One of the most useless things that a man is capable of (except from a last minute change at Walmart’s pay desk) is undoubtedly a man’s desire to compare apples and oranges. The urge for classification is stronger man itself. We simply need to have a favourite country for holidays, a favourite song, drink, football club, artist, city, CD, toupet, fruit, colour or cyclist.
Mind you: this useless urge for classification is only relevant when you can convince others of your choice. Life is a battle.
Eelco Klomp, a Dutch Bruce Springsteen fan with a huge reputation, is a man with a strong desire to structure life through tables, diagrams and schemes. His database, containing each Bruce Springsteen concert as from 1974, gives him a sense of life. No question marks are to be found in Eelco’s dictionary. Only facts count for him.
His website is accessible to anyone, free of charge. Eelco is an institute in Springsteenland and he deserves a statue in his hometown for all the work he’s doing for us (in fact his wife Jetske derserves a statue even more…God knows how many gender “neutral hours” have been spent on Eelco’s database).
No worries so far.
Until a few months ago when Eelco launched his disastrous idea to select 128 songs that Bruce performed the most on stage and to have these songs competing eachother in a “Bruce Battle” that is comparable to the competition schedules that we know from tennis tournaments.
Meaning number 128 Pay Me My Money Down is to fight Born to Run. Of course a mission impossible for Pay Me, but it was Eelco’s idea to set an example what was to be expected.
Let’s all agree on one thing: music is like sex, you should not talk about it, let alone process it in diagrams and schemes!
Eelco’s idea was disastraous, unnecessary, insane and horrible at once. Disastrous because of the high “Kill Your Darlings” level. Unnecessary because of the uselessness. Insane – first victim of democracy is always your own personal choice. Horrible because of the Knock-Out System that knows no mercy at all. Once you’re out, you’re out.
In short: no reason at all why not to participate!
Bruce can be accused of writing awful songs too, let’s just be honest about it. This came to light during Round 1. No problem at all, the Holy Book of God Almighty does not only have classic stories either.
Many Battles in this very round did not give any conscientious objections. It was a rather easy job to tick off the Battles that Eelco served on Twitter. Santa Clause had no chance against Independence Day. Spare Parts (whose lyrics are Springsteen-unworthy) versus Atlantic City: easy. 57 Channels was swept away by Because the Night. Red Headed Woman (come on Bruce really, you could do so much better than that) lost its battle from Tenth Avenue quite justifiedly. Creedence’s cover Who’ll Stop the Rain (not the most original choice Bruce!) had no chance against 4th of July and the same could be said about Seven Nights to Rock who had to admit that Bobby Jean was a much stronger opponent. Souls of the Departed (nothing more than a chain of dreadful cliches) was yet another mission impossible: obviously Jackson Cage was a much stronger opponent
Yet, having said that, there were a few personal favourites of time who had to leave the playing-field too quickly: My Beautiful Reward, Something in the Night, Empty Sky, Open All Night and Adam Raised a Cain. They went under against respectively No Surrender, The River, Trapped, Spirit in the Night en Rosalita, however they lost gloriously.
I made an extra category which I labled UNBELIEVABLE (with two exclamation marks). How on earth could it be possible that the vulnarable little jewel Straight Time went under against Living in the Future? How could I’m on Fire win its battle from Into the Fire, a song with so much more impact. The very same could be said from Fire overtaking Factory. And why the hell is Working on the Highway such a popular song? Thanks to what? Its valueless lyrics? That irritating synthesizers loop that’s working on your nerves as from line one? Of course I chose blindly for Dry Lightning.
Stolen Car got beaten by Dancing in the Dark. It made me feel sad. The version on Tracks (CD number 2, 14th song) saved my career 23 years ago when I asked myself if I could endure the daily route from my hometown Rotterdam to Eindhoven and back (220 kilometer in total each day). Bruce confirmed my destiny: “No matter what I do or where I drive / Nobody ever sees me when I ride by”. By simply feeling what I felt, he gave me the strength to carry on and to do anything but giving up.
And last but certainly not least we needed to say goodbye to Drive All Night who fought its impossible battle against Born to Run. Of course no issues here. How could I expect from my Springsteenbuddies that they knew how I seduced my current wife on August 17 1991, at my brothers birthday (me singing Drive All Night for her, guitar on my lap, my wife crying next to me) and to which extent our wedding vows are still literally anchored in Drive All Night. Soon we will celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary. We have two beautiful daughters. Only thing I had to do was swearing I would drive all night. Through the wind. Through the rain. Through the snow.
