Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Springsteen’

‘I Want All The Time . . .’

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

I write a fair amount about Bruce Springsteen, I know. And even when I don’t write about him, I often mention him in reference to something I’m writing, or I post some of his music when it fits something I write about. (And of course I ponder his work as I listen to the iPod or the RealPlayer.) As it happens, it’s actually been almost a year since I posted any of his music, but anyway, I’ve posted more of his music than I have anyone else’s in the nearly twelve years I’ve been throwing stuff at the wall here.

And I’ve often wondered as I’ve written about Springsteen which of his hundreds of songs he considered his best. I found the answer last evening near the end of a long piece Michael Hainey wrote for Eqsuire. Hainey writes:

I tell him I’m thinking about “Born to Run,” which contains four words in one line that are the sum of him: sadness, love, madness, and soul. “Together, Wendy, we can live with the sadness / I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul.”

And Springsteen responds:

“Those are my lines. ‘Born to Run.’ That’s my epitaph, if you wanna know my epitaph. There it is. It still is, probably—I use the song at the end of the show every night as a summary. The idea is that it can contain all that has come before. And I believe that it does.”

Hainey: Sadness, love, madness, soul. I tell him: Those are your four elements.

Springsteen: “The last verse of my greatest song. And that’s where it ought to end every night.” Springsteen pauses. “Twenty-four when I wrote it. Wow. It’s a . . . holds up pretty well. But I . . . that was what I was aiming for in those days—that’s what I was shooting for.”

Who am I to contradict the creator? But I wonder this morning if “Born to Run” is in fact Springsteen’s greatest. His most anthemic, yes. The one that made him a star, yes. Maybe even the one that told us out here most clearly who he was in those uncertain years before 1975.

But his greatest?

If you asked a hundred Springsteen fans . . . well, I don’t think you’d get a hundred different answers, but I think you’d get at least twenty. And I think that those twenty would reflect more than anything how each listener’s life was going at the time he or she first heard the Springsteen song each of them judges the greatest. And the choices might also reflect the times all of those fans really listened to Springsteen’s work for the first time.

It’s that way for me. As I’ve said here before, I resisted digging into Springsteen’s work for a long time, finally deciding to start with Tunnel of Love when it came out while I was living in Minot, North Dakota, in early 1988 and when, not coincidentally, I was inside a relationship that I could see transforming in a way that I adamantly did not want. So when I found among the songs on Tunnel of Love a song about a lasting pairing that also had a clever lyric . . . Well, as have millions before and since, I heard my story – or at least the story I wanted to have – in one of Bruce’s songs:

I got a dollar in my pocket
There ain’t a cloud up above
I got a picture in a locket
That says baby I love you
Well if you didn’t look then boys
Then fellas don’t go lookin’ now
Well here she comes a-walkin’
All that heaven will allow

Say hey there mister bouncer
Now all I want to do is dance
But I swear I left my wallet
Back home in my workin’ pants
C’mon Slim slip me in man
I’ll make it up to you somehow
I can’t be late I got a date
With all that heaven will allow

Rain and storm and dark skies
Well now they don’t mean a thing
If you got a girl that loves you
And who wants to wear your ring
So c’mon mister trouble
We’ll make it through you somehow
We’ll fill this house with all the love
All that heaven will allow

Now some may want to die young man
Young and gloriously
Get it straight now mister
Hey buddy that ain’t me
’Cause I got something on my mind
That sets me straight and walkin’ proud
And I want all the time
All that heaven will allow

So what’s the difference between the greatest something and the most important something? I don’t know, right off-hand. Maybe there is none. Springsteen says his greatest is “Born to Run,” and I acknowledge that I still get a thrill from his anthems, from “Badlands” and “The Promised Land” and “Thunder Road” and especially “Born to Run.” And I do appreciate that subtext in “Born to Run” that he mentions in the interview. (And other subtexts besides.)

