Friday, June 21, 2013

The Solstice's Soliloquy

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....

- Bruce Springsteen

When I was a kid - listening to rock and roll music on the FM dial - my favorite DJ was Dave Herman.  I first made his acquaintance when he was the morning drive guy at WNEW 102.7 in New York City, the station that billed itself as "The Place Where Rock Lives".  The station ceased to exist years ago.  Its space on the dial - although thankfully not its call letters - is presently occupied by a station where rock has never lived.  It has not even visited.

A staple of Dave Herman's "Rock N' Roll Morning Show" was the daily serving of "Bruce Juice". 

Luckily for me - as my only access to Herman during the school year came on the ride to school every morning - he tended more often than not to play our daily serving of Springsteen while I was in the car.   To my memory, he did a nice job of trolling Springsteen's catalog in search of what to play every morning to ensure that the rotation went beyond "Born to Run", "Rosalita" and "Thunder Road".  On this day, however, on the Summer Solstice he could be counted upon to play one song - and one song only:  Racing in the Street

Racing is - and has been since I first heard it - my favorite Springsteen song.   A lifetime ago, I messed around for several years writing song lyrics.  Somewhere, someplace I still have the yellow-covered Wardlaw-Hartridge loose leaf notebook - purchased at The Mother's Store for a reasonable price no doubt - in which I have kept them all for two-plus decades.  Or at least I hope I do.  For all I know they might have bitten turf during one move or another.  Other than representing a personal annoyance, their loss shall not be mourned.  I assure you.   As a lyricist, I make a pretty good lