Posted tagged ‘Bruce Springsteen’

Top 5 Bruce Songs About New Jersey

March 9, 2010
I wish my Jew-fro looked half as good as that...

Are we sure he's not Jewish?

A few weeks ago, I created a list of what I consider the top 5 songs about the Armpit of America. Noticeably absent from that list were songs by Bruce Springsteen. Since the patron saint of New Jersey has written so many songs about the state, it would be impossible to pick just one. So I made this list of the top 5 Bruce Springsteen songs about New Jersey.

1. Born to Run – Perhaps the most famous of all Bruce’s songs, Born to Run takes us into a world of motorcycle-riding punks looking for love and a way to escape from this horrible state. Now you may be wondering why I would include a song that is so obviously about getting the fuck out of New Jersey (especially with lines like “Baby this town rips the bones from your back / It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap / We gotta get out while we’re young / ‘Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run“). But, as anyone who has ever lived in this state knows, wanting to get the hell out of here is part of the whole Jersey experience.

2. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) – In this fun little song, Bruce sings about the trouble a guy has trying to get the girl of his desire to go out with him. Though he pleads and pleads to get her to come out (to meet up with characters like Jack the Rabbit, Weak Knees Willie, and Sloppy Sue) Rosalita refuses, since her parents don’t approve of her rock-n-rolling suitor. Our hero refuses to give up, though, and explains to the girl that a record company just gave him “a big advaaaancceeee!!!” At this point, the narrator forgets about convincing Rosie to hang out with local hooligans and, instead, he’s dead set on getting the fuck out of New Jersey. Especially since someone slashed his tires, rendering his car “a dud, stuck in the mud, somewhere in the swamps of Jersey.” Though we don’t know if he was successful in ever getting Rosalita out of her room, it sure is fun watching him try. (more…)

Top 5 Songs About New Jersey

February 2, 2010

Is this Jon Bon Jovi or a Jersey girl? I sure can't tell...

When I first decided to create this list of the top songs about the Armpit of America, I thought it would be pretty easy. However, as I began assembling the list, it became more difficult. There are plenty of songs that mention New Jersey, but I didn’t think that a mere shout-out was enough to put a song on this list. Instead, I wanted to include songs that represent the true spirit of living in this state. I could have included a couple Bruce Springsteen songs, but that would have been too easy. (Though you can look forward to a future Top 5 list of Bruce’s best songs about New Jersey.)

Anyway, I did manage to create a list. I’m sure there are plenty of songs I’ve overlooked. I’m sure people will disagree with the ones I did list. Agree or not, these are the songs I came up with:

1. “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi

Poor Jon Bon Jovi. As big as he and his conceitedly named band were, are, or will be, he’ll never grow out of his status as New Jersey’s second favorite son. But don’t feel too bad for him, his song goes first on my list! Though the lyrics don’t mention New Jersey by name, it is clear that his story about Tommy and Gina takes place right here. With references to the docks at Bayonne and the ubiquitous Jersey diner, the story can’t take place anywhere else.

Our protagonists might not have much, and it apparently doesn’t make a difference if they make it or not. However, they have each other, you see, and that’s a lot for love. So they decide to give it a shot. Though things may be rough for Tommy and Gina, they show the true grit and toughness New Jerseyans are known for. On top of that, this song is pretty much the unofficial anthem of New Jersey. You can’t go to any bar or club in the Garden State without hearing it. At least that’s one thing Bon Jovi can wave in Bruce’s face. (more…)

Book Review: Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike

November 11, 2009
turnpike

This book gets two armpits up!

Recently, I made a trip to my local Barnes and Noble. Like anyone crazy enough to start a blog about life in New Jersey should be, I was perusing the “local” section, which was full of books about the Armpit of America. Just out of curiosity, do all Barnes and Noble stores have a local section? I guess that means the local sections of stores in Oklahoma would only have two books, if that. Ha.

Back to the story. In between books about ghosts of New Jersey and dog parks in New Jersey and bird watching in New Jersey, there was one book that really stood out. And I mean it literally stood out. With bright yellow letters against a loud teal background, Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike was hard to miss. And with a name like that, inspired by the lyrics of the Simon and Garfunkel song “America,” I couldn’t pass it up.

The book was written by two Rutgers University professors: Angus Kress Gillespie and Michael Aaron Rockland. I actually had the former for a class back when I was in school. Anyway, the book talks about all aspects of the hellish highway. It starts with the Turnpike’s construction in 1950, at which point beautiful farmland and forests were cleared away and covered with asphalt and steel. The authors then walk us through stuff like the toll system, the accident rate, the rest stops, etc. And, of course, they touch on the corruption of the Turnpike’s management and its law enforcement. Basically, the book has all the information you could possible want to know about the Turnpike but never really cared enough to ask.

Since the book was written by two college professors, it can, appropriately enough, read like a text book at certain points. They definitely pack a lot of information into the 200 or so pages. Still, there are some really fascinating parts, like when they discuss the life of a toll collector. There are also plenty of random and interesting facts. For instance, did you know it is illegal to take pictures while you’re on the Turnpike? I also bet you didn’t know that this camera rule and all the other Turnpike policies are posted on small signs in front of each entrance ramp. And, yes, Gillespie and Rockland point out how ridiculous it is to have a sign loaded up with fine print that no one can actually read while driving by in their cars. Only in New Jersey.

The highlight of Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike, for me at least, is how the authors include references to the Turnpike from the pop culture realm. While the title is just one example, they cite no less than three Bruce Springsteen songs (which is to be expected from two Rutgers professors). The works of poet/dirty hippie Alan Ginsberg also make appearances, as do songs by people I’ve never heard of like Joseph Cosgriff and Dan Fogarty. Another part I love is when the authors describe how people, both in and outside New Jersey, view the Turnpike and the state itself. Indeed, it is clear from the book just how intertwined New Jersey and the New Jersey Turnpike really are.

Despite all the good things, I have to confess something. The book was published in 1989, making it 20 years old. Don’t let that scare you though. It is still a great, interesting read. If anything, it almost makes me want to learn more about the Turnpike. Like how many toll collectors’ jobs were cut once EZ Pass came into the picture? And how has the security of the road changed since September 11? Perhaps an updated version is in the works…

To sum it all up, Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike is essentially the bible of the Turnpike. Though it can be a little dry, and is somewhat outdated, the book is still entertaining and informative. Despite all the bad things that people say about the Turnpike, Gillespie and Rockland somehow manage to elicit some sympathy for the Armpit of America’s most hated road.

Bruce!

May 24, 2009

For my first real entry on a blog about life in New Jersey, what could be a more appropriate subject than Bruce Springsteen?  Especially since I had the privilege of seeing him and the E-Street Band perform at the Meadowlands last night.  Seeing New Jersey’s favorite son (sorry Bon Jovi) in New Jersey?  It doesn’t get better than that.

After the long trek through the Turnpike, we arrived at the Meadowlands Sports Complex.  The concert was at the Izod Center, formerly known as the Meadowlands Arena, Brendon Byrne Arena, and Continental Airlines Arena.  It is also the former home of the NJ Devils and the soon-to-be-former home of the Nets, who are moving to Brooklyn.  Tailgating was fun, sitting around drinking beers surrounded by the Izod, the old Giants Stadium, and the almost-completed new Giants Stadium.  There is also this huge building called “Xanadu,” which, when it opens, will be a mega shopping center complete with its own indoor ski slope.  As if we need another mall in New Jersey.  The building is rather hideous:  the exterior is just a bunch of different colored rectangles and three metal towers sticking out from the top.  I was told the building was made to resemble the turnpike, with the rectangles mimicking the stacks of shipping containers one sees on the side of the highway and the three towers replicating those found at the oil refineries.  Why anyone would want to pay tribute to that miserable road like this is beyond my comprehension.

Anyway, this entry is about Bruce.

So the show started with the  high-energy and crowd favorite, Badlands.  Bruce and the band looked and sounded great, but I soon noticed something was missing.  Patti Scialfa, Bruce’s wife and E-Street guitarist, wasn’t there.  But this odd-looking and untalented woman doesn’t really add much anyway, so no one seemed to care.  If the rumors are true, I’m sure Bruce didn’t mind much either that she wasn’t there.  To compensate for the tragic loss of Patti’s vocals, there were two backup singers, one of whom had an afro that would make Pam Grier jealous.  These singers were very talented and added a lot…maybe Bruce will kick Patti out and keep them?

A few songs in, they played Out in the Street.  Towards the end of the song, the members of the band each sang a line.  Beloved saxophonist Clarence Clemmons obviously got the biggest applause – the aptly nicknamed Big Man could pick his nose on stage and eat it and the crowd would go crazy.  Anyway, they played some more songs, including a fun cover of Good Lovin’.  Then it was time for Bruce’s ritual of taking requests, based on signs people hold up.  After collecting a bunch of signs and sorting them out on stage, he would pick one up, show it to the band, show it to the audience, and rock out.  The three songs were Cover Me, The E-Street Shuffle (which I was really hoping he would play), and the always-welcomed Thunder Road.  Later on, Bruce closed the set on a powerful note with The Rising and Born To Run.

After leaving the stage for 90 seconds at the most, the band came back for the encore.  The encore included American Land, which is a folksy, Irish jig-inspired song about immigrants coming to the US.  Perhaps the Mexican hat dance would be a more appropriate inspiration?  After this song, Bruce joked, “The Turnpike’s closed!  No one’s leaving yet!”  He then proceeded to play Glory Days and ended the show with a nice cover of Mony Mony.

Overall, it was an amazing show.  He played a bunch of his rarer songs but also enough hits to keep the most casual fan happy.  Additionally, he only played a couple songs off his new album, which kept everyone happy.  While I know not everyone likes Bruce, I’m sure even the harshest critic would at least respect that fact that Bruce and the band are all over the age of 50 and can still play the way they do.  Whether you love Bruce’s voice or think he sounds like a hoarse dog, he still has the same energy and passion that he did 30 years ago.  Also, unlike other musicians, they don’t rely on pyrotechnics, special effects, stupid video montages, or any other distractions.  With them, it’s just about the music.

Once again, it really is an amazing experience to see this New Jersey legend on his home turf.  Even more amazing is that it took place right off of the Turnpike, the most disgusting highway in the most disgusting state, and right next to a still-uncompleted mall designed to look like the Turnpike.  Despite all this, or perhaps because of it, the concert really showed what’s best about the Armpit of America.