But the tale of “All That Heaven Will Allow” (minus, of course, the working class details; I have never had to work with my hands for a living) mirrored what I was hoping to have the first time I heard it. That matters to me (and I think it would matter to Springsteen, too, for if the main purpose of art is to create what one needs to create, then I think the next most important purpose of art is to be relevant to one’s audience).

But what do I know? Well, I do know that it took years of listening to “All That Heaven Will Allow” for me to find the place where the song’s narrator lives. And I also know that “All That Heaven Will Allow” is to me the most important of all of Springsteen’s songs.

Saturday Single No. 571

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

My thoughts are jumbled this morning, as they have been for much of this year. In many ways, it’s been a hard year. Mom’s death in June hit me hard, harder than had Dad’s in 2003. And though the work of settling Mom’s estate wasn’t really difficult in itself, it was a constant reminder for these past seven months that she was gone. (And we’re not quite done yet; there is a bank account to close and boxes and boxes of her memorabilia to sort through.)

And all of that – Mom’s death and the ensuing tasks – has reminded me nearly every day that I am getting no younger, and there are things I should get done. One of those things is to winnow out the boxes of stuff that I’ve hauled along with me over the last thirty to forty years. I’ve been doing some of that in the last few months, and I’ll do more of it, now that we’re planning on moving to the North Side.

Another of those things I should do – and yes, it sounds a little macabre – is to write my obituary. I don’t think there will be a need for it very soon, but one never knows, and I would like to make certain that some things about my life are mentioned when the time comes. Mom wrote hers, and that was immensely helpful. Dad hadn’t done so, and while I’ve written hundreds of obituaries over the years, it wasn’t easy deciding what he would have wanted included. I erred on the side of inclusion, which made it longer than the average obituary. (No surprise here; I write everything long.)

A third thing that needed doing is done. Over the past few years the Texas Gal and I have pondered where we will spend our retirement years. She’s got a few years yet before that comes along, and we’ve talked about a number of places that we either like or that intrigue us: Marquette, Michigan, Columbia, Missouri, and Clarksdale, Mississippi, were among those mentioned, more as daydreams than as any real option. But this week’s decision to purchase the North Side condo pretty well anchors us. Our intent is to stay in St. Cloud.

But all of those thoughts and events have left me unfocused for most of this year, and even with those good things that did happen this year – and there were many of them, however overshadowed they might have been – this is a year whose ending I will not regret.

So, in this last post of 2017, I offer a wish for all of us – those of us here on the East Side, whether human, furry or imaginary (Odd and Pop come to mind), those who stop by this place, and those whose handshakes and embraces I know in the non-digital world of flesh and blood: May 2018 be the best year of all our lives.

And we’ll close the year at this place with some Bruce Springsteen: the title track to his 2014 album High Hopes. Yeah, he sings “Don’t you know these days you pay for everything?” But he also tells us “I got high hopes,” and that’s more than enough to make it the year’s final Saturday Single.

Time Out

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

One of the wisest things anyone ever said to me was “If you don’t take care of yourself first, you can’t take care of anything or anyone else.”

So I took this week for me. I’ve been sleeping late, reading a bit more than usual, enjoying the World Series and generally recharging my batteries. I’ve had a few errands to run and regular things to do around the house, but otherwise, it’s been a pleasantly light week.

One of the books I’ve been reading is Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen’s recently published autobiography. It’s well written, and Springsteen is sometimes surprisingly frank about his shortcomings as well as his successes. Maybe I’ll pull it apart a bit more cogently than that for a post here when I’d finished with it.

In the meantime, I’ve gotten to the point of the book when, in the period of 1979 and 1980, Bruce and the E Street Band are recording track after track for the album The River. Bruce notes that a lot of good stuff was left behind. Some of that stuff that was left behind came out not quite a year ago on the set The Ties That Bind: The River Collection. I dug into those outtakes again this week, and here’s one I’m liking a lot: “The Time That Never Was.”

See you Saturday!

