(Editor's Note: Bruce Springsteen will release his new CD, "Wrecking Ball," Tuesday.)
"I've seen the future of rock 'n' roll and its name is Bruce Springsteen."
- Jon Landau,
Bruce Springsteen will release his 17th album, “Wrecking Ball,” Tuesday.
rock critic, 1974
When then rock critic (and future Springsteen manager) Landau uttered those words in 1974 about Bruce Springsteen, it was before "Born To Run" or "Born In The USA," punk rock didn't exist and hip hop and rap weren't even imagined.
Springsteen wasn't even "The Boss" yet.
In the ensuing years, the Asbury Park native has built a rock 'n' roll empire on marathon live shows and a string of now-classic albums and songs - plus he has survived deaths of key band members to remain a viable music force nearly four decades later.
At the heart of songs such as "Rosalita," "Racing In The Street," "Working On A Dream" and "Glory Days," is a blue collar, working-man ethos that rings true to smallish towns around the country, including Williamsport. Springsteen's music speaks to the soul of our city and its blue collar past:?A time when the Avco's, Anchor Darling Valve, Keeler and other industries dotted the area landscape, providing the financial lifeblood that fueled our local economy. So, in some ways, the residents of Williamsport and Bruce Springsteen are kindred spirits because much like Springsteen, Williamsport grew from its blue collar roots into a creative music force. With that in mind, we spoke to some local musicians who help comprise the "sound of Williamsport" about the songs from "The Boss" that most resonates with them.
J. Anthony Lutz, bassist, Antique Babies - "Born in the U.S.A."
"Born in the U.S.A." is my favorite Springsteen song because of its commentary on the negative effects of the Vietnam War on blue collar, working class citizens. The theme of this track reflected my father's situation after the Vietnam War. He entered an unknown jungle as a young man from a small town, working-class family and left as an afflicted platoon sergeant and war hero his platoon saved entertainer Bob Hope's life and received Bronze Star Medals.
Even after his military accomplishments, he came home with a then-undiagnosed, post-traumatic stress disorder. It took the Virginia hospitals 30 years to finally admit and diagnose my father's post-traumatic stress disorder.
Because of this, the song's satiric message always has, and always will, resonate with me personally. I connect with the simple lyrics that reflect such a complex issue as the military industrial complex and patriotism.
Doug McMinn, guitarist-saxophonist in Lumpy Gravy, Black 'N Blues and Mel Mounds - "Kitty's Back" and "Spirits in the Night"
I'm going with two! The first, "Kitty's Back," is to my ears, the best pure piece of music Bruce ever made. It's full of street vibe, possesses a stunning, jazzy middle and features one of his most raucous choruses. I love the strong rhythm-and-blues influence in his early work. My other choice is "Spirits in the Night." This evocation of a wild teenage evening embodies one of the essential Bruce myths - the dangerous joy and freedom of youth coupled with a need for transcendence that is so integral to his best work.
Justin Beatty, guitarist-lead vocalist, Antique Babies - "Sweet Dreams" - Roy Orbison cover
Springsteen's cameo in "High Fidelity" was great - dude can play. Also, I caught a performance from the '80s where he played guitar on "Sweet Dreams" for Roy Orbison (along with Tom Waits, T-Bone Burnett, Elvis Costello, etc.). Unlike most all-star lineups, it was a BAND. Springsteen looked like he was having the time of his life and getting behind the song: not restraining or taking over, just loving it. I've always admired his grit, staying power and energy.
Sean Farley, guitarist in Lynn Farley Five, Black n Blues and more. - "Born in the U.S.A."
This is actually a funny story about me. I'm not a huge Boss fan, but totally respect and dig many tunes. When I was in diapers, the "Born in the U.S.A." music video was on TV and according to my mom, I loved it. I wore a red bandana, pretended a wooden spoon was my guitar (or "Batar" as I could pronounce it) and sang along. My parents said that was when they knew I was born to rock a guitar and sing.
Mallory Scoppa, lead vocalist, Mal Scoppa & The Tall Tales - "Born to Run"
The lyrics have always spoke to me - [it] represents my early ideas of love and of rock 'n' roll that I still carry with me today. As one of my first experiences with American rock, it has stuck with me. I remember listening to it, sitting shotgun in my dad's truck, heading to the river for the Fourth of July. It captures the way we Americans lust after adventure and ideas of complete freedom. "Born To Run" rings out like an anthem. I still listen to it, usually in the summer, when the sun is setting behind these mountains as I'm driving out on the river road. The nostalgia and the fiery truth of the lyrics transport me.
Zac Baggett, singer-songwriter, solo and with Isaiah Britton - "Born to Run" acoustic
"The Boss" is the man. I like his acoustic take because it's just raw Springsteen. Yeah, the E Street Band is great, too. But on this stripped down version, his unique voice and simple chords showcase his iconic sound.
Sue Bloom, lead vocalist, Sue Bloom Band - "Blinded by the Light"
My favorite Bruce Springsteen song, made popular by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, just has this great hook. The question, "What is the song about?" has stumped many people over the years. The line, "revved up like a deuce" has also caused some controversy. Many still wonder what IS the last word of that line and what does it mean? I don't know if anyone really knows what Springsteen was actually writing about - that is still up for debate. In fact, in one of my nephews' classes at Loyalsock High School, the topic was brought up and remains unanswered. The saga of the song's meaning still remains.
Chris Carithers, singer-songwriter - "State Trooper"
"State Trooper" is the best Bruce Springsteen song for an all-night drive. The whole "Nebraska" album is great. He recorded it live in a bedroom with a 4-track recorder and an echoplex tape delay effect box. It took a lot of creative courage for Springsteen to release so spare and dark an album just before the pinnacle of his '80s pop career. I love the ominous lyrics and the way tension builds with each verse. The rhythm is like a cold, steady heartbeat you can feel quicken as the narrator's anxiety grows. By the end, that narrator is almost out of control as Bruce lets out a scream that clips - he overdrives the 4-track, creating the perfect intersection of a recording and an emotion.
Jared Nicholas Mondell, lead vocalist 44MAG - "Rosalita"
I am too big of a Springsteen fan to only pick one "favorite" song. I mean, this guy is one of my musical heroes - a driving force as to why I became a musician. But, for the sake of this article, I'll give it a shot. One of the greatest rock 'n' roll songs ever written is "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)." It originally appeared on Springsteen's second album, "The Wild, the Innocent & The E Street Shuffle." The song has everything you could possibly want in a '70s Springsteen tune. It's an upbeat, epic rock song. Find the 1978 live cut recorded at the Roxy Theater on Springsteen's first live album, "Live/1975-85." Crank it up, close your eyes and listen. You'll understand what I mean.
Val LaCerra, lead vocalist, Guitarist Key of V - "Born to Run"
I'm not really a fan of Springsteen, but my favorite song is "Born to Run" because Fletcher Kaufman sent me the lyrics to it when I was sent away to an all-girls group home in high school. I still hold close practically anything Fletcher sends my way, even if it's goddamn Bruce Springsteen. Now that I think about it, he (Fletcher) sent those lyrics as way to inspire me to blow that joint! Ha!
Bruce Springsteen's 17th album, "Wrecking Ball," debuts next week.