Wednesday, September 11, 2013

40 Year Itch : A Stone, Howling, Joyous Monster

"Bruce Springsteen has delivered another stone, howling, joyous monster of a record"
-Bruce Pollock, The New York Times

On September 11, 1973 Bruce Springsteen released his second album, The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle. And if you think the title is a mouthful, so are the lyrics this skinny New Jersey kid tried to stuff in his epic seven minute + tunes.

The album's highlight is "Rosalita ( Come Out Tonight) , a musical autobiography, in which the singer with the big record company advance, tries to convince his girl to run away with him. It is also, as Springsteen noted in Songs, a "kiss-off to everybody who counted you out, put you down or decided you weren't good enough".

Remember: this album didn't sell at first. Despite outstanding review from the New York Times, Crawdaddy and the Village Voice, The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle failed to even dent the Top 200 Album chart when it was released. 

The album kicks off with "The E Street Shuffle", the song that would eventually give his backing band a name. I've always liked the 57 second nod to Curtis Mayfield at the end.  

The first cut is the shortest. To make room for epics like the 9:55 "New York City Serenade" and the 7:47 "Incident of 57th Street", Springsteen had to jettison other cuts recorded during the sessions. Including some ( like concert favorite "Thundercrack" and "The Fever" that might have made this a better-selling album).

The first version of Wild was received by CBS executive Charlie Koppleman in this way:

"Fellas, we may have run to the end of our days with Bruce Springsteen. This is not an album we are going to put out."

Springsteen restructured the album. What he kept and what he dropped is  a mystery to me.

There's certainly no shortage of nicknamed characters on Wild. There's Spanish Johnny, Power Thirteen, Little Angel, Wild Billy, Puerto Rican Jane, Sloppy Sue and Big Bones Billy .

 With his first two albums selling poorly, his big advance dissolving to nothing, Springsteen began focusing on his stage show. First to go was drummer Vini "Mad Dog "Lopez. Ernest "Boom Boom" Carter helped the E Street band tighten up their sound. Springsteen also crafted stories he could tell between the songs . Then there were the oldies that brought the crowd to its collective feet. (In a November show at Max's Kansas City, with Halls and Oates opening, it was Wilson Pickett's "634-5789")

By the Spring of 1974, Springsteen "had his act together." Just in time for critic Jon Landau to catch a show and exclaim:
"I saw rock and roll's future and its name is Bruce Springsteen."

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