Random In The ’80s

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

Simply because we don’t visit the decade very often around here, we’re going to make a four-stop trip through the 1980s this morning. When I sort for the decade, the RealPlayer offers us somewhere around 6,200 tracks. (I have to estimate because of things like catalog numbers – Buddy Holly’s “Rave On,” Coral 61985, for example – and releases from box sets and other re-releases that note a date in the 1980s for things recorded earlier.) So here we go:

First up is Wynton Marsalis with “Soon All Will Know” from his 1987 album Marsalis Standard Time, Vol. 1. Modern jazz is not a territory I know well or travel in confidently, but a while back – after Marsalis and Eric Clapton recorded a live blues album – I grabbed some Marsalis CDs from the library and dropped them into our mix here, figuring I might learn something. I’m not sure I have so far, but I keep letting the tracks fall here and there as I roll on random. After seeming to wander around for a while, “Soon All Will Know” grabs a decent groove and offers a nice intro to today’s wanderings.

Steve Forbert’s music has been for years on the margins of my interest. Folks might recall that his 1979 single “Romeo’s Tune” showed up in my Ultimate Jukebox six years ago, but that was more a consequence of its getting radio play at a time when I wasn’t hearing much I liked on the radio. This morning, we land on “Laughter Lou (Who Needs You)” from Forbert’s 1980 album Little Stevie Orbit, a work whose tracks pop up on occasion but on which I’ve not focused much attention. The album went to No. 70 on the Billboard 200, clearly following on the success of 1979’s Jackrabbit Slim, which hit No. 20. But there was no interest in any singles from the album, even though Nemperor released “Song For Katrina” as a promo. As to “Laughter Lou (Who Needs You),” the lyrics have some nice putdowns for poor Lou and the music drives along quite nicely. I probably wouldn’t have changed the station if it had come on the radio back in 1980, but I don’t know that I would have anxiously waited to hear it again.

We move on to “Crazy Feeling” a track from The “West Side” Sound Rolls Again, a 1983 album by Doug Sahm and Augie Meyers, the guys who years earlier were the heart of the Sir Douglas Quintet and its hit, “She’s About A Mover.” Sahm has shown up in this space a number of times over the years (as has Meyers, though almost always unmentioned while Sahm’s music played), and “Crazy Feeling” is a remake of a 1961 Sahm single that hews very, very close to the original; the major difference seems to be that the 1961 version doubled up on the crazy and was titled “Crazy, Crazy Feeling.” As to the album, there’s not a lot out on the Interwebs about it (and I’m not at all sure how it came to be in the digital stacks), but I do note this morning that a copy of the LP is going for $219 at Amazon. (That’s the asking price, of course; how much it actually sells for could be an entirely different matter.)

Anyone trying to keep track of the various unreleased works by Bruce Springsteen that end up bootlegged in the corners of the ’Net would have an impossible task. I don’t try to keep track; I just listen to the boots when they show up and keep some of them (well, most of them). One of the tracks that I’ve come across that way is “Sugarland,” which showed up on a board somewhere as part of a collection called Unsatisfied Heart, a group of outakes from the Born In The U.S.A. sessions in 1983 and 1984. According to Setlist.fm, Springsteen has performed the song live twice, two days apart in Ames, Iowa, and Lincoln, Nebraska in November 1984. It’s a plaint about the prospects of a farmer (and that makes sense of the locales of its performances):

Grain’s in the field covered with tarp
Can’t get a price to see my way clear
I’m sitting down at the Sugarland bar
Might as well bury my body right here

Tractors and combines out in the cold
Sheds piled high with the wheat we ain’t sold
Silos filled with last year’s crop
If something don’t break, hey, we’re all gonna drop

Saturday Single No. 440

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

For all of the music I’ve bought or been given over the past fifty years, it’s astounding to note this morning that only two LPs and one CD have come my way on any March 28. Those three albums are:

Valotte by Julian Lennon, acquired March 28, 1997;
Aretha Live At Fillmore West, acquired March 28, 1998; and
Texas Worried Blues by Henry Thomas, acquired March 28, 2003.

