This week the inmates are running the asylum. You'll remember, once again, I challenged people to Right This Blog! With that in mind welcome: JOE THE BOXER
It was 1997, and I was sitting in my older sister's car while she went to buy something at a supermarket. To pass time, I went through her tape collection and found the best listening option was The best of Bruce Springsteen. I hadn't paid much attention to The Boss, but had been reading an interview with Manic Street Preachers front man James Dean Bradfield, who had sighted the song Born To Run as the primary influence behind the great Motorcycle Emptiness. I stuck the tape in and played side one, track one. It instantly became my favourite song - and one that I believed I would never get tired of hearing.
Now, for your reading pleasure, I am about to put that belief to the test.
I will listen to Born to Run 100 consecutive times, and record my thoughts via a running diary (a device popularised by sportswriter Bill Simmons. My iTunes tells me the track is four minutes and 32 seconds long, so it will take me around seven hours and 36 minutes to complete.
To save my ears, I will alternate between using my iPod, home stereo and record player. My girlfriend may dump me. I may go insane. I may experience something like that scene in Being John Malkovich only with Bruce Springsteen's face on everyone I see.
Bruce may begin appearing to me in hallucinations, like he does to John Cusack in High Fidelity. My brain may explode. My face may melt. There is only one way to find out. Here goes:
1st listen: It is 1pm on a Sunday. The familiar Earnest "Boom" Carter drum roll starts me off. This is going to be easy. Springsteen himself spent six months recording this one song - imagine how much he must have hated it once it was finished - he almost considered scrapping it altogether. And on top of that, I once saw a 60 Minutes interview with him where he mentioned he had played it at every single Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert since it was written. That's 38 years of gigs. Makes my 100 listens look like a pile of crap, really.
4th listen: My Mum calls. The conversation goes like this:
Mum: Hello love!
Me: Mum, I can't talk right now... I'm listening to Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run one hundred consecutive times.
Mum: (long silence).....well....as long as you are happy...
10th listen: I have only ever seen one episode of The Sopranos in its entirety. It was 2005 and I was in a room with five other people. A young mobster is late for a meeting with Tony and some other mobster types. When he gets there he explains by saying "sorry I'm late. The highway was jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive." I am the only one in the room laughing hysterically. Springsteen jokes are classic.
15th listen: Reality dawns on me - 100 is a very big number.
16th listen: Musical acts who could do a decent Born to Run cover: Sonic Youth (with Kim Gordon on vocals); Prince circa Lovesexy; and my favourite: Nate Dogg (RIP). The born to run lyrics fit surprisingly well with Nate Dogg's harmony from Regulate. Try it at home. Go on.
21st listen: Poor Man's Bruce Springsteen List: Tom Petty, Jon Bon Jovi, Bob Seger, Huey Lewis, everyone.
23rd listen: "Together Wendy, we can live with the sadness, I'll love you with all the madness in my soul." Who is Wendy anyway? Is she hot? I bet she's pretty hot.
25th listen: An imagined conversation between Wendy and her best friend:
Best friend: "My Boyfriend bought me flowers yesterday"
Wendy: "That's nice. My boyfriend spent six months recording a song for me. The album it features on sold six million copies, and the song is regarded as the greatest ever written by many. But flowers are good as well..."
27th listen: Maybe Wendy looks like a young Courtney Cox?
35th listen: I went to see MGMT in Melbourne a few weeks ago. It was a really good set, a mix of older and newer stuff. But then, when it came time to play their big hit, Kids, they decided to do a jokey karaoke version. The message to the audience was loud and clear: "We are sick of this song. If you are cool like us, you should be sick of this song as well".
Springsteen would never pull that kind of crap on a paying audience. Why? Because Springsteen knows one thing that MGMT have yet to figure out: once a song becomes ingrained in culture on a mass level, it is no longer your song. It now belongs to the people who love it, and who pay to see it played live. And that alone should be motivation enough to play it every night. If it isn't, you are in the wrong business.
People love Born to Run, and people love Kids. Springsteen embraces that love, and MGMT reject it. MGMT will never be a great live band until they realise this.
40th listen: "baby this town rips the bones from your back, it's a death trap, it's a suicide rap, we gotta get out while we're young, coz tramps like us, baby we were born to run" - the best lines of the song, everyone who has ever lived in a small town and wanted to leave can relate.
41st listen: I decide to go for a run, because: 1) It fits in with the theme of the song in a literal way, and 2) I am worried that I am going to throw my iPod through my computer screen if I don't. The drum beat is making me tense. I need to sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream, or something to that effect.
50th Listen: Half way there, and it's getting bad. Springsteen is turning on me.
57th listen: I am back home from my run, hot and tired. My ears are itching under my headphones. I realise that I cannot have a shower without stopping the song. I sit on the couch and sweat.
70th listen: This is a dark song. A very dark song. Springsteen is evil. I am in a dark place.
75th Listen: I am not riding in a mansion of glory. I am in a dark tunnel.
80th listen: I decide to start drinking. I finish my first beer in one song. I start another. And another.
83rd Listen: I decide that staring at the Born To Run album cover is in some way a good thing to do.
85th listen: The boss is leaning on the back of saxophonist Clarence Clemmons. Or is he pushing him out of the frame? Clemons should form a "we got screwed out of appearing on the cover of a multi platinum, era-defining album cover" support group. The baby tiger from the back of the Thriller album could be a member as well.
90th listen: This could be worse. I could be listening to my least favourite song 100 consecutive times. Uh oh...
93rd listen: "Sex bomb, sex bomb, you're my sex bomb..." How can I have a song in my head while listening to another song?
Where am I? I am outside again but can't remember leaving the house.
95th listen: Born to Run is a David Bowie song....... I am listening to David Bowie......I like this new Bruce Bowie song....Tom Jones.......and also Tom Petty...Also...
96th listen: The horror...The horror...
97th Listen: .....my soul......in the day..... sprung from cages......the beach in the mist....yes?
98th listen: Highway 9. The key. They will all soon realise. Highway 9.
I gotta get out while I'm young......
100th listen: Done. I take off my headphone. I am shaken up. I have a strange desire to buy a motorcycle. I feel like I have just watched, or possibly starred in, a David Lynch film. My girlfriend asks me how I feel. I reply "yes".
I go to my bedroom and lie down for 20 minutes. Once I have calmed down, I feel like finally listening to something different.
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