1984 was a symbolic and busy year, for events both unpredictable, and all too obvious. ’84 saw Jerry Lee Lewis surrendering to the feds for evading his income taxes, the year where Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr married Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders, the year when Red Hot Chili Peppers released their debut album, and even the year where Michael Jackson’s head engulfed into flames during the filming of a Pepsi commercial. Can anyone say free Pepsi for life?! 1984 (Nineteen Eight-Four) is also the title to George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece (first published in 1949), as well as a feature film starring John Hurt (RIP) released in, you guessed it, 1984. The soundtrack single, showcased here, saw synth-pop masters, Eurythmics performing the track, Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four). Presented here are both the single version, and the near 8-minute extended version, both perfect for remembering a year when Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his father, and Bruce Springsteen would release his infamous, Born in the U.S.A. Lots to do… lots to do…
This is a rule, not unlike a heart, in the process, that I annually break.
If “misery loves company” is the phrase, Nebraska is the exclamation point that immediately follows.
If you were stranded on a remote island (that conveniently harbored electricity, speakers and a bomb-ass turntable), and you were only allowed to pick three albums with which to spin for your remaining, ocean-gazing days, what three albums would they be?
For me, the first two albums were no-brainers. Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys, and The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society by The Kinks. Choosing the proper versions, both albums are double LPs (1998’s Grand Royal reissue and 2011’s mono/stereo split), so you’re already a leg up on the island dwelling competition. The third and final album requires much more, overanalyzed thought. Do you play it safe and pick Abbey Road? What about The Beatles, also known as the White Album? Or, do you skip the 12” format altogether and grab your favorite song, which just happens to be a post-hardcore thrasher by the obscure Wisconsin band, Defacto Oppression? Certainly NOT an easy decision to make (in this overly voluptuous hypothetical), second-guessing is sure to follow after the inevitably dreadful decision is (finally) made.
Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska garnishes some thought, but would probably be far too depressing… after all, these three albums will help feed, or deter the fact that you are, after all, stranded on a remote island. Emergency & I by the Dismemberment Plan is a considerably strong candidate, but would immediately be my number four pick. Bizarre Ride II (The Pharcyde), In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up (Live) (Ministry), This is Tim Hardin (Tim Hardin… duh), and Circa: Now! (Rocket from the Crypt) are all, exceptional lily pads on this thought pond, but none of them make the distinct cut.
London Calling (The Clash), Double Nickels on the Dime (Minutemen), Singles – 45’s and Under (Squeeze), Energy (Operation Ivy), Appetite for Destruction (Guns N’ Roses), which would easily be my number five pick, Black Monk Time (The Monks), and Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (Dead Kennedys) all lay floating in the salted sea of “never to enjoy again.” Damn, this post is depressing.
And the winner goes to… The Shape of Punk to Come… the quintessential soundtrack to my evasive youth wins the number three spot, and with little hesitation, I might add. Refused’s best, and another double LP, this top three has quickly turned into the top six, and would respectfully demonstrate, and/or adequately demolish my headspace for the rest of my delusional life. To pick three out of 2,800 is certainly NOT an easy gesture… if asked again tomorrow, I’d have a completely different roster. Oh, the joy, and immediate pleasure of viable options.
This is the Bruce Springsteen you WISH your father had listened to… except, then your father probably would have been too damned depressed and self-indulged to gather enough strength to nurture you as a child so, maybe Born in the U.S.A. WAS better “father” material.
Man turns his back on his family
Well he just ain’t no good
Some urban legends are created to help sell a less than interesting story. I don’t feel this is the case with Bruce Springsteen and his approach to Nebraska. Furthermore, I’ll refuse to feed any notion to this legend’s contrary. Legend has it that Mr. ‘Steen locked himself inside a hotel room and recorded this album to 4-track tape. The story continues with “The Boss” presenting the results to his mates, the E Street Band, which resulting in them all recording the songs, all studio-like. The legend concludes that the versions recorded with the band were too polished, and too produced, so Bruce mixed his demo hotel session and, well, that’s what we’re hearing. Nebraska is, without esteemed hesitation, the best work Bruce Springsteen ever produced… and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise (only to buy them a drink after the inevitable scuffle while listening to, well, this album).
When shifted 45 degrees clockwise, the lyric sheet, with its red text cascading down a black canvas, somewhat resembles trickling blood catered by the destitute victims offered by the deviant characters residing throughout Nebraska (Nebraska, Johnny 99, Highway Patrolman). Everything, eventually, returns to the Earth. Blood, epithelial tissue, and sorrow are no exception.
My friend, who introduced me to this album, presented it with a caveat: Don’t listen to this album while drinking alone. Sound advice; that which I would repeat to new listeners as well as to the frequent Springsteen flyer.
Maybe you got a kid
Maybe you got a pretty wife
The only that I got’s
Been botherin’ me my whole life
Nebraska is the answer to the question you’ve yet to realize the need to ask. It exists so that you may see the light of tomorrow, it offers a chance for you to accept your weathered self, and it strengthens the muscles in your neck that help to lift your head from your pillow each morning. It exists, so that you can too. Thanks, Boss.