It’s entirely possible that some of the LPs I acquired before 1974, when I began recording the specific date of acquisition instead of just the month, might have come my way on March 28. But those LPs account for – at a quick estimate – only about 1.1 percent of the LPs & CDs that make their home here in the EITW studios. So those LPs – as much as I love some of them (and I do) – are statistically insignificant.

So what else can we find out about March 28 over the years in the reference books and files here? Well, Billboard has issued charts several times on March 28 in the years that normally interest us here:

In 1956, the No. 1 record on the pop chart on March 28 was “The Poor People of Paris” by Les Baxter. In 1964, the No. 1 record was “She Loves You” by the Beatles. In 1970, the No. 1 record was “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfukel. And in 1981, “Rapture” by Blondie topped the charts on March 28.

What about No. 1 albums on March 28 in those various years? In 1956, the top album as March drew to a close was Belafonte by Harry Belafonte. In 1964, it was Meet The Beatles! In 1970, the top album on March 28 was Bridge Over Troubled Water. And in 1981, the No. 1 album on March 28 was Hi Infidelity by REO Speedwagon.

Well, nothing’s really exciting me this morning. The albums and tracks from Aretha and the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel (and even Blondie) are fine stuff. At the right moments, I like the Les Baxter and the Belafonte, and Henry Thomas’ vintage songster tunes have their place, too. (The less I think about REO Speedwagon, however, the better I feel.) But as we look for a track for the morning – and that’s what this is always about here on Saturday, even though I did not say so at the top – none of that grabs me.

So, let’s look at the slender list of tracks that we know were recorded on March 28:

Prince Albert Hunt’s Texas Ramblers recorded “Blues In A Bottle” on this date in 1928 in San Antonio, Texas. In 1939, March 28 was the date that Hal Kemp & His Orchestra, with vocals by the Smoothies, recorded “Three Little Fishies (Itty Bitty Pool).” Robert Petway laid down “Catfish Blues” in a Chicago studio on March 28, 1941. Six years later, Chicago was also the site for John Lee Williamson – the first Sonny Boy – when he recorded “Mellow Chick Swing” and “Polly Put The Kettle On.” Bluesmen Sammy Lewis and Willie Johnson were in the Sun Studios in Memphis on March 28, 1955, when they recorded “So Long Baby, Goodbye” and “Feel So Worried.” And in Nashville in 1979, Johnny Cash worked on his version of “Ghost Riders In The Sky.”

And finally, in Detroit on March 28, 1988, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band recorded a live performance of “Be True” that wound up on the four-track EP Chimes Of Freedom released in 1988 to support Amnesty International.

I’m tempted by the silliness of “Three Little Fishies,” which I used to have on a kiddie 78 when I was about four years old, but, then, I hadn’t listened to the live version of “Be True” for a while. It’s pretty damned good, and since I’m almost always in a Springsteen mood here, that live version of “Be True” from 1988 is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 400

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

Years ago, when I moved to Columbia, Missouri, for graduate school, the Other Half stayed behind in Monticello. I was unconcerned; the plan was that I would get my master’s degree, move back to Monticello and find a college teaching job nearby. (St. Cloud State was Plan A, with the various small colleges and community colleges in the Twin Cities being a collective Plan B.) We figured two years apart would do no damage.

We settled our mobile home into its new slot in Walnut Hills Park in Columbia, and the Other Half went back to Monti and her new digs. And about six weeks later, I stood at my kitchen sink, washing dishes and looking out at the Missouri autumn, and I thought, “You know, I kind of like living alone.”

I stopped washing the bowl I had in my hand and pondered the implications of the thought. At the time, counting the dating years, the Other Half and I had been together for nearly eight years, married for five of them. I’d not thought myself dissatisfied. But then, I’d never thought much at all about how the two of us meshed or didn’t. So I pushed that single disconcerting thought away, rinsed the bowl, went on with my studies and – after eighteen months in Missouri – went home to Minnesota.

