the sea aliens represent the chaotic hell wrought upon the earth when men try to reappropriate the power of creation from women? Or do they represent humanity’s aggressive xenophobic tendencies and how fear of the foreign escalates every potential conflict to a catastrophic level? Who’s to say! I have my opinion, you have yours, and when you share yours with me or I mine with you, we see a new corridor of thought through the text. It tells us about each other’s experiences. It tells me how you think about the world, how you see other people, the experiences you’ve been through. The way you took the same basic typeface as I did and read something totally different – it tells me about you, reader. It tells you about me. It opens a doorway between us – not only a doorway into the world of the book, but a doorway into the world of each other.

And that is what Bruce does!

His songs, his music, has built a community tens of millions strong, across ages, across continents, across experiences, across gender, race, orientation. We all listen to his songs and feel he is speaking to us, speaking for us, to our experiences. But our experiences vary so vastly! Our understandings of the songs are so different! And when I read someone on the Bruce discord take Secret Garden (the most beautiful song in the world, that I treasure very dearly and have waxed lyrical about in at least one of my previous articles) and tie it to Candy’s Room (a song ostensibly about a woman who resists the attempts of men to emotionally fix her or heal her, a woman who will share herself physically with them but does not want to impart herself emotionally to them – or on the other hand, some people say it’s about a sex worker. Or both. See – authorial magic at work!) my head spun with the implications. What he got from the song was totally different to me. Lyrics that I had read as cut and dry, as obvious, as true, he had felt something totally different. His world was different! And that was wonderful.

For this article, I’ve spoken to people from around the world, through Discord and through Reddit (look at me, technologically savvy! Are you impressed, reader? I have to say, I do quite enjoy the old Reddit forum. I revel in r/AmITheAsshole and r/RelationshipAdvice – like the old fashioned classified ads where everyone is fighting and it’s so fun – so it wasn’t totally a journalistic foray. I recommend it if you need a laugh, and at this point, who doesn’t? Be prepared to be hit with some generally repellent posts before the algorithm figures out that you are a not a giant bag of dicks with a hat on pretending to be a person). I gave all of them the same questions – but the answers were so, so different. I’d like them to speak for themselves, to you, so you can see what Bruce does. He has connected us, me and you, to these people – to the way they think, the way they see the world. He has, with his words, built us a bridge, a doorway, into their minds and hearts. He’s built them – and you – a doorway into mine.

More than this, Bruce’s music opens a path into another world. A world that looks like ours, that has stories we’ve heard, and faces we recognise, but in colours that are new. With smells that are spicy and vanilla-heavy and thick with smoke. With hands that feel rough and raspy and unfamiliar. A world where his lyrics are so bright and burning and beautiful you can see it, you can see the characters he’s writing, can feel their pain and their achievements. A world where if you close your eyes, you’re with them, in their room. So, if you’re with me, reader, I will just grab my key here (it’s a copy of Tunnel of Love, which is my favourite album at the minute but is very quickly subject to change at any given moment, so let’s just pretend it’s a skeleton key) and I’ll unlock this door for you. Can you feel the fire on your face? Can you feel my hands in yours, squeezing to tell you when the music is just so? Are your eyes closed? (no, not your literal eyes, reader, don’t be an arse. Your metaphorical eyes. You still need to read this). Good. Let’s go.

——————————————————————

Book of Dreams

The window is warm against his back, through his suit coat, as he rests there for a moment, the champagne fuzz and the pleasant congratulations inside too much, too hot and thick and unfamiliar for him to bear. He can hear her voice, behind this window, and it was why he looked for it in particular. He hadn’t seen her yet, today, as her family was nothing if not traditional, even though she laughed and tossed her head at the idea of them not sharing a bed the night before.

Who cares about that, she grinned. It’s not as if – well. You know.

He wouldn’t turn around to stare at her. He, though he was burning to look at her, to see the silvery-white of the dress against the warm tan of her skin, the arms and the neck and the collar that he had spent the summer and winter and all the summers and winters previous watching brown and pale in the changing of the seasons. He was desperate to see her, tell himself that yes – she was his – this was going to happen. But he wouldn’t. He wanted that time, under the heavy garland of flowers still-wet with the early morning rain, the scent thick and spicy-sweet, the gardenias and the pink peonies from his aunt’s flower shop, the red and pale and the dark green of the leaves, he wanted that time to be the first time he saw her today. As he was meant to.

‘Oh,’ he can hear her father exhale, and he has to stifle a laugh so he isn’t heard. He can picture the flutter of wind through the rill of his moustache as he turns to face his daughter. He isn’t exactly sure why, but the picture of her dad, welling up with poorly-disguised tears, and his always toothbrush-tidy moustache wavering with emotion, is the funniest thing he can picture. ‘You are the prettiest bride I’ve ever seen.’

And the thing is – she will be. He just knows it. He can picture the glow on her skin, the warmness of her hand in his as he slides the ring onto her fingers. He can picture the parma violet of her perfume, the curve of her smile as she tries to make him laugh and ruins his vows. He can picture it all, as well as if she was an illustration on the page.