I was not too sure about Round 2, especially because of the unpredictability of my fellow Springsteenfans…
What is so special about Bruce? What is his hidden secret? Why do we have the feeling he is one of us? Is the music or the person? Or could it be both? Does one exclude the other?
Round 2, 64 songs being left. Of course and thank God some easy ones in this very round. It’s a “Hello Goodbye” for Wrecking Ball, Hungry Heart, Ramrod, Mary’s Place, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, Seeds. Thanks a lot for your services, but we’ll meet you soon, at some party and my head is spinning around from alcohol and excitement (“turn ‘em up, turn ‘em up, turn ‘em up, turn ‘em up, turn ‘em up, turn ‘em up….”).
Eelco chose for the dreadful Knock-Out System (where does Eelco live, I need to pay him a visit!) and consequently we needed to bring some straight beauties to the graveyard, thanks to my fellow Springsteen-fans (where do they live, I need to pay them a visit!). No speeches, no flowers, no drinks please. So long ownbound Train, You’re Missing (the funeral of my father in law for God’ss sake), If I Should Fall Behind (the promise that was made in our family to have this song played during our funeral, to seal our musical reunion in the “hereafter”) Brilliant Disguise, My Love Won’t Let You Down, Jackson Cage and Mansion on the Hill.
The choice between Because the Night and My Hometown made me sick. Heads up for the last mentionned, the ode to each and very hometown of each and every inhabitant of this crazy planet.
I felt nothing less than dreadful when I saw that This Hard Land needed to leave the arena as well. It’s my favourite Springsteen song of all times (I recently made a playlist of 14 different versions of this very song) which is supporting me at times of pure sadness. Some lines will be craved on my skin soon in order that my descendants will never ever forget the meaning of these words that have been such a big inspiration for me. Biologistst claim no life is possible without water, light and oxygen. I claim no life is possible without This Hard Land.
I was holding my breath for Round 3…
No. Of course it’s not the question if it is his music or his being. How could I be so stupid? It’s much simpler than that: Bruce actually is his music. This explains the fact that nine out of the ten covers of his longs do not have the impact that the songs have if The Boss performs them himself. His songs are less autonomous, less independent, less universal than the songs of each other imaginable artist. Bruce makes it a personal deal. He is not hiding himself behind metaphores and quasi-poetic points of view which can be interpreted in a million ways. Something for everyone? Kiss my ass!
He is not singing for us, he is singing about us. We don’t know him, he knows us.
Yes, he definitely is your brother. Your father. Your teammate. Your favourite uncle. Your best friend.
He signed the purchase-agreement of your new house and he watched when our children were born. He turned a blind eye when we were watching a bit too long to other women. He gave a shoulder to cry on when we needed to say goodbye. He nursed our wounds, held our hand, made us dance on partynights. He shone his light in the darkest night – the light we needed to face the truth of the morning.
And while we thought we were listening to his music, it was actually the exact other way around: he was and is our listening ear. He is not our spokesmen, we are his.
32 Songs are left. Stay calm now. Don’t panic. Some soldiers died along the way, that’s democracy’s price you have to pay. But there’s hope. It’s something we learned from the Boss: there’s always hope and we all know: in the final end faith will be rewarded.
So full focus now on your seven favourites. They need to pass this round, no matter what. So you tick them with a pen, you ignore the pencil. Pencils are for doubters. And you don’t doubt. Just like Bruce. Bruce is not the side dish. No Sir. He is the starter, the main course and dessert at once. And he’s the wine as well. And when we’ll run out of wine, he’ll turn water into wine. Just like He did.
Your seven songs that are still in combat:
Point Blank. For the sake of nostalgia. And of homesickness. The power. The sensuality. The completeness. The ruthlessness. Of the lyrics. Of the piano. Of everything.
Independence Day. Because of my father.
The Promised Land. As the last born of our family, ever since December 16th 1969 (“mister I ain’t a boy, no I’m a man”) my personal anthem.
The Rising. The resurrection. The resistance agains decline. And the everlasting hope. This “inspite of everything” kind of hope. The kind of hope that jumps the queue in each and every Springsteen song.
