the springsteen symposium
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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