About two years later, that union collapsed under the weight of concerns unspoken and needs unmet. Who was to blame? Both of us, if that truly matters nearly thirty years later.

Two days ago, the Texas Gal headed to her home state for a weekend visit, the first time she’s seen her mother and her sister in seven years. She left on my desk a list of gardening concerns for my attention, but otherwise, it’s just me making my way through the days with the cats, who seem a bit confused by her absence. I’ve spent some time writing and puttering with mp3s. I’ve whittled away at the pile of magazines that’s built up in the past few months as I’ve focused on a few books. I’ve watered the gardens both evenings and taken care of a couple of the concerns on her list, cutting the vines that had begun to climb the fence around the compost pile and cutting away the newly sprouted basswood saplings next to the hostas. And I’ve done all that very aware of an empty space.

My mom and I went to lunch yesterday, stepping up a couple of notches and going to Red Lobster, as the Ace was closed for Independence Day. And yesterday evening, after making myself a dinner of cooked ring bologna, garlic and parmesan mashed potatoes and a Grain Belt Nordeast, I stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes and looking out at our Minnesota summer, and I thought, “I don’t like living alone, even for a few days.”

In a short time, I’ll head outside and try to weed the final two rows of onions before the day’s heat becomes uncomfortable. On my way through today and tomorrow, I’ll give extra attention to the cats (and especially to Little Gus, who on his least secure days is needier than a puppy), and I’ll water the gardens this evening and tomorrow evening. And I’ll do all this knowing that sometime late tomorrow, the Texas Gal will step out of a shuttle bus at a local hotel and get into our Nissan with me. And that empty space will be filled again, as it has been for more than fourteen years.

I don’t know that I needed a reminder, but I’ve learned again over the past two days that my life is better when she’s around, and I think she’d agree that hers is better when I’m around. And here’s a record that’s entirely appropriate: “Happy” by Bruce Springsteen. It was recorded in 1992 and included in the 1998 box set Tracks, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 385

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

There are many curiosities that have taken up residence in my digital music files, a fact that delights Odd, my imaginary tunehead assistant who loves things unconventional, edgy and just plain weird. (His tunehead brother Pop, on the other hand, likes a more orderly musical universe, one in which a record makes the charts or, at worst, sounds like it could have.)

One series of CDs that Odd finds pleasing is the Pickin’ On . . . albums. As Tim Sendra of All Music Guide says, the idea is simple: “Get together some hot bluegrass pickers and let them loose on an album’s worth of songs by a huge rock band or artist.” A good share of the fun, Sendra says, comes from “hearing familiar AOR staples being deconstructed and rebuilt bluegrass style.”

Somehow, over the past few years, I’ve accumulated nine of the albums, featuring the songs of Creedence Clearwater Revival; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Neil Young; Pink Floyd; Bruce Springsteen; the Allman Brothers Band; the Doobie Brothers; the Eagles; and the Grateful Dead. At AMG, the discography of the Pickin’ On . . . series starts with the first of two albums of music of the Dead, released in 1997, and ends more than a hundred albums later – having expanded far beyond the limitations of rock – with a 2007 album of tunes from Cowboy Troy. In between, in addition to the artists that are covered in my collection, the pickers visit the music of Garth Brooks, Santana, Aerosmith, Sheryl Crow, Creed, Merle Haggard, U2, Brad Paisley, Rod Stewart and many, many more.

In his commentary at AMG, Sendra notes, “Bluegrass purists no doubt find this concept to be a sellout of the worst kind, but more easygoing fans of the style and fans of weird concepts in general will find much to enjoy.”

The phrase “weird concepts in general . . .” makes Odd grin here in the EITW studios.

Sendra also notes, “It must have been a daunting task to arrange Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” It sounds like it, but I like the result. So, of course does Odd. (Pop will get over it.)