——————————————————————-

I want to introduce you to Snapp. He’s a firecracker with opinions on everything from Tom Waits to Tom Joad. He’s funny and sharp and bright and always supports my love for teeth (a classic surreal joke!). And he’s the first doorway we will walk through.

What’s your favourite Bruce song and why?

New York City Serenade is my favourite Springsteen song. It’s a beautiful journey that Bruce takes us on, looking at the goings on of a large city. Yet it still connects with me. At least one of the stories is bound to resonate with everyone, such as a hope to escape your current life and break out to do what you want to do

Are there any Bruce songs or albums that take you to a particular place?

Like if you closed your eyes and listened to that song/album, where/ what would you picture? Thunder Road always brings me back to when I was about 8 or 9 and my dad used to always play Born To Run. Now I never really liked it all that much but I always remember sitting at the table as my dad started Born To Run and shouted “GO ON BRUCE!”

What is one theme of Bruce’s music that feels most important/matters most to you?

One theme that means a lot to me is hope in the face of despair. There have been times where I feel bad and sick but there is always that ray of hope that you can cling onto. It tells us that everything is going to be alright. My City Of Ruins is a good example of this

——————————————————————-

I hope this isn’t coming across as Herbalife, multi-level marketing, like I’m trying to get you to buy into the Church of Bruce (though I am). I just – I want you to note here, throughout this, the same songs that come up – Thunder Road is one, or Western Stars, or the album Tunnel of Love. And note how different each song is to each person – how I see an old man under the endless Texan sky, and how someone else will see a beach in summer. How one person will listen to Thunder Road and see his girlfriend, while I’ll see my mum laughing as my dad sings, out of key, ‘you ain’t a beauty but hey you’re alright!’. And at the same time, I want you to note down how many different songs there are – how one will slide over the head of one person, but to someone else it will be the heart-stopper, the sit-up-and-take-notice, the holy-shit-shall-I-name-my-child-Bruce song. How many words he has written, and how they worm into so many different skins. And the themes that are, against all this difference, the same. The hope that every person treasures. The emotion. The built bonds between parents and friends.

——————————————————————

Wreck on the Highway

The night is velvet black and he has seen too many lights. They dance endlessly in front of his eyes, a smeared hand of oil paint. When he blinks, stuck shut with tiredness, with endless miles away from Mary still left to go. With endless miles from the soft sheets of his bed, and the soft planes of her skin, and the soft huff she’ll make when she hears his boots unlace at the door, and with an almost unconscious fluid movement she’ll pat the bed next to her. Waiting for him.

The highway was just. This blue snake, this blue snicker-snack, silvery and out of sight, bending behind a hill and he’d think yes, that’s it, it’s the last turn, the last time, and I’m nearly back. I’m nearly with her. And then – then he’d round the corner, and there it would be, the bitch, the bitch of its grey back, ready for him.

He swung a hand across his eyes and smelt the sweat in the lines of his palm. He hated this. All the hours away.

There was something – in the darkness. In the road. A hulk, like a twisted metal moose. A car. Like his. Twisted up in a sheet of fire and wreck.

He slammed the breaks, felt the thump-thump-thump of the adrenaline, almost bruising behind his chest. That car was his. His numberplate. He could see it. The man – half-slumped over the bumper, his arms at awkward angles, the blood vessels burst red and purple around the sides of his mouth. That man. Was him.

——————————————————————

This is welcometothepunkparade. The jammy bugger has actually met Bruce (can you believe it). He’s interesting and curious, and his words paint a picture of an electric Bruce, wild and alive on the concert stage.

2. What’s your favourite Bruce song and why?

My favourite Bruce song is Dancing In The Dark because I had the amazing experience of dancing with him on stage 5 years ago! Best night of my life! I will remember it forever!

Are there any Bruce songs or albums that take you to a particular place? Like if you closed your eyes and listened to that song/album, where/ what would you picture?

Western Stars really reminds me of just chilling on the beach on a nice afternoon. The whole album is so peaceful that I just kinda get that vibe.

What is one theme of Bruce’s music that feels most important/matters most to you?

One of his themes about going through a lot of stuff in life and pushing through the pain really resonates with me. I’ve been diagnosed with anxiety and depression for a little over a year now. It hasn’t been an easy road to get though, but songs like Long Walk Home teach me to keep going in life.

Does Bruce’s music factor into your relationships with other people/did Bruce’s music help build a relationship with someone for you?

My mom’s whole side of the family are huge Springsteen fans, so he really brings us together. We all go to his concerts together, and it’s a great experience bonding with your family while enjoying live music, especially The Boss!

If you could speak to Bruce yourself, what would you tell him?

Even though I have met him before, if I met him again, I would just say thank you. Thank you for teaching me to keep going in life.

Where are you from?