The Ties That Bind. Your family. The leather Ties That Bind bracelet that you carry each day on your left wrist. Because life without this bracelet is no life at all.
Thunder Road. The reunion. With friends. Thunder Road. Your drunken anthem that connects time with your friends from way back when.
Bobby Jean. The urge for nostalgia that alienates while you grow older until Bobby Jean comes along. This strange version of happiness dressed in black, so typically Bruce. The need to hold eachother. Just to say goodbye…
With this determination we accept Round 3 – we say goodbye to Sherry Darling, our standard New Years Eve classic. It’s so long goodbye to Long Walk Home (a Springsteen classic “to be”, yet no chance against Tenth Avenue) and Glory Days (admit, still a classic in any pub worldwide).
Unfortunately it’s Dancing in the Dark that survives another round, but thank God Working on the Highway reaches the end of the line.
And what about Badlands? Got smashed too?! What about this pumping piano, these banging drums of Might Max and the great inspiring lyrics (“It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive”). It’s farewell and goodbye for Incident on 57th Street, Bruce’s West Side Story variant.
Eelco’s Bruce Battle is turning into a massacre. I regret the day I started participating. Yet I love it. I love Eelco.
The last sixteen songs. A very selective group. It’s serious business now. Sixteen classics wait at the starting line.
First battle: Land of Hope and Dreams versus Independence Day. Although Land was my official campaign song in 2015 for my fund raising campagne to fight cancer, Independence Day is a winner and it makes me happy. For all the dads worldwide and for mine in particular.
Next one is The Promised Land fighting Prove It All Night, both tracks coming from my favourite album Darkness on the Edge of Town. The Promised Land wins, I can breathe again.
Tenth Avenue is a goner. The River is simply too strong. But hey no tears Tenth Avenue…we’ll see you later this year (standing in a circle, New Years Eve and that one line that we all scream outloud….”when that change was made uptown, and the Big Man joined the band!”).
There goes The Rising, beaten by Racing in the Street. No worries. Racing a classic for die-hard fans, The Rising one with the status “to be”. The Rising needs some extra flying hours, but it leaves the stage respectfully. Nothing to be ashamed of.
An easy round this one for Darkness on the Edge of Town – Dancing in the Dark stands no chance.
Thunder Road and Backstreets are two winners. Yes, their opponents (respectively Bobby Jean and Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) were tough, but at the end they needed to put their weapons down.
However all these battles were nothing compared to the epic smasher, the premature final, the Brasil-Germany in the 8th finals at the Soccer World Championships, the Sophie’s Choice among Brucefans, between two straight classics: his masterpiece Born to Run against his Magnum Opus Jungleland.
On September 21st Eelco’s Twitteraccount @mybosstime reported a tie, a 50-50 draw. Passions ran extremly high among Eelco’s followers:
Sue Wahler: “How can you possibly pick one of these two over the other? Not possible.”
Marcel Duinisveld: “this should be the final….hard to choose…but no song that can beat Jungleland”
Cristina Saretti: “Impossible to pick”
Theresa: “I voted Jungleland for reasons that need no explanation but my inner 14-year old was screaming TRAMPS LIKE US, BABY WE WERE BOTN TO RUN❣”
Fred Joseph: “Jungleland is the masterpiece but voted for BTR just got to be one of the best Rock songs ever! ugh hated this choice.”
@SPDPR: “Don’t. Make. Me. Choose.”
Tim Arnold: “Now this one is downright unfair. Like picking a favorite child or dog. Not even voting on this one, because both are beyond beloved.”
Chris: “That’s like asking which of my children I love more.”
Edmund G. Rakowski: “Thunder Road….don’t split the baby.”
@deafjonty: “Er. Can I have half of each? First bit of BTR and the second half of Jungleland with Clarence’s solo?”
Gerco Rebergen: “It’s like choosing between amputating a leg or an arm, deaf or blind…..”
Malcolm Graham: “So so cruel. This should’ve been the final.”
Isabel: “not voting anymore…? I just can’t choose”
The Boss @ThePablito1974: “I love Jungleland. But it’s absurd. Jungleland is a masterpiece while BTR IS Bruce itself.”