So here, from the 1999 album Pickin’ on Springsteen, is bluegrass “Born to Run,” today’s Saturday Single.

The Boss Covers The Bee Gees

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Back in 1989, when writer Dave Marsh published The Heart of Rock & Soul, a listing of the 1,001 “greatest singles ever made,” he placed the Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive” at No. 746, and he referenced a conversation he’d had with Roger Daltrey of the Who in 1978, when the Bee Gees were dominating the charts, led by “Stayin’ Alive.”

Daltrey, Marsh wrote, was “moaning about how much punk ripped off his band’s early records and his own dislike of disco. Particularly the latter.”

And then Marsh quoted Daltrey on ‘Stayin’ Alive”: “Look at great huge Maurice Gibb*, singing like Donald Duck . . . And that’s a great song. Bruce Springsteen could sing that lyric.”

This week in Brisbane, Australia, Springsteen did just that to open the last show of his current tour Down Under. At the Rolling Stone website, Jon Blistine describes “Springsteen strumming a simple acoustic progression alongside a crisp trumpet solo before delivering the track’s familiar first line in his classic, gruff bellow that’s still just as sharp as Barry Gibb’s falsetto.”

And then: “The E Street Band slides into bustling disco boogie, complete with soaring back-up singers, a striking string section and a revolving door of solos from the horn section. Tom Morello even shows off on the fretboard with some of the most blistering, head-spinning guitar work ever heard on a Bee Gees track.”

Here’s a crowd-shot video of the performance. (Check out the professional camera to the right of the string section: A harbinger of a concert DVD?)

*Daltrey misidentified the lead singer on “Stayin’ Alive.” It was, as Blistine notes, Barry Gibb.

Video upgraded April 6, 2018.

‘Now I Don’t Know How I Feel . . .’

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

I can’t write today, not after learning late last night that one of my oldest friends in this lifetime is undergoing life-altering surgery today. I might be able to say more tomorrow, but all I can do today is remember cherished times, reflect on how fragile all of us are, and tell him here and via thoughts through the ether that I’ll see him on the other side of his trials.

Here’s Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band with “Blood Brothers” from 1995.

‘Seven’

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

And the March of the Integers goes on, this morning reaching “Seven.”

Having looked ahead, as all good tour guides do, I see that the march is likely to end after “Ten.” Titles with numbers in them are pretty slender from “Eleven” through “Fifteen.” “Sixteen” would work (I’ll bet readers can think of six songs with “sixteen” in their titles in less than sixteen seconds), but the flow ebbs to a trickle after that.

This morning’s search through the RealPlayer for “seven,” however, turns up more than two hundred records. That total is trimmed a fair amount when we take into account the Allman Brothers Band’s 1990 album Seven Turns, French singer Françoise Hardy’s 1970 album One Nine Seven Zero, Etta James’ 1988 album Seven Year Itch, Bettye LaVette’s 1973 release Child Of The Seventies and a few other albums. We also have to ignore the two songs recorded in March 1930 in Atlanta, Georgia, by A. A. Gray & Seven-Foot Dilly and everything listed by the John Barry Seven, Louis Armstrong & His Hot Seven, the Society of Seven, Sunlights’ Seven and numerous titles with the words “seventh” and “seventeen” in their titles. (No Willie Mabon, Johnny Rivers or Janis Ian today.) Still, we have enough to play with.

And we start with a Fleetwood Mac record from 1987. “Seven Wonders” was the second single released from the group’s 1987 album, Tango In The Night. It went to No. 19, which was not as high as the two singles from the album that bracket it in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles: “Big Love” went to No. 5, and “Little Lies” went to No. 4. Because of that bracketing and because of the massive overall success of that era’s Fleetwood Mac on both the singles and album charts, I think “Seven Wonders” has been a little obscured. I suppose that for some folks, a little of Stevie Nicks’ mysticism can be more than enough, and “Seven Wonders” does follow that path lyrically as well as in Nicks’ vocal delivery. That’s no problem for me, though.

