Saturday, January 5, 2013

40 Year Itch: Madman Drummers Bummers

 "The rhyming dictionary was on fire."
    Bruce Springsteen

On January 5, 1973 Bruce Springsteen released his debut album Greetings From Asbury Park to both critical acclaim and a mostly uninterested record buying public. And listening to the album with fresh ears, I can see why. Springsteen packs more words per stanza than any rocker before. It's Dylan at double-speed. And it can be jarring for a listener to try to try to keep up. What do some of those lines mean anyway? 

Madman drummers bummers and Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat
 In the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps his way into his hat
 With a boulder on my shoulder, feelin' kinda older, I tripped the merry-go-round
 With this very unpleasing sneezing and wheezing, the calliope crashed to the ground

In an episode of VH1 Storytellers, The Boss gave us some insight on the lyrics and the way he was writing using word association:

"Madman drummers" : Vinnie "Mad Dog" Lopez ( his first drummer)
"Bummers" : The characters around the Jersey boardwalk
"Indians in the Summer": his little league baseball team as a kid.
"In the dumps with the mumps": another childhood memory, literally being sick with the mumps
"With a boulder on my shoulder": a really BIG "chip" on his shoulder.

These are all lines from Spingsteen's first single "Blinded By The Light" which hit #1 for Manfred Mann's Earth Band  in 1977. Only Manfred Mann and his band pronounced "deuce" in the line "wrapped up like a deuce" as "douche"...leading Springsteen to tell the following story:

Greetings sold only 25,000 copies in its first year of release. Now, of course, we can all hear the birth of a rock n roll genius in the grooves. But it really wasn't until Born to Run became such a huge hit that fans and radio programmers ( especially "Spirit In The Night") rediscovered Greetings.

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