I really got Bruce Springsteen around 1984. My mate Rab had been a fan for a long time and had even made the pilgrimage to England to see him live. The River certainly attracted my attention and I loved the stripped back Nebraska. By 1984 I was into all things Bruce and within mili-seconds so was the entire world. I remember longing to have that live experience that Rab had had but by the time it came at Slane Castle in 1985 the place was jammed (double its legal capacity apparently) with people who frowned at songs like Rosalita, thinking they were new, because they had no idea he had a back catalogue!
Born In The USA sent Springsteen through the popular stratosphere. Single after single competed with Michael Jackson's Thriller. Dancing In The Dark with a very young Courtney Cox disco dancing with a tidied up Bruce. There was a little too much sheen to the whole thing. It was great to see Bruce so popular but dance remixes of Cover Me; come on! So though I liked a few songs, No Surrender in particular, this was probably my least favourite Bruce Springsteen record. After reading Dave Marsh’s biography and hearing songs like Dancing In The Dark and Born In The USA in acoustic arrangements I began to understand the songs but it would still be the last Bruce record I would desire to play, the last that I bought on CD.
So, today on Bruce’s 65th birthday I am loving Dead Man’s Town, a tribute album To Springsteen that reinvents every song on Born In The USA, giving it grit and meaning that the pop audience at Slane probably well and truly missed. Justin Townes Earle reinventing the fast ball of Glory Days into a very slow slide curve ball; wow! Low giving I’m On Fire a lot more smoulder; ache! Nicole Atkins' weary and frayed Dancing In The Dark; melancholy! Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell’s Born in The USA all weeping fiddles and alienated emotion; political! Dead Man’s Town is a revelation. It digs deep and pulls through the thin shiny veneer of the original record a collection of songs that are weighty and powerful in the political, social and personal struggle of 1980’s Reagan America. It becomes a close companion to Wrecking Ball. It is a beautiful 65th Birthday present for the Boss!