I’m from Massachusetts

——————————————————————

What I’m trying to show you here, in these snippets of people and places, is that Bruce creates worlds with a smattering of letters across the page, across the strings of a guitar. Can you imagine doing that? Having the ability to skate your fingers across the page, and underneath them, a new world blooms into existence? Can you imagine having that talent?

He does. When I’m tired and the world of essays and news and nonsense becomes too much, I will shuffle Bruce’s music and for a moment, a Wonderlandian second, I am somewhere else entirely. The richness of the sound, the richness of the words, are so real I can feel it. I can see it. I am standing in a Maryland pine forest with a Vietnam veteran shaking apart from post-traumatic stress in the drenched mud. I am in a wedding, I am the groom, waiting for the warmth of my bride’s hand in mine. I am a teenager frustrated by the sameness of the everyday, of the repressive boredom of this damn town (suck it pop punk, Bruce did it first). I am an old film cowboy, railing Viagra to maintain a veneer of aliveness, searching for my lost brethren in a cloudless, orange-blue sky. I am everywhere and nowhere at once.

——————————————————————-

Spare Parts

The baby’s cry is so loud, so heart-rendingly loud, and she is all alone and she is staring at the body that used to be hers, used to be young, used to exhale under the smooth plane of Bobby’s hand. It was young only a year ago, a year when Bobby came to her under the willow tree outside of school and promised her, just once, just once, Janey, just once under the fragrance of the pale green leaves and atop the still-warm sand. Bobby was bright and white under his baseball shirt, his hair golden, his teeth pearls, a man made of crystals and jewels, a man that had metal fingers that made cold shivers rock up the warm bell of her hips in shock. And he had slid those icy silver fingers under the waist of her jeans and popped the button and then and then and then –

And then when she was late he’d slipped a ring on her finger and as she grew wider and they shopped for wedding dresses and flowers and booked in with the vicar he’d grown paler, his fingers now soft and weak as kitten fur. And then Bobby ran out east to Texas and Janey heaved her son into the world on a cold November evening, feeling her thighs slick with blood and watching the dark crown of her mother’s loving head bow between her legs to catch the fat, warm baby.

The fat warm baby who was screaming with the force enough to shatter china behind her, the baby that made her taut body blurred and smudged. She crept up to him and stared at him, the red flush of his cheeks, his clean cat-mouth yawling into the air. He was a beautiful boy. Her hands shook as she lifted him up. I followed behind her, as she walked, almost in a trance, to the door. Her mother was sleeping in her work clothes, the fluorescent green of her grocery store shirt bright against the heavy beige of the couch.

Their house was by the river. It came from a cold clear lake, down at the back edge of town, and the water was silvery and rilled with blue water, and it was loud enough and prone to flood enough to keep the house prices down around it. But it wasn’t dirty. The woman who did this in Calverton had dumped it in the mud stream up there, and Janey couldn’t bear the thought of him choking on all that silt and filth. If he was going to – drown, she may as well say it, if she was going to do it – she wanted it to be on the clear, sweet water from their rivers. At least it wouldn’t hurt him, she thought, if the water wasn’t choked up with dirt.

Her nightgown was heavy and made her body feel even older, the yellowing lace, the light stain of pink-brown at the seat. She’d given birth in this gown, and the blood had never quite come out. she couldn’t let herself wear the little silk pyjamas she was wearing the night Bobby had lifted her out from her window and walked her to the willow tree. They belonged to a young girl. A girl who was beautiful. A girl who Bobby loved.

She waded into the water, and stood a second to admire it, then, the nightgown. It looked pretty – cleaner, in the water, back to almost a pale white in the starlight above her. Like someone had spilled a jug of cream into the stream, let it burble out in tufts of milk covered lace. He was still crying.

She looked at him, his hot red face, his bright eyes burbling up with tears as he reached a fat starfish hand to pat at her arm, at her face. He looked nothing like Bobby, she realised. He looked like her. As if she made him, all by herself.

She lifted him up from the water, and let out a long, low sob that sounded like a laugh.

——————————————————————

This is Zann. He’s really funny, and makes Bruce into something alive – he was so helpful and keen to answer the questions and put so much heart into the answers. Into the next doorway we go.

What’s your favourite Bruce song and why?

Am I allowed to cop out and say I don’t have one? It changes all the time. But I can tell you the kind of stuff I like – strong storytelling (with Bruce I’m mostly drawn to lyrics more than the music) and music that makes me go “huh – didn’t expect that” at some point, like a weird rhythm (like in Ghost of Tom Joad), or a complete change in direction halfway through (New York City Serenade), or sometimes just an odd note in the melody (Maria’s Bed).

Are there any Bruce songs or albums that take you to a particular place? Like if you closed your eyes and listened to that song/album, where/ what would you picture?