We’ll stay in 1987 for a bit yet, as that was the year that Terence Trent D’Arby released Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent d’Arby, an album on which the precocious D’Arby – as noted by Rob Bowman of All-Music Guide – “wrote virtually every note, played a multitude of instruments, and claimed that this was the most important album since the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper.” Now, it’s not that good, though it did spin off a couple of Top Five hits: “Wishing Well” went to No. 1 on both the pop and R&B charts, and “Sign Your Name” went to No. 4 pop and No. 2 R&B. Given our focus this morning, “Seven More Days” is our landing spot. It’s an atmospheric track with intelligent lyrics and a good vocal.

When one seeks out songs using the word “seven,” then Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road” becomes one of the obvious choices. First released on Young’s 1969 album Rock, Salt & Nails, the song was covered memorably by the Eagles, as well as by groups and performers ranging from Mother Earth and Ian Mathews to Rita Coolidge and Dolly Parton. The song’s genesis is interesting, and in 2007 the now-dormant blog pole hill sanatarium presented Young’s comments on the song, as found at a website that evidently no longer exists:

I lived in Montgomery, Alabama, in the early ’60s and had a group of friends there that showed me the road. It led out of town, and after you had crossed seven bridges you found yourself out in the country on a dirt road. Spanish moss hung in the trees and there were old farms with old fences and graveyards and churches and streams. A high bank dirt road with trees. It seemed like a Disney fantasy at times. People went there to park or get stoned or just to get away from it all. I thought my friends had made up the name “Seven Bridges Road.” I found out later that it had been called by that name for over a hundred years, that people had been struck by the beauty of the road for a long time.

The Bee Gees’ 1969 album Odessa has popped up in this space before, at least once as an album and once as a source for a tune in my Ultimate Jukebox. Sprawling and at times beautiful, Odessa remains a favorite, one that I don’t pull out of the CD shelves and listen to in its entirety nearly often enough. Among its seventeen tracks are three instrumentals, two of which don’t seem to work all that well, as if the Bee Gees’ ambitions were larger than their abilities in 1969 (and if that were the case, well, the Bee Gees weren’t the only performers in that time – or any time – to fall into that category). The instrumental that works for me, however, is “Seven Seas Symphony” with its gentle and lightly accompanied piano figure leading into full-blown orchestration and back to (mostly) piano again and then again.

And we jump to 1990 and the sessions that took place after Bruce Springsteen famously fired the E Street Band. Recorded in Los Angeles during the sessions that resulted in the lightly regarded 1992 albums Human Touch and Lucky Town, “Seven Angels” has Springsteen handling guitars and bass as well as vocals. The only other musicians listed in the credits – “Seven Angels” is found on the 1998 box set Tracks – are Shawn Pelton on drums and E Streeter Roy Bittan on keyboards. Even taking into consideration Springsteen’s propensity for recording tracks and then stashing them in the vault because they don’t fit the vision he has for an album, one wonders how a track as good as “Seven Angels” was passed over for some of the stuff that was used on those two 1992 albums.

For those who were television watchers during the 1960s, Elmer Bernstein’s main theme for the 1960 film The Magnificent Seven does not raise visions of a Western (in both senses of the word) version of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic The Seven Samurai. Rather, we see the Marlboro Man, rugged in his sheepskin coat and cowboy hat, as he herds cattle and rides the mountain ridge before pausing to light up a Marlboro. Sometimes I think that all we need to know about American advertising culture – the joys of Mad Men notwithstanding – is that Bernstein’s sweeping and heroic theme became identified with Marlboro cigarettes and that Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture was better known to kids of my age as the Puffed Wheat song. I could, of course, cite many more uses of classical pieces, orchestral movie themes and popular songs for advertising, but I’d rather just sigh and listen to Bernstein’s majestic theme and try to remember John Sturges’ tale of heroism, loyalty and sacrifice.