Later in his career “Scooter” (great name, that) wrote some unheralded pearls. If you haven’t heard any of these yet, I envy you. Here’s the last of my selections of the “best of the least” of Bruce Springsteen’s songs
1) Youngstown. This is a country-flavored gem, layered with violin and pedal steel guitar. It’s about the singer and the blast furnace he works, nicknamed Jenny. No, that’s not a typo. Blast furnaces in steel mills often get personal nicknames. The Youngstown steel mill’s furnace is actually named The Jeannette Blast Furnace. Not until he let the “1%” have it full force in last years’ blockbuster “Wrecking Ball” did Springsteen so painfully address the disparity of wealth in this country, contrasting the singer against the men at the top who hired him and his forefathers. He and his family worked the mill and fought our wars going back several generations but the owners closed down the mill in 1977, doing “what Hitler couldn’t do”. Now he’s sinking and all he can say to the big boys who’ve wrecked his life is “Once I made you rich enough, rich enough to forget my name”. Sad. Beautiful. Haunting. True.
2) Worlds Apart. “The Rising” brought the Boss back like gangbusters, reuniting with the E Streeters and serving up a loaded warhead of rock in the shadow of the 9-11 attacks. In the wake of the title track, “Waiting on a Sunny Day” and “Lonesome Day” you could be forgiven if you didn’t notice this song midway through the album. Next time check it out and see if it doesn’t send you into that other dimension. It begins with an exquisitely crafted percussion track heavily flavored with (of all things) Middle Eastern instruments. Then the guitars come crashing in. The lyrics are a heartfelt appeal to a lover from another land that one day a bridge can be built between them so they won’t be “worlds apart”. (Sample Lyric: “We’ll let blood build a bridge over mountains draped in stars. I’ll meet you on the ridge between these worlds apart”).
3) Magic. Thank you, sir, for writing this song. It’s a gorgeous, soft melody rich with Wurlitzer electric piano and a dreamy musical arrangement. But it’s the lyrics that we should be grateful for. In October 2004 journalist Ron Suskind, writing in the New York Times Magazine quoted an “unnamed” source (later attributed to Karl Rove) that said that journalists like Suskind were “in what we call the reality-based community… That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” That’s what made Springsteen angry enough to write “Magic”. He told Rolling Stone that the song was about how we’re living in an era when lies and truth can be made to look like each other. He despised the stupidity and arrogance of that quote. So he wrote this song about illusions. Thank you, again.