Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Promise

My first One Week // One Band post is up. Here's an excerpt, but you should really click through and read the whole thing—and by "the whole thing" I mean "the entire two weeks of posts, since they're all absolutely awesome." Seriously, I like to think DT and I are in the to 1% of most knowledgable Bruce fans (and that's the only 1% either of us are ever likely to be in), and we've both already learned a ton of stuff, as well as now looking at old familiars in at least slightly different ways. It's great stuff.

Anyhoo, here's my piece on "The Promise." Check it out.

***
Somehow I missed hearing any of the legendary performances of that most legendary of unreleased Bruce Springsteen songs, “The Promise,” despite having acquired a fair number of live bootlegs throughout high school and college. So the first time I actually heard “The Promise” was the day 18 Tracks was released. 
A lot of hardcore Springsteen fans find his (then) new, solo recording of it severely lacking, in contrast to the 1970s performances. Having, as I said, never heard any of those, I didn’t have the same reaction. At all.
The first time I listened to “The Promise” was on a small boombox in a small room in the small Queens apartment I was sharing with my wife and two very small children. I had no idea what the song was going to sound like, melodically, or in terms of tempo. I just pressed play. And didn’t move for two minutes and eight seconds, awestruck by the song’s quiet power. 
Until the first time Springsteen sang “thunder road.” The moment he did, the moment those sounds hit my ears, I got goosebumps as badly as I’ve ever gotten in my life. The power of those three syllables I’d heard so many thousands of times over the years they were practically embedded in my DNA, yet here so unexpected and in such a different context, was just…and the same thing happened when he got to the song’s second ”thunder road” section.  
And when the song was over, I just sat for a few minutes. Then I stood up and started to leave the room but realized I wasn’t ready to see anyone else just yet. So I sat back down. But I didn’t play the song again. I wasn’t ready for that either. I just sat. I know that probably sounds melodramatic to most people, but my guess is, if you’re reading this, you’re the kind of person that’s happened to a time or two yourself. 
After a while, I played the song again. And again, the words “thunder road” caused goosebumps, both times. But this time, having now heard it once and therefore knowing how the song was going to end, those words also felt like a punch in the chest. And when the song was over again, I remember thinking, “That’s about the most powerful fucking thing I’ve ever heard. No wonder he didn’t release include it on Darkness.” Then I thought, “And thank God.” 



(And there's kind of a lot more—here's the rest.)

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