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the springsteen symposium

Posted on 14 September 2005 by Caryn Rose (4)

I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t post about the symposium, given that I went into it with a fairly dubious attitude, despite my own participation in it.

You know what? I was more than pleasantly surprised. There were an awful lot of incredibly intelligent, articulate individuals who spent a lot of time and energy on their papers. I didn’t always agree with everything that was said, but there was a great deal of food for thought presented, most of the time. Additionally, there were also people in the audience that I would also apply that description to.


My favorite sessions were Politics and Springsteen, specificaly “Citizen Comrade Bruce: Power and Uses of the Erotic in Springsteen” by Marsha Nell Smith, and another paper on Bruce, Walt Whitman, and the 2004 Presidential election. Regretably, I came down with a virus on Thursday and had to spend more time sleeping and at the doctor than at the conference in the end, so I missed things I would have dearly loved to have attended, like Don McLeese’s panel on the MC5 and Bruce (“Produced by Jon Landau” – AUGH! That hurt to miss.)

I have to toot my own horn for my panel, “Springsteen and Musicology,” which was moderated by Dave Marsh (at his request). I thought that Charles Hughes’ paper on “Rebuilding the Wall of Sound: Bruce Springsteen and Early 1960s American Music” kicked my paper’s butt (“Action In The Streets: Bruce Springsteen and Punk Rock”). I was more than a little irked that more than a few people came up to me to say, “I’m so sorry I missed your paper, I had to go buy tickets.” But as a result of my presentation, I did, however, get to learn with absolute certainty that Bruce never got to see the Clash. Which makes me sad, but I guess I’m glad I know for sure. Reviews on the street were that I kicked ass, and I know I worked my ass off on my presentation, but I am so not objective.

On the less-than-positive side: the days started too early (especially since there were group gatherings at the Stone Pony that went on until 2am) and I think there were too many breakout sessions; the quality did decline on some, from what I heard. Some people are intelligent folks but bad presenters; other papers had no business being presented whatsoever. There were some people there who treated the weekend as a fan convention, but those were way in the minority. If you like talking about Springsteen and thinking about Springsteen in an engaged fashion, and enjoy intelligent discourse, this was the place for you.

And, of course, the special treat, the unexpected: the sneak preview of the upcoming Born To Run 30th Anniversary DVD: the remastering and release of the legendary 11/18/75 Hammersmith Odeon show. Given that I’d spent so much time thinking about those shows myself as part of my presentation, since they were a turning point for Joe Strummer, it was kind of serendipitous. This is NOT Live In New York City, this has been done with painstaking care and attention to detail, and no matter how much you have seen of these shows (i.e., the bootleg black and white footage), this is going to blow your ever lovin’ mind.

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4 Responses to “the springsteen symposium”

  1. Stan says:

    Great report Caryn
    Charles Hughes’ paper and talk was great, but in no way did it kick your paper’s butt.
    You should be very proud of your paper and presentation. I know myself and others very much enjoyed it.
    Your points about Bruce fans being narrow-minded and seeing them up front at Jesse Malin shows now was right on the money.
    I think if would have been nice if you or Charles were able to present Rick Clemons’ paper on Revisiting Human Touch and Lucky Town.
    I think he had a lot to say but he was not a good public speaker and made it a boring presentation.
    Stan

  2. RLV says:

    Congrats! I’d still love to read your paper, since coming to see your presentation wasn’t possible.

  3. Erin says:

    I was at the conference, and I think that had Dave Marsh been willing to discuss the 1992-93 Tour, rather than make rude comments, a true discussion could have taken place. People disagree, and can learn from one another. But he enjoys a certain status, and apparently believes he can treat others poorly as a result. There is more than one reason that the 1992 tour didn’t sell out in Cleveland; midwestern cities didn’t all sell out for The Rising Tour, either.

  4. caryn says:

    Yes, but making statements like “It didn’t fit” isn’t a discussion either; it’s an unilateral statement that’s based on emotion and personal perspective and not on fact. No factual statements were made beyond that. IMHO, Dave was right to point out that what didn’t fit is the individual’s own personal view of who Bruce Springsteen is TO THEM. Obviously, it fit Bruce just fine or he wouldn’t have made the records or gone on the road. The conference was not a Springsteen BBS where you post whatever you want and everyone follows up with “I agree 100%.”

    Not sure why you are airing your issues with Dave Marsh here instead of with him or with the conference organizers. Both are easily reachable. Keep my blog out of it please.