Monday, June 21, 2010

'Cause Summer's Here

As a kid who grew up in the New York City metropolitan area, I was an avid listener of what was in my admittedly limited experience the best rock and roll radio station in the world: 102.7 WNEW-FM. I was only born in the late 60's so by the time I developed an ear for things such as FM radio, the on-air lineup at 'NEW (better known as "The Place Where Rock Lives") included the Professor Scott Muni, Pete Fornatele, Dennis Elsas and Dan Neer (who was called "Dano" after the character on Hawaii Five-O and who signed off his program daily by saying "Aloha"). The on-air jocks also included my favorite: Dave Herman. For the first several years that I discovered 102.7, Herman was the guy on the air in morning drive. We used to listen to him in the car on the way to school daily.

One of the staples of Dave Herman's morning drive show was his daily playing of Springsteen, which he referred to as "a shot of Bruce Juice". On "Two for Tuesdays" he played two Springsteen tunes. Mom's car had no cassette deck so for a young wannabe rock and roller, the radio provided the only mobile means through which I could hear Springsteen. Thankfully, Herman was reliable. Without fail every morning at some point during our daily commute I would receive my daily shot of Bruce Juice.

Springsteen has been my favorite artist for as long as I have possessed the ability to consider such a question. Among his records, Darkness on the Edge of Town is my favorite - the dark, brooding, long-delayed due to litigation follow-up to Born to Run. Among the songs found on Darkness is my all-time favorite Springsteen song, "Racing in the Street". For whatever it is worth (and it is likely not very much at all), my love of it explains my co-opting of its name for my own purposes here.

Today here in this hemisphere it is the 21st of June, which is the Summer Solstice. It is the first day of summer. It is the longest day of the year. Whenever this day fell - as it falls this year - on a weekday Dave Herman would make sure that Racing was this day's shot of Bruce Juice. It is an exquisite piece of music but not something that finds its way to often on-air at any radio station. I would imagine that the reticence to drop the needle and play this particular record has two bases. First it is a long song (and closes with a piano-driven instrumental that is several minutes in length). Second, it is a slow-moving, lyrically dark piece. In the final verse the narrator - speaking of the current emotional state of his life's great love - sings that, "She stares off alone into the night/With the eyes of one who hates for just being born." Not exactly the type of image you want your office suite mates playing on a continuous loop in their respective minds' eyes as they step off of the elevator.

But the story told in "Racing" does not end in that final verse. Rather it ends on an emotional uptick. It may very well be desperation dressed up as optimism and nothing more than our storyteller's very own deluded effort at a happy ending. Yet there it is. And there it remains, the bridge between the abject sadness of the final verse that precedes it and the haunting piano fade that follows it. And in that final chorus lies the promise of the song. The promise of the day. The promise of the season. For it is summer after all. And possibilities abound.

Tonight tonight the highway's bright
Out of our way mister you best keep
'Cause summer's here and the time is right
For goin' racin' in the street.

-AK

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