There is only one thing that the Springsteen community is left to do: we sue Eelco Klomp for his initiative. There’s no alternative. Let’s go for the devil’s advocate…I know him personally…
ROUND 5 / quarterfinals
It’s no longer possible to come to choices myself. I need help. From my family. You never keep Bruce for yourself. It’s the opposite: you need to share Bruce. At all times.
There is a Bruce for waking up, there is a Bruce for going to bed, a Bruce if you feel a bit weak, a Bruce for breakfast, a Bruce for the late-night cravings. There is a sleep-late Bruce, there is a wake-up-call Bruce.
I call my family together at the dinner table for an official meeting. No more jokes, no more fun. This is serious business.
First quarterfinal. Jungleland versus Land of Hope and Dreams.
‘Land of Hope and Dreams, dad!’, my daughters yell, ‘remember your fund raising campaign! Do not doubt! You’re the fighter against cancer, you are the living example of Land of Hope and Dreams!’
The next quarterfinal is a horrible one: The Promised Land versus The River. I’m voting for The Promised Land, but my wife corrects me.
‘The River is life itself honey… that melody, the melancholy….’
We sigh simultaneously. It feels like a horrormovie – the one that keeps the suspense until the very last second. Does Eelco know what he has been doing to us?
‘No’, I decide, ‘It’s going to be The Promised Land‘. Thinking about by childhood, my role a the last born in our family and my fear that no one would take me seriously (“mister I ain’t a boy, no I’m a man”) made me chosing for The Promised Land.
The River wins this battle – I can live with it. Of course.
The last two quarterfinals seem easy for us: Racing in the Street versus Darkness on the Edge of Town and Thunder Road versus Backstreets.
‘What do you say girls?’
‘Darkness!’, my wife and two daughters reply without the slightest shadow of a doubt. Yet Darkness goes down. The love for Racing seems to be extremely persistent among the Brucebrothers and -sisters.
Finally Thunder Road beats Backstreets rather easily.
I hate democracy, yet I love it. The cards are shuffled – they lie on the table. The picture becomes clearer by the minute. The meeting is closed. Our daughters return to their room to study. Me and my wife try to watch some television, House of Cards on Netflix, though we cannot concentrate. Eelco’s initiative is the House of Cards among Springsteen fans.
We can’t wait the semifinals which we fear at the same time….
ROUND 6 / semifinals
Bruce is much more than our wedding day. Much more than the birth of our children. Much more than the funerals of our loved ones. Much more. Bruce is the man that never leaves out, who is there, at all costs. He was there a million times when we had to wake up. He was there in our weekends but he is also our support when we need to go to work. All of these sad Mondays, all of these meaningless Tuesdays, all of these rained out Thursdays.
Bruce rode with the truck driver who had to leave early in the morning to a godforsaken place where a godforsaken load of God knows what needed to be picked up. He joined us on our way to school, work, church, sports field. He watched while we were packing our moving moxes, climbing mountains, missing opportunities, writing loveletters, taking chances, watching out for the darkness, jumping to conclusions, unpacking our moving boxes.
Bruce was there when we were doing our exams – he failed and succeeded with us. He watched how we struggled, stumbled, accelarated, became silent and kept on going. Not one single day went by in his absence. He was always there when we needed him. Always. For you, for him, for her, for us. He gave comfort and kicked our ass when we knew we deserved it.
What would we be without Bruce, what would Bruce be without us, what would the E Street Band be without Bruce, what would Bruce be without his the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, love-making, earth-quaking, Viagra-taking, justifying, death-defying, legendary E Street Band?
When Danny Federici passed away on April 17 2008, it felt like my favourite cousin (always the one who was surrounded by problems) died. On June 18 2011 it felt like your brother passed away. Music is felt so deeply that you could actually feel the pain and the grief of Bruce. Literally. I couldn’t sleep that very night. Out of respect for Clarence’s death we played Jungleland. During his masterly saxsolo my wife started to cry and I drank too much red wine to ease her pain. In dying seconds of Jungleland we can hear Bruce’s cry – as if he know what would happen 36 years later.
Jungleland versus The River, Racing in the Street versus Thunder Road.
‘Dad? Did Eelco post the semis yet?’, one of my daughters asked one night.
‘Yes yesterday as a matter of fact… and I already made my votes…’
‘What? No way dad!’
‘Yes I did. The River and Thunder Road.’