I’m a pretty visual person and I usually easily see whatever Bruce sings about – the great thing about Bruce is that he’s actively avoided trying to do the same thing twice, so his music is like a tour of America throughout the different decades. lately I’ve really been feeling WIESS (The Wild, the Innocent, and the E-Street Shuffle) and how romantic it is in its depictions of New York and Ashbury Park. I can easily imagine that it sounds like those places, but in a larger-than-life, sweeping grandeur kind of way, like if they were being portrayed in an old timey musical. You can hear the scenes change in that album (e.g. Incident on 57th Street where it goes from “and the pimps swung their axes” > “Puerto Rican jane” > “good night”) and it’s majestic. Also sometimes I’ve heard music in my head right before I fall asleep and WIESS somehow came damn close to recreating it.

What is one theme of Bruce’s music that feels most important/matters most to you?

The earnest (but grounded) optimism! I think he really captures the joy that can be found in small moments which I think is so important to get through life lol. Also I think that’s inextricably linked with the very realistic depictions of the world’s troubles, because I think Bruce’s entire body of work is built around contradictions and embracing the complexity of it all. and I love that it positions the choice to be kind, empathetic, hopeful etc. as an act of strength, not naivete. It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive even if you’re aware everyone around you is trying to pull you down. You can love your father even if you don’t like him. You can love your country and yet be critical of it. You can even be a musician who’s never worked a normal job in his life and speak sincerely to the hearts of people who have done nothing but that!

Do you have a particular memory associated with a Bruce song?

I lost my job at the start of covid and the first song that popped up on shuffle play on the train home was Racing in the Street. People definitely saw me crying.

Does Bruce’s music factor into your relationships with other people/did Bruce’s music help build a relationship with someone for you?

It’s been part of my growing relationship with my mum. She’s not a fan of bruce, and we’ve always been on pretty good terms, but I was always super protective of my interests and never really talked to her about them until a bit after I became a fan and I gave into the temptation to talk about how I’d recently watched an amazing show (Bruce’s Broadway show on Netflix) with a song that referenced a line in the church service she’d dragged me to (“the first will be last and the last will be first”). I can tell she doesn’t like the way his music or voice sounds at all, but she’ll listen to me ramble on about his words and chat with me about the themes and will sometimes even tolerate a listen to a song or two which is really sweet of her.

If you could speak to Bruce yourself, what would you tell him?

I would tell him “thank you” and realistically that’s the most I would venture to say. I do fantasise about having a long deep conversation about the concept of identity with him though

Where are you from?

I’m from Australia, I’m 20-25 and I work in IT

——————————————————————

Can you feel it yet, what he means? How he’s connected you to me, and me to the people I spoke to, the people I spoke to to each other. He builds relationships, understandings, with his words. I know, it sounds a bit cultish, I know, but when you feel it – and I’m hoping you feel it, reader, it just makes sense.

Another thing Bruce does, though, is that he takes a world so unique to him – New Jersey (picture me saying that in a really atrocious Buddy-from-Cake-Boss accent) – and makes it feel almost universal. The themes he deals with, decay, struggle, hope, love, are universal. Are felt so deeply it resonates a million times over. I could be listening to My Hometown and picturing the grey walls of Bridgend, the For Sale signs tacked over the closed shop fronts, the film of grimness and slow decrepitude that creeps like ivy along the towns of South Wales, the slow trickle out of people with different dreams and different hopes. But you could be listening in Spain, or Australia, or Denmark, and feel the message just as strongly. I could listen to Thunder Road and see my boyfriend’s smiling face, feel his hand curled in mine, the euphoria of driving across the sweet greenery of the labyrinthine country lanes around my house. You could listen to it and feel the wonderful release of being done with school, of being free from the town you grew up in. Telling us about one another, how we think, yes? Doorways between worlds, doorways between minds.

——————————————————————

Straight Time

Have you ever smelled an abattoir? If you had, you would know. It sticks to your nostrils.

It sticks to his skin.

Bloody, thick, rusty – like shit, Uncle Charlie says. Boy, you smell like shit.

Tanning is the only thing he could get when he got out of county. The only thing he could get that would let him keep Mary.

Boy, you know what doesn’t smell like shit? New cars. Clean. Smell like pine and oil. All this and he’d slip a hundred dollars across the table. A hundred dollars would be a month of nappies and baby food for Sam, maybe a new toy for Jessie, maybe some flowers for Mary. A hundred dollars was life money for him. And Charlie gave it up like it was nothing. Chump change. If you come back to work with me, with your family – you’d smell like new car every damn day. Ain’t nobody as good as you when it comes to jimmying them window locks.

And he missed it. He missed what it was like, the quick burn of it, the rush as the car popped up, the rush as a bone popped under his fist. He missed that power, the way it fizzled at the edge of his fingertips. He’d never been smart, but he’d been quick.

But he kept on the straight line, and it felt like every day was longer than a whole month in county took. He kept it for Mary, but she wouldn’t even let him play with the baby without watching him. She didn’t think he could see, but he did. He always saw. The little darting glances, the sweet smile and the worried tremble of the bottom lip. It ached, when she did that. Made the whole thing feel like there wasn’t any point, after all.

He stands outside in the evening warmth, most nights, to try get the smell from his skin. His mama used to call them air baths, like the scent of the warm eucalyptus tree and the cactus hide would bleach out the blood and mud and gore from the wrinkles of his body. He hurt all over.

