The Wonder of Bruce Springsteen

I was told by a friend that she didn’t like Bruce Springsteen that much and only liked one of his songs ‘Tougher Than The Rest’ Yes, just the one song! Really! only likes one song! I will hand it to her, it’s an amazing song but there are so many other songs of his that are even better. I could easily make her sit through an hour long  PowerPoint presentation on how great he his but I thought this blog would be better for our friendship.

This will explain the wonder of the man to her and anyone else.

The first time I had heard a Bruce Springsteen song was when at a friend’s house going through his brother’s album collection looking for stuff to copy on tapes. Having flicked through the records I quickly found Queen’s Greatest Hits and put it on my first C90 cassette tape, hoping it would fit on one side, l mean come on there was only six in a packet and I wasn’t made of money. Then after three albums in a row where I asked, ‘Who is she?’ only to be told it’s a man, I picked up an album with a man stand in front of some red and white stripe background, with his back turned and a red cap stuffed in his back pocket. 

Born In The U.S.A/Bruce Springsteen was written across the top, I had to listen straight away. I had a feeling I would love this album, the blank tape when in, I pressed record with one hand and play with the other, within one second there was a chord played followed by a loud banging of a drum. This went on for 18 seconds (thanks to cd’s & Spotify I now know its 18 seconds) each banging of the drum sounded like a gun being fired, then came a voice sound like he was singing about a painfully time: 

‘Born down in a dead man’s town 

The first kick I took was when I hit the ground 

End up like a dog that’s been beat too much 

‘Til you spend half your life just covering up’

 I quickly looked to see what the name of the song was, and it was also called Born In The USA. Thinking he doesn’t sound like he is happy being born there, I took the lyric sheet out and read along as he sung. Realising it’s about someone coming back from fighting in Vietnam and not being treated well when he came back home. I would never have thought then that a song about that would hold any interest to me, but it did. Then the great songs kept coming then it came to No Surrender. Who would have thought that a man from New Jersey would be able to write something that could relate to someone in South Wales? 

 ‘Well we busted out of class 

Had to get away from those fools 

We learned more from a three-minute record 

Baby, than we ever learned in school’ 

 I knew I was going to be deep into his music and this was before Bobby Jean, Glory Days and one song from the end, Dancing In The Dark. What seems like a happy song when you just listen to the music, but one listen to the lyrics and it’s a totally different song. It was like he had written the song for me, a feeling millions of others got as well; “I check my look in the mirror, I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face” these songs as I got older had more and more meaning.  

 I had to listen to every Bruce Springsteen song I could get my hands on, every song was a story that someone could write a book about. Thunder Road for example, there have never been a better description of some making an entrance, he even sings about what song was on the radio. 

‘The screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways 

Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays 

Roy Orbison singing for the lonely 

Hey that’s me and I want you only 

Don’t turn me home again 

I just can’t face myself alone again’

The rest of the song is just as beautifully descriptive. The River, the story of his Sister and Brother in Law’s life, sucks you right in. Born To Run, the ultimate getting away from it all song. Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, a song he is singing to someone who is feeling down, telling them how much they pick him up every day and it will all be ok (if only I had the talent to have written just one of those lines in that song) at this point there would be a slide on the PowerPoint with the lyrics but you can google them for yourselves. I could bore you for days listing all his great songs from the 1970’s to the 2020’s. Give The Boss a go, he will change your life.


Live Music, I Missed You!

The last few months we have started to get back to some sort of normality and now that we coming to what is hopefully the end of the Covid pandemic, one of the things that have thankfully starting to come back is music concerts and at the moment, most of the gigs that are taking place are ones that were first due to happen in 2020/21. Some of these gigs I bought tickets for two and a half years ago so when reminders pop up on my phone its a nice surprise, having forgotten that I bought the tickets in the first place. But more importantly, bands have started to announce new tours for the rest of this year.

There is something special about seeing a band that you like live, it’s being in the same room as someone you have listened to for years whether its for the first time or for the twenty-fifth time (like with the Manic Street Preachers, who are just as good or even better than the last time you saw them, even after all these years). Every time you hear a song live it sounds different, but always better than hearing on the radio or CD. There is an atmosphere that builds up in the venue that makes that moment something you will always remember.

I’ve mentioned in a pervious blog that music is very important to me, it helps me a lot. I always connect songs to people I know or moments in time. Zombie Nation will always remind me of watching Wales play football, Three Little Birds by Bob Marley reminds me of a good friend, Church on Sunday by Green Day another good friend (the album it’s from also means a lot). These are just a few examples, there are hundreds more, but I’m sure like you most of the songs you reading this you all have a connection with certain songs. 

You can imagine how seeing the person(s) who wrote the songs performing them is a special moment for us. But what I didn’t realise until last month, when I started going to gigs again was how much I would miss them after two years.

Standing in front of your favourite bands with them singing your favourite songs is very emotional, an emotion that is very unique to live music. It’s hard to replicate this feeling, it doesn’t happen listening to a ‘Live’ album or watch a concert on TV. Standing in front of the stage at the time the first chords are being played can bring tears to your eyes, more so now that we lost two years of live music, I have started to realise what we missed out on these past couple of years.

This past month I have been to three live gigs (The Fratellis, Jake Bugg and Blondie) and one thing that have gotten in the way of the this wonderful feeling of being in the moment is that when the artist on stage starts to sing a popular song, hundreds of mobile phones appear out of nowhere and start filming. Something special is happening a few metres away from them and they watch it through a small screen. Sacrificing being in the moment just so they can post on social media. What I saw in the last gig was lots of people filming themselves singing along to the band. Am I getting old and not understand trends? I mean who even sits through the entire song when people post the band doing it? I just scrolled through twenty posts on twitter of people filming Paul McCartney singing Hey Jude, I really don’t want to watch you singing it. Ending this rant I just want to add one thing, by all means take pictures, I was take a few. They look so much better than the videos, take a couple of pictures or film a few seconds of the song and put away your phone and live in the moment.

So, when you feel comfortable being back out in large crowds, go and see live music as often as you can. Go to the small venues as well as the arenas and stadiums, the smaller venues are more intimate and also the tickets will not cost you a small fortune.  Remember there is nothing like hearing your favourite songs being sung to you while you stand at the feet of your favourite bands.


Memories With A Loved One We’ve Lost

I’ve thinking a lot about my Uncle Terry these last couple of weeks. He died from Covid back in December 2020 (the time period that had been in the news a lot due to ‘partygate’). More specifically, I’ve been thinking about things that we did when I was young. We once went to watch Wales play rugby in the old National Stadium (along with my Dad on a trip organised by the local rugby club). On one of these trips, we stopped to watch my first cricket match and even though I think the group went there because the queue for the bar was a lot smaller, I enjoyed the cricket anyway.

However before that memory there was one event that took place that involved my love of music, even as an 8-year-old, and my first visit to a pub.  

Back when I was that age I was obsessed with this artist, loved everything they did. One day my Uncle told me that in the local pub that he played darts for, they had just taken a delivery of what was at the time a state-of-the-art video jukebox. Of course this was before MTV and the myriad of other channels that showed music videos. Just to pique my interest even more he told me that it was in the room with the Pool Table. He told me that one day in the upcoming summer holidays he would check with the landlord if it would be ok for me to come with him one afternoon and have a couple of games of Pool and pick videos on the jukebox.  

The following week my Uncle came to my house and said that he would take me to the pub the first day of the summer holidays and he give me a list of some of the songs that was on the jukebox. Uptown Girl – Billy Joel (yes!) Down Under – Men At Work (yes!) Can’t Hurry Love – Phil Collins (yes!) I was already trying to work out how much money I would need to be able to watch all those videos and then at the end of the list, I saw the title of a video I was desperate to see, one of the first singles I owned and I just couldn’t wait to see it. Now these days, you could just ask Siri to play the video, but you have to remember, this was when phones had buttons and no screens!!!

The day finally came and I was about to set foot inside The Punch House, my first time ever in a pub! We walked into the Pool room and I could hear Karma Chameleon. I turned around and saw the biggest tv I ever saw, it must have been at least 40 inches (or the little tv as it’s called now). I walked up to the jukebox and just stared at the screen, after standing in awe for a few minutes I snapped out of it to check that the video I wanted to see was on the jukebox. It was and I couldn’t wait to throw as much money in the video jukebox as it wanted to take from me.  

We played a few games of Pool while I waited for the videos that have already been picked to have been played, as each video finished and I was filled with hope that the video would finally be the last video, but each time my hopes were dashed. Then the time came, the final video played and I finally got my turn to watch the video that I have been waiting for, I put the money in and pressed the button and there it was! The moment I was waiting for, the video for Rat Rappin’ by the puppets Roland Rat and Kevin The Gerbil. I was in heaven, watching them on a giant 40” screen (as I said, times were different then.)

I know that is not the coolest first time in a pub story, going there to watch two puppets rap but I still remember it like it was yesterday and it gave me a good memory of the time I spent with my Uncle who is no longer with us. Also, I would just like to point out that I did listen to cool music at time. I was 8/9 year old when it happened and liked puppets as well, who didn’t at that age.