I just finished the Bruce Springsteen autobiography. Pretty good read. Not perfect, but a pretty good read. Learned a few things.

And I feel better about Bruce now. Always had kind of a love-hate relationship with the guy. Played my Born to Run album until it was a flat piece of plastic. Saw him live in Santa Clara, California, in 1977. Good show but not life-altering.

Aside: Also don’t understand why he is canonized for long shows. The longest movies, books and City Council meetings aren’t always the best. Same principle works for concerts. End aside.

Then I got a little smarter and resented his political awakening … after he spent a decade-plus not voting. And his albums started to feel a bit like medicine – listen to this, it’s GOOD for you. Finally I got torqued when he released The Rising, which was fueled partly by the obits he read about 9/11 victims, many of whom were his fans. So why didn’t he donate any of the proceeds from the album to 9/11 charities?

Yes, he has been involved in other 9/11 philanthropy, but a huge opportunity was missed.

Plus, I got older, and the youthful exuberance I felt amid the rush produced by the Born to Run album faded a bit. The title song is a mess structurally, and the lyrics are eye-rolling. In the autobiography Springsteen notes how hard he worked on the lyrics to rid them of cliches. Didn’t try hard enough.

A lot of the material on the Born to Run album does stand up well, particularly Thunder Road, and Darkness at the Edge of Town, the River, Born in the USA and particularly the Tracks box set of outtakes and rarities, also contains some fine stuff.

Then there is Backstreets. I remember driving home one day amid my Born to Run euphoria and listening to it on the radio at high volume with the windows rolled up … in my apartment complex parking space. Didn’t have to sit there in the heat and listen to the radio. The stereo was 50 feet away. Ah, youth!

Backstreets may be the most popular Springsteen song … that really does not deserve its high ranking. A Rolling Stone cadre of experts named it his sixth best song of all time. Hell, it isn’t the sixth best song on Born to Run. And if side two of that record had had seven songs Backstreets wouldn’t have been the sixth best song on the album side. That’s how dreadful it is. Want proof? My analysis of the lyrics is below:

One soft infested summer, me and Terry became friends (infested? With what? Invasive blackberries? Mosquitoes? STDs?)

Trying in vain to breathe the fire we was born in (wouldn’t it have been better to say created in rather than born in … I’ve seen two live births … they are not that sexy … also bad grammar on was, see below)

Catching rides to the outskirts, tying faith between our teeth (why does everything in Springsteen songs happen on the outskirts? … or the edge of town? … also I have no clue how one ties faith between their teeth … I mean I floss and all, but …)

Sleeping in that old abandoned beach house, getting wasted in the heat (good line, very evocative)

And hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets (again, it’s away from the middle of town … maybe it’s a SYMBOL!)

With a love so hard and filled with defeat (sure, if that’s the attitude you bring to it)

Running for our lives at night on them backstreets (running from whom, exactly, plus more bad grammar, see below)

Slow dancing in the dark on the beach at Stockton's Wing

Where desperate lovers park, we sat with the last of the Duke Street Kings (guess you had to be there … no idea where Stockton’s Wing is or who the Duke Street Kings are … must be local color of some sort)

Huddled in our cars, waiting for the bells that ring (What cars? They had to catch rides to the outskirts … and what bells?)

In the deep heart of the night they set us loose of everything (vital things happen at 4 in the afternoon … doesn’t have to be in the … symbolic … deep heart of the night)

To go running on the backstreets

Running on the backstreets (lot of running here … at least they are getting some aerobic work)

Terry, you swore we'd live forever

Taking it on them backstreets together (why does a smart guy like Springsteen consistently use poor grammar … them … and what does that say about his attitude toward the characters in his songs?)

Endless juke joints and Valentino drag

Where famous dancers scraped the tears up off the street, dressed down in rags (scraping the tears off the street? Come on!)

Running into the darkness, some hurt bad, some really dying (really dying as opposed to really faking it)

At night sometimes it seemed you could hear the whole damn city crying (excellent line, almost saves the song)

Blame it on the lies that killed us, blame it on the truth that ran us down (if you are under assault by both lies and truth … well, that’s tough to recover from)

You can blame it all on me, Terry, it don't matter to me now

When the breakdown hit at midnight, there was nothing to say (again, why couldn’t the breakdown have hit at, say, 11:30 in the morning?)

But I hated him, and I hated you when you went away (good solid end-of-relationship bitterness … I like it!)

Laying here in the dark, you're like an angel on my chest (angel? Why an angel? She screwed him over!)

Just another tramp of hearts crying tears of faithlessness (just what is a tramp of hearts?)

Remember all the movies, Terry, we'd go see (summer romance and they spent all this time running, catching rides, slow dancing, huddling in cars, getting wasted in the heat, more running, hiding, scraping tears, more running, more hiding … when did they find time to go to the movies?)

Trying to learn to walk like the heroes we thought we had to be (another really smart line)

And after all this time, to find we're just like all the rest

Stranded in the park and forced to confess (stranded? How? What park? Why couldn’t they catch a ride? Forced to confess? To whom and for what?)

To hiding on the backstreets (Yo, home slice … I got a confession to make … I’ve been hiding on the backstreets … sorry about that!)

Hiding on the backstreets

Where we swore forever friends

On the backstreets until the end (but we still were a long way from the end!)

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Was all right, we're all

Hiding on the backstreets tonight

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets

Hiding on the backstreets (well, after making sure there was no confusion regarding where they were hiding – he said it about 25 times -- the Boss turned to his donkey voice – he also does the same thing to all but ruin Drive All Night and Something in the Night – and just wails the song to a histrionic conclusion)

Coda: While listening to Tracks on Jan. 10 I noted that the "scraping the tears" off the street also was used in "Linda Let Me Be the One." which apparently is a "Born to Run" outtake. Sheesh!

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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