He wondered if Mary ever was going to let him hold his own child without fear.

——————————————————————-

Berend is possibly the coolest man I have ever met in my life, and his eloquent unpickings of the nuances of Bruce is the reason half of this article exists. If you could, as I did, listen to the calm crispness of his voice enthusing the brilliance of Bruce – you’d get it in a heartbeat. He summed up most of what I’m trying to say here in a forty minute interview with precision, emotion and empathy. I’ll let him continue, because I think it would be a crime to mince his words.

How did you get into Bruce?

I’ve known Bruce for quite a while, but not consciously. I grew up with my dad’s music e.g. the Eagles, the Beatles, Dire Straits, so I probably first heard Bruce on the radio. But a few years ago, around 2019 when the movie Blinded by the Light came out  and I went to see that with my girlfriend in the cinema, and I had this moment where it just clicked for me, where I was like oh, oh – that was the moment where I started listening to him everyday. It has become a constant in my life since then to listen to him

What’s your favourite Bruce song and why?

The moment in the movie where it clicked for me is where the main character started singing Thunder Road to the girl he had a crush on. I’m a big fan of musicals, it stood out to me cinematically and with the music – that was the moment from the movie that I talked about where I was like oh my god. The just absolutely joyous moments with the harmonica and the saxophone, you can see it in front of you – the happiness, the liveliness. So, on one hand that would be my favourite song – I have fond memories of it, it’s a song that means a lot to me with my relationship with my girlfriend. But on the other hand, I love Backstreets. There are only two albums that I don’t listen to, Human Touch and Lucky Town – that’s it. When I think of Bruce’s discography, there are so many amazing songs in there, so many that it makes this question impossible, but if I had to think of the one song that I think is the best in both the way it tells the story and the way it sounds musically it is Backstreets. It starts with the magnificent piano piece which goes on for a solid minute before he starts singing. There’s so much raw energy in that song, so much I’m actually getting goosebumps just thinking about it – it is such a brilliant song in the way he tells the story and the energy that goes through it. There’s one line – a lyric that only stood out to me when I looked them up, (most of it is incomprehensible as it isn’t sung in a clear register) – it just emblemises the theme of a friendship that devolves and evolves over time, and it is very beautiful in its tragedy. He sings ‘You can hear the whole damn city crying, blame it on the lies that killed us/You can blame it all on me Terry/It don’t matter to me now/When the breakdown hit at midnight/There was nothing left to say/But I hated him/And I hated you when you went away’. The word hate always carries a certain weight, and the way he sings it gets me every time and the way it ends.

What’s your favourite album?

Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town are the ones objectively considered his best albums, but my favourite is Tunnel of Love. I love everything on that album, the story he tells with the songs working together. I’ve been in a relationship with my girlfriend for two and a half years but at the start – I wasn’t necessarily scared but uncertain about myself. I was making up all the situations in my head and worrying along, and that is the subject he touches on in Tunnel of Love, the difficulties that come with relationships. It’s definitely the album that I identify with the most.

Are there any Bruce songs or albums that take you to a particular place? Like if you closed your eyes and listened to that song/album, where/ what would you picture?

Thunder Road – that I explained in detail, it’s the one song where I can picture the entire scene in my head, in the cinema, seeing that song. Another one is Hitchhikin’ – Thunder Road is one of the most brilliant songs he’s put out, but if I had to pick one starting track on an album that perfectly sums up the album, it would be Hitchhikin’. ‘Thumb stuck out as I go/I’m just travellin’ up the road’ – I can picture myself walking along those roads, travelling with all those other people. All of Western Stars is very cinematic in that way. There are people who absolutely loathe Western Stars, but that is one of the most thematically strongest. Its difficult, though, because there are so many songs like that from him – he is a masterful storyteller.

What is one theme of Bruce’s music that feels most important/matters most to you?

The theme most important to me is that he is basically always talking about hope. It always gets better – it sounds a bit cliché, but that is also something that he does really well with Letter to You, even when people are gone it’s still okay, the love and the goodness and the memories remain. That is something that has really helped me with dealing with mental health, that his music is always about the fact that it gets better, that you have to accept both the good things about life and the bad things about life. He’s always talking about hope, that we have to accept what happens and move on. There is so much music out there that’s beautiful but also kind of empty in a way where there is nothing really there, no heart to it. With Bruce its always about something – with most of his albums there is always something, some story, some meaning. He’s always telling either a beautiful story that makes you look at life in another way or he’s teaching you a lesson. Also, Walk Like a Man is a perfect example of another theme I really identify with. That short phrase beautifully sums up how much you need to grow and learn, both as a person and while being in a relationship. Even though the song is essentially about his relationship with his father, I think you can also interpret it as the learning process you go through in a relationship, and how it motivates you to try and be a better person.

Do you have a particular memory associated with a Bruce song?

