Springsteen – 10 of the Best, Part 2

I very much enjoyed the chance to contribute to the Guardian’s ongoing “10 of the Best” series on the subject of Mr. Bruce Springsteen. I thought it would be interesting to talk about the songs that didn’t make the cut and why (and more on some that did).

The parameters of the assignment were very specifically to go for deep cuts, no hit singles, nothing with ‘born’ in the title, and to not try to be definitive, but rather be personal. The tracks also had to be available on UK Spotify, which means that no I could not put up “Sugarland” or anything similar and had to accept the synth-heavy “Seeds” from 75/85, and why there is a heavy prevalence of “Tracks” material. (When you have a commercially available 66-song outtake retrospective that covers a massive portion of an artist’s career, the chances are good that those songs are going to dominate a ‘deep cuts’ list.)

It was harder to pick the songs than it was to write the piece. I understood the ‘be personal’ directive but I personally needed the list to get nodding assent from someone who views Springsteen the same way I do (from a more historical, critical perspective) but yet not be so obscure that the average fan would read it and not find it at all interesting or worth checking out. Given that I live with someone who is the former, it was an easy test; he agreed with half, and still thinks I’m wrong about “Thundercrack” (but understands why I felt it needed to be there) so I felt like I’d done a decent job.

You are still not going to agree with me, and that’s okay.

1) THE PROMISE: It was between “The Wish” and “The Promise” and I went with the first one because I feel like everyone knows about the latter; it already has its place in history. “The Wish” you’re only going to experience if you’re in Jersey or Adele is in attendance and like I said in the piece, I see “The Wish” as the counterpart to “The Promise.” Cut out of the paragraph about “The Wish” is how Bruce often introduces it by mentioning how singing about your mother is a tricky thing for someone in rock and roll, and that it’s easier for someone in country or rap to get away with it, often referencing Tupac’s “African Queen” as an example of the latter.

2) SEASIDE BAR SONG: I felt like I couldn’t have both “Seaside Bar Song” and “So Young And In Love” on the same list, no matter how much I love the track, and gave the edge to “So Young” despite the Bo Diddley mention in “Seaside.”

3) HELD UP WITHOUT A GUN: Putting this song on that list would be like bringing a sign to a show for “I’m A Rocker” more than once.

4) NONE BUT THE BRAVE: I really love the song and championed it a lot at the time it came out but couldn’t make a case for it to replace any of the 10 I already had.

5) JANIE DON’T YOU LOSE HEART: I was seriously obsessed with this song once upon a time but see #4, I couldn’t take out anything I already had on the list. Plus it really isn’t that obscure in my mind, despite the fact that I know that half the arena would take it as their cue to go get beer if it showed up in a setlist.

6) LOOSE ENDS / RESTLESS NIGHTS: I originally felt that I kind of had to have one or the other on a list like this and ultimately went with “Loose Ends” as it’s my personal preference, but ultimately decided that as much as I am a proud member of the Disc Two Of Tracks Fan Club and love when they show up in the live set, I couldn’t make a strong enough case for it to replace anything else on the list.

7) MY LOVE WILL NOT LET YOU DOWN: I kept fighting the inclusion of this one because a song that leads off “Live In New York City” did not exactly meet my definition of ‘deep cut’ but kept it on the list because I think it’s such an important song to the band especially right now. (And does that out of rhythm tambourine at the beginning of the track bug anyone else as much as it bugs me?)

8) LIGHT OF DAY: There is actually no argument I can make about the exclusion of “Light of Day” except that there was no way I was going to subject an innocent public to that 16 minute version of it from “Plugged” which is the only one commercially available.

9) ANYTHING FROM THE PROMISE: I tried, I really, really did, but “One Way Street” is not my jam despite the beauty of the horns and “City Of Night” did not hold up. “It’s A Shame” was a strong contender for a while but I just did not think it had the staying power or interest. I was not going to insult people by putting “Talk To Me” on there. I have a really mixed relationship with those songs.

10) FRANKIE: It was this one or “Thundercrack.” Couldn’t have both.

10a) TROUBLE RIVER: I love love love that ‘woo!’ (h/t Almost Famous) but picked Seven Angels instead. Those songs get a bad rap. I think it helps that I lived abroad during those years so I picked up less negativity about the post-E Street projects.

IN DEFENSE OF THUNDERCRACK: I bought my first bootleg (back when we bought them in the Village on vinyl and paid several weeks of babysitting money) so I could hear “Thundercrack.” I can’t tell you how I even knew about it, I must have read an article or a review somewhere that talked about it. Somewhere along the line that record disappeared and I never replaced it. I remember the day that “Tracks” arrived in the mail and it was the first song I listened to, out of those 66 songs, that was the first one. I think its place as Rosie’s predecesor is important and I truly feel that it is a slice of the Jersey Shore, and the fact that it just falls flat on its face when its played anywhere outside of the core market makes it that much more special. No, it’s not a rock and roll guitar screeching testosterone and teenage angst filled screamer, but it’s fun and silly and joyous and I have always cherished the good time rock and roll attitude that is part of Bruce’s general ethos.

SINCE SOMEONE ASKED: I have seen all of the songs in the Guardian list but one (“Seven Angels”).