Bruce Springsteen Henry Edwards - Essay

Henry Edwards

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

A good part of Springsteen's appeal stems from the words he sings. In his most recent engagements, he has commenced his shows with "Thunder Road," one of many Springsteen variations of those familiar rock'n' roll anthems of adolescence like the Animals' mid-1960's classic, "We Gotta Get Outta This Place"…. Such songs conjure one of rock'n' roll's most sentimentalized, romanticized and still-popular stereotypes: the outlaw-teen. The kid is lonely, lost, and desperate, and his only release is to toss a girl into a car and zoom down a highway to nowhere. As neatly structured as they are cliched, these anthems are nevertheless often lots of fun. Springsteen's "Thunder Road," however, is notable chiefly for its repetitiousness. (pp. 1, 17)

The "kid-as-loser" is the familiar theme of "Born to Run."…

Teens-in-perpetual motion are also on the move in Springsteen's equally wordy "Backstreets."…

If Springsteen is tireless in his evocation of the rock rebel, he occasionally seeks to leaven matters with symbolism. But unfortunately the result is only a glossy species of fake poetry. In his "Jungleland," for example, the adolescent punk becomes "Magic Rat" and the city is "Jungleland."…

For all its faults, however, Springsteen's "Born to Run" album can grow on a listener. Indeed, what is likeable although ultimately disappointing about it is the fact that the knowledgeable listener soon discovers Springsteen as a collagist who does not form his collage into something fresh. He simply pastes together bits and pieces; and many of the bits thus embalmed are copies of some of rock 'n' roll's finest moments….

[His raw dynamics in a live performance], for all the fun they may provide, simply cannot disguise the fact that for the most part Springsteen's lyrics are an effusive jumble, his melodies either second-hand or undistinguished and his performance tedious. (p. 17)

Henry Edwards, "If There Hadn't Been a Bruce Springsteen, Then the Critics Would Have Made Him Up," in The New York Times, Section II (© 1975 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), October 5, 1975, pp. 1, 17.