If I had one particular fond memory it is the first time I listened to the version of Cover Me from the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band Live 1975-85, the first time I listened to that version it stands out to me as the moment I was like wow this gives me a whole new appreciation for how brilliant that song is. It is a very loaded song: there’s so much in there when it comes to politics but also not understanding the world in the way that it is. The first time I heard that rendition of the song I was like this is amazing, this is just out of this world. Just perfection

Does Bruce’s music factor into your relationships with other people/did Bruce’s music help build a relationship with someone for you?

With my girlfriend on the one hand, she’s not as much into Bruce as I am but in a certain way it has made it easier to enjoy our relationship, to listen to his songs together, to calm my anxieties. But also with some of my colleagues, one colleague in particular who is a big Bruce fanatic, moments where we’ve just talked about Bruce and the brilliance of certain albums. I’ve made my dad appreciate Bruce more, because the only thing I’d put on when we’re driving together. Even then it’s stupid, because in a way because you’re like you don’t get it, you appreciate it but you don’t get it, you may think that you do but you don’t. On a level, as much as its part of my relationship with others, it’s mine too.

If you could speak to Bruce yourself, what would you tell him?

The easiest answer is to thank him for his music, but he probably hears that everyday, he gets loads and loads of fan mail saying thanks. on the one hand I would definitely thank him not just for his contribution to music but society, the role he played in so many people’s lives, and also just thank him for how much of a connector he’s been. Connecting people with each other like this, the discussion we’re having right now, in reddit also, seeing people who have such a big passion about Bruce is really beautiful, but also how much of a connector he has been between people and just living where I do is just – I think that Bruce is probably the best teacher I’ve had for (excluding my parents). If I had to think about people who have taught him something, just made me aware of so many problems and so many things that are going on, made me appreciate things a lot more. Just how great of a teacher he’s been

Bruce’s music is some of the most timeless I’ve heard ever, his music if it’s the early 80s with the end of the Vietnam war, if it’s the early 2000s with 9/11, late 2010s with Trump and Covid, his music is always saying something about the world. No matter in which decade or what year you listen to his music, it’s always saying something relevant, Bruce has a song about this, he knows what’s up no matter which subject. His music is so unequivocally American but also so universal, My Hometown is the best example of that, and Cover Me, saying a lot about the state of America at that point but in the same way you could be thinking about your hometown in South Wales or mine in the Netherlands, he is just such a connector in that way, we all identify with and recognise those feelings and ideas

8. Where are you from? In addition, what do you do/what’s your age range (e.g. student, businessperson, etc, or 18-25, 25-30, etc.)

Netherlands, Teacher, 22

(Isn’t he amazing, readers? Berend for president, or national speaker, or something.)

——————————————————————

 Everyone has that one Bruce song. The one song that made it all real to you. That you thought – this is it. I get it. I hear him in my head, I see the road in front of me, I feel what he feels. Everyone also has a Bruce song that they share. That doesn’t just belong to them, but someone else too. A bridge between your brains.

——————————————————————

Highway Patrolman

We watch the fields rotting together. The corn is bright and blue-yellow, the stalks thick and brown fat, ready to drop.

‘You know, I used to work these fields? My wife and I, we used to own them. They were ours. S’how I got out of service. Deferment.’ He grabs a handful of the leaves. ‘My brother didn’t, though.’

The air is sweet, with the heavy scent of the mould on the base of the ground. The stars are lone and empty.

‘They can barely sell any of it, now.’ He nods to the crop. ‘All these bright young things, full of promise. Going bad in the fields. No-one wants ‘em. Not one man wants ‘em.’

——————————————————————

Liam is honest to god awesome, with a penchant for whisky and a gentle, good way of looking at the world. He was the first to answer my plea for help answering these questions, and it feels fitting that he be the (almost) last doorway we’ll enter through today.  Liam, thank you for always replying to my nonsense on the discord, and for teaching me more about whisky than I knew there was to know.

What’s your favourite Bruce song and why?

The Promised Land is my favourite Bruce song and all-time favourite song.  Before I saw Blinded by the Light in the cinema I didn’t have a favourite Bruce song and after I remember listening to the song with a smoke outside, it was windy just like the scene in the film and it clicked. I think the ideas of the song are relatable to everyone and it’s a song for longing, grieving, hoping and trying.

Are there any Bruce songs or albums that take you to a particular place? Like if you closed your eyes and listened to that song/album, where/ what would you picture?

A lot of The Rising, Seeger Sessions and Working on a Dream really take me back. I was only 1 when The Rising came out but I remember my dad playing it years after that. Old Dan Tucker from the Seeger Sessions really takes me back because I’d hear my dad playing it and have a very literal version of Dan Tucker in my head haha. The year that WOAD was out I got an MP3 player from my school for some reason and my dad put the album on there so that has some childhood memories too.

What is one theme of Bruce’s music that feels most important/matters most to you?