My family agreed I made the right choices, but they did not withhold their disapointment that I did not consult them this round. I had disrespected their democratic rights – yet Eelco’s Bruce Battle on Twitter was relentless: there was no going back.
Finally Jungleland and Thunder Road made it. Two songs from his iconic album Born to Run.
Number 3 – Racing in the Street
Number 4 – The River
ROUND 7 / Final
Bruce is a photo album full of yellowed family pictures. ‘The older you get, the more it means…’, The Boss mumbled on July 28 2013 in Kilkenny, Ireland, just before he sang a vulnerable version of This Hard Land that would close his 2013 Tour. And he’s right. True richness hides in the past. As the years go by, the longing for yesterday grows day by day.
While the time passes by, Bruce keeps on feeding us with hope. Yesterday, today and tomorrow come all come alive in his songs. His songs are set in stone. The stones are watching our front doors. Firmly, bravely, stubbornly, melancholically and naively.
“Certain things are set in stone. Who we are, what we’ll do and what we won’t…”, in His own words.
May we thank the Lord Almighty that we have lived in hís time. That we could actually witness him. How he handled the axe while we bowed our heads on the chopping-block and how Bruce kept on pounding, hammering and chopping. Right to the bone. Yes of course you could cry for mercy, but it had no sense.
Bruce kept on pounding until we found ourselves lying K.O. in the boxing ring. Helplessly, defendlessly. Bruce forged our souls, dreams, fears, frustrations, desires, memories, doubts and victories into songs that matched perfectly with our lives. The eyes of our children and of our parents are reflected in his songs. The very songs that he pushed through our throats with full dedication and with an unmatched urgency.
No Sir, no middle of the road for Bruce who won’t take no for an answer. He insist. It needs to happen tonight, not tomorrow. Tomorrow we could all be dead. This is how the Boss took us with him. As our Messiah. From cassette to cassette, from album to album, from CD to CD, from download to download, from concert to concert. We grew older and older alongside of Bruce. And Bruce grew older with us, inspite of his ridiculous facelifts, artificial teeth and exotic hairpieces.
We are eternally grateful to this little giant from New Jersey that made us cry out of joy and out of grief at the same time.
Thunder Road won the final.
The eighties, Saturday night, downtown Rotterdam. There we are. Holding eachother because we’re afraid we might lose someone tonight. We smoke. We drink beer. Way too much beer. And we sing. No. That’s no singing. That’s shouting. The promise of eternal youth. That panic urge to capture the moment because you’re too scared of losing it. Thunder Road is about friendship, love, wild sex, stupidly running away and unconditional loyalty.
Thunder Road was our anthem (”Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night, you ain’t a beauty, but hey you’re alright …”) that we sang each Saturday night, over and over again, walking through the streets of Rotterdam, roaming from pub to pub. Thunder Road was our roadmap to freedom, our hymn. It was all about believing belief. Hoping hope. And trusting trust.
It was about running away. Far away from here. You took Candy from her room and promised her spirits in the night. They could also be named Rosie or Mary. And you simply drove. In a stolen car. You went to see the river. You drove all night. Racing through the streets of jungleland. Far far far away from the darkest edges of your hometown. That was the promise. You drove with no mercy, no surrender. You just followed your dream, wherever it may lead. Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive, you said to yourself. Prove it all night, because the night is ours. I can do this. I’m worth it. Because I ain’t no boy, no I’m a man. You and me are tramps who are born to run. Let’s keep on running. To the land of hope and dreams. We will make it. As long as it makes you smile, because it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive. Prepare yourself, up the stairs, into the fire, for the rising…and then….the harmonica…and the voice of Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen…
“…The screen door slams
Mary’ dress waves…”
Number 1 – Thunder Road
Number 2 – Jungleland
“Twitter reported Jungleland had won the battle with Born to Run, I could not see the exact amount of votes per song. The Bruce Battle was a great success not only in Holland but also abroad. Some of the polls reached over 2.000 votes – on average about 1.000 people voted for each of othe 128 polls.
I personally have many favourites. I could live with the final score, although Born to Run had bad luck drawing Jungleland. But my personal favourite really is Thunder Road, followed by Born to Run, Jungleland and Racing in the Street….”
Big thanks to Eelco Klomp for his disastraous, unnecessary, insane, horrible yet FANTASTIC initiative that lead to this blog.