Spirits in the Night
Today's Weekend Edition Sunday features an interview with Jeffrey Symynkywicz, the author of The Gospel According to Bruce Springsteen: Rock and Redemption from Asbury Park to Magic. No "Spirit in the Night" in the interview, but here's his exegesis on "Jungleland":
In an interview, host Liane Hansen takes Symynkywicz through a few choice Springsteen songs, including the last song on Born to Run, "Jungle Land." Symynkywicz says it's an ethics song about perceived powers and the powers that be. Ultimately, he says, "Jungle Land" gives the sense that the bad guys have won — until that famous last scream from Springsteen.
"That scream is the exhaustion and the pain of living life in this world," Symynkywicz says. "In that scream is a defiance that it's not going to be the last word."
And yes, it's a middle-aged white guy thing, so shut up already. I'm counting on the youngsters here, especially you Ed and Katie and Randall and Luke, to resurrect our hipness quotient after this brief excursion to the heart of middle America.
In what should be, with any sense, one of my few stabs at quasi-hipness in the field of book reviewing, I once compared Eugene Genovese and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese's Mind of the Master Class to a recent Springsteen recording:
I rather feel about it [the book Mind of the Master Class] as I did listening to Bruce Springsteen's Devils and Dust--the critics praised it, eminent music-listening friends loved it, and I admired it in parts, but I could not help feeling that the talents of the artist were constrained by the form, that something was being held back, and that I was denied the impassioned masterpiece that I wanted to hear/read. Yes, this is an aesthetic rather than an intellectual critique, but there you have it. Oh, for the days of The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle--Springsteen's flawed, sprawling, but ultimately grand equivalent, I believe, to Eugene Genovese's problematic but still matchlessly interesting work Roll, Jordan, Roll (1974). By contrast, Mind of the Master Class . . . somehow lacks the majestic narrative that carried forward the earlier classic.
I'm going on 50, what can I say? But Bruce is about as religious a songwriter as you'll ever find. As he constantly reminds us, we're all hiding on the backstreets, tying faith between our teeth.