It’s not really a theme but I feel like I’ve learned a lot from Bruce’s music. It’s not necessarily a focus of Bruce’s music but I learned to learn from my dad through growing closer from Bruce’s music. So from that I learned to help people. I’d be extremely hard pressed to find anyone to say anything bad about my dad because he’s helped a lot of people from when he was a joiner, either on shift or using his own time. I also think Bruce’s music really helped me mature, I was around 15/16 when I got into his music and the themes of the songs helped me understand things past my small world

 Do you have a particular memory associated with a Bruce song?

One night me and my dad were listening to Bruce, Thunder Road came on and we were singing it and eventually I noticed he had stopped and was just watching me. I asked why and he said he was just really happy to see that I knew the lyrics. He said he was glad that I just got Bruce, it all clicked the same way it did for him years ago

6. Does Bruce’s music factor into your relationships with other people/did Bruce’s music help build a relationship with someone for you?

It’s definitely affected my relationship with my dad. It’s also affected my relationship with others but just by growing more mature thanks to Bruce’s music. With my dad it was the thing that we needed to bond over, he moved out when I was around 4, and whilst I saw him every week it wasn’t as much as I’d like. As I got older and as you do, you start to talk about more stuff that isn’t just base level. Anyways, for a long time I felt nervous around him because I didn’t see him as often as I wanted. Bruce’s music was the thing that brought us closer together and helped with that so much

If you could speak to Bruce yourself, what would you tell him?

If I could I’d definitely tell Bruce about how he helped me and my dad bond. I’d hope that it’d be something he’d like to hear from a fan after his own strained relationship with his father

8. Where are you from? In addition, what do you do/what’s your age range (e.g. student, businessperson, etc, or 18-25, 25-30, etc.)

I’m from Scotland, trying to get into the fire service and I’m 19.

——————————————————————

What I’m trying to show you, here, in a roundabout way, is that Bruce’s music, like all good books, helps to create something bigger than itself. A larger world. One in which people from vastly different experiences listen to the same words, the same music, and feel something incredibly different from the person standing next to them. They don’t use that difference to, as in most cases of incredibly short-sighted human aggression, declare war on one another, to start epic battles of Secret Garden vs Streets of Philadelphia, schisms of Walk Like a Man against Adam Raised a Cain. They appreciate these differences, want to learn more about them, and rather miraculously, don’t try to change the other person’s mind. Just listen to them.

When the hell has that ever happened, in all of mankind?

These awesome, amazing people I’ve interviewed are so different – from all over the world, Australia to the Netherlands – in different jobs, different ages. And they’re only a sample size of what Bruce’s fans are, what section they constitute of the wider world. And they all, like me, feel electric when they listen to his songs. Like touching a live wire, frayed under the plastic, like every emotion is just there. Is just burning under the skin. And in that I understand them. Like magic, that bridge is built from bricks of lyrics and composition and saying how awesome it is when he does that sick knee slide or picks a song request out of these crowds. We know each other, now, different people with different lives – we know each other, because we know Bruce.

But these songs don’t just help build a path between the minds of strangers, but between the faces you hold as familiar as your own.

My Dad and I don’t understand each other, a lot of the time, I don’t think. We are poles apart in experience – he’s 58, a corporate lawyer, a man who deals in the realm of the real. He is straight-talking, straight-backed, he is sharp and bold. I am 22, often afraid to say boo to a goose, a wishy-washy arty-farty English student who is much more comfortable dancing between sheets of Shelley quotes and dreaming about the pale bones of Victorian corpses climbing themselves out of wet-grass graves. I cannot understand how he is so confident, how he is so ready to go out and get what he wants. I cannot understand how the world looks to him, often. I don’t think he understands me, sometimes either – why I can’t say no and why I then get upset when someone does what I don’t want them to do but didn’t tell them I didn’t want them to do. The other day, we were droving home from the cultural mecca that is Bridgend after getting newspapers and sausages (a varied diet of news and pork rind in the Whiteley household. Must be why we all have mad pig disease). I want to paint you a picture, here, reader. It’s not necessary, but I want to do it and, well, whose article is it anyway? Not yours.

The road back to ours from Bridgend town centre is a long, straight one, that dips down the curve of a long hill. In the rearview mirror you can see the carcass of the YMCA club, of the whalebone shell that used to be Franco’s Italian, the grey bridge that the EU spent millions on that crosses a fairy low-tide, fairly scummy river. On your sides, you are ringed with rather grand houses that feel as incongruous as a the liver of a 12 year old must feel in a 80 year old billionaire’s body – surrounded by rot and thoroughly overdressed. As we come to the descent of that hill, on the right there is a off road that will take you, with a few twists and turns, through the pale brown houses of Bryntirion and into the close, dark lanes back to my house. If we keep straight on, down that long, spinal road, we go through the Agatha-Christie-esque flatlands of Laleston, with their grey-brick cottages and honeysuckle and smart little doors. Past Laleston, to the right, we will carry on over a silvery sliver of road, crowded on two sides by waist length whispering hedges and pale green seas of grass. The sky is forever, and you can see on the hills around you so many little white farmhouses that it feels like you’re looking at a Wales stuck two hundred years in the past.

My dad likes the Bryntirion way. I like the Laleston way.

So, if you’re following, reader, we’re driving back from Bridgend, and I can see him go to slow, to turn right.

‘Dad’, I say, with the voice of an angel (please, remember, I am being sarcastic here. I just need to add to the sense of coming-of-age-movie this moment feels like remembered back in my head, and for that aura to be convincingly portrayed, you have to picture someone with a lot more panache playing the role of me, and they sound like what sepia looks like, all that yummy, yummy nostalgia) ‘can we take the Laleston way?’

‘Why?’ he scoffs.

‘Because I like that way.’ And he turns to look at me, and I see the confusion on his face, and I realise, he does not really understand this weird changeling child in his seat, who has very strong opinions on roads home. And I am looking back at him, because I don’t understand how you cant not have an opinion on roads home other than what-gets-us-there-quicker. I know he’s thinking it’s a road home and the Bryntirion way is so much quicker doesn’t she know that. And I am thinking, how can he not notice the grass and the lambs and the flowers on the side of the Laleston road? How doesn’t he see that?

I think we see things in a lot of different ways.

But Bruce? Bruce is common ground.

My dad sang Bruce to me as a baby, and my dad will sing along to Bruce with me now, in the car on the way back from anywhere, turned up to eleven on the dial, and any moment we are at a loss for words with each other, Bruce fills the gap like a salve. A doorway, from his mind to mine. And when we talk about the songs, the concerts he’s been to – for that moment, I can see into his mind. I understand it. I understand him. When he tells me about Wembley, 1985, when he was 22 and studying for law finals and a boy who had been brought up in the same South Wales beauty and oppression as me, with the same fear, the same innate Welsh I’m-not-good-enough as me, when he was terrified about the future and the opportunity it promised and threatened to take away, when he sung it all out to the heavy rhythms and soaring sax and the swollen, upset lyrics, I can see him. I know him. I get it. And I think he gets me too.

——————————————————————

The River

The bed is flat and dry. It has been a long, droughty summer, the clouds constantly swollen with unshed rain. It makes sense that it would be like this, with water only a forgotten memory, the few droplets remaining clinging like they clung to her warm skin, so many years ago. It still hurts, to see it.

To see it dry.

I was going to try write what I see when I listen to this song, but in actual fact, it is just my grandparents. My gran had my father when she was eighteen years old, after a hasty shotgun wedding to my grandfather. He got a job and worked for the rest of his life, and my dad grew up alongside them. And the fertile valleys of green that grew heavy outside Neath, full and rippling with youth and promise, turned roiling and rapid with adulthood and stress and preventing their baby from banging his head on a kitchen counter or eating glue. I see their faces behind the door of this song.

——————————————————————

Hi Dad.

Hi, Cait.

What’s your favourite Bruce song and why?

That’s a really tough question. A lot depends on the mood I’m in – if I have to plump for two, I can’t plump for one. One would be the River, I’ve always identified with that song, and the other would be My Hometown because I just love the lyrics to the piece. But it’s hard to pick just one – there’s another half dozen I could easily choose

Are there any Bruce songs or albums that take you to a particular place? Like if you closed your eyes and listened to that song/album, where/ what would you picture?

I think probably Born in the USA. It coincided with the first time I saw him live in 1985. I’d listened to Born to Run and the River before that, and I loved the music, but I saw him live in Wembley on the 4th July, a week before my law society finals, and Born in the USA was the album he performed. I picture that concert when I listen to the album, I do, and its still the all time best concert I’ve ever seen, of all the great ones I’ve been lucky to see, Bruce was the best.

What is the one theme of Bruce’s music that feels most important/matters most to you?

That’s a really difficult question. I think it’s his ability to take you back to how he grew up and the stories of his youth and how you interact to that and relate to it, and I guess that’s why I probably went for the River and My Hometown, as the River could have been written about my parents’ experiences to an extent, and My Hometown always reminds me of my own childhood in the South Wales valleys, and seeing decay and deprivation and people moving away.

Does Bruce’s music factor into your relationships with other people/did Bruce’s music help build a relationship with someone for you?

I think probably the truest answer to that question is that it gave me and my youngest daughter (reader, that’s me!) a common theme we bonded over, and to both my surprise and delight its become something we shared and experienced together, and I got to take her to see him live in Hyde Park, which I think cemented all those things I’d been talking about.

If you could speak to Bruce yourself, what would you tell him?

I’d say – thank you for the music, Bruce. And I’d love to ask him how does he write these songs, how do these thoughts come into his head, and how does he capture them so beautifully on the paper. And I’d  ask him to perform at one of our summer parties.

Where are you from? What do you do?

Bridgend, lawyer, 58.

——————————————————————

My Hometown

Bridgend stretches out behind us, a crippled and old thing, old by the time I was born. It was young, when my Dad saw it, though. He watched it die. Slowly, around us. He looks at me, and we take the Laleston way home. 

Art by Kate Grant

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.