When you’re seventeen, Born to Run is about the best thing ever. Or it was for me anyway; listening to that album for the first time back in late 2009 was honestly life changing. Those eight perfect songs paint a tantalising fantasy of a dream world while letting you rock out to catchy tunes and capturing emotions you don’t even realise you feel. It’s an absolute masterpiece and still my all-time favourite album.
That Springsteen’s music has always had an element of autobiography to it is well documented. Listening to all of his albums in chronological order, you can see the developing concerns and perspectives of a man as he grows and develops and learns new things, documenting it all as he goes. His body of work is partly so impressive because it’s a masterwork of self-expression. And in putting his experiences and feelings into song, Springsteen’s genius was always in his ability to make his own stories seem so universal. Obviously on some level much of what anyone goes through is shared by others, but there’s a real talent in taking what is personal and specific to you and cutting to the core of it to communicate to others.
When I first discovered Springsteen and realised his music was just about my favourite thing ever, it didn’t take me long to get my claws on his entire discography and consume the lot. And yeah I found gems in each album that I adored, but so, so much of his music didn’t do a whole lot for me. Albums like The River, Lucky Town or Tunnel of Love never spoke to me in the same was as Born to Run or Greetings From Asbury Park. But the thing is, at seventeen, a lot of those songs can’t mean anything to you, because you’re a long way from experiencing the emotions they are talking about.
I spent a chunk of my afternoon today listening to Tunnel of Love; a darker, stripped down album from 1987 that never meant too much to me. But for the first time, today, so much about that beautiful selection of music jumped out at me. Feelings and phrases that made me sit up and think ‘oh right!’ Because now, years after the first time I heard those songs, I’ve been there. I’ve felt the things he was writing about. I’m feeling some of them right now and some of those songs perfectly capture things that are going on in my head right now. And honestly, it’s comforting. Because I know that whatever I go through and whatever strange and scary and new things I experience in the years ahead, Bruce was there first and has already documented it and has been telling people, through music, for years, that it will be okay. You’re not alone. Other people have been there and they’re still alive.
Uncertainty is awful in the moment. In retrospect it’s a necessity, a stopgap feeling before you move on to the next chapter of your life. But hindsight is 20/20 and no matter how many times you tell yourself that things will get better, it’s hard to feel that in the moment. And no song is really going to fix that, but it’s nice to know you’re not the only one.
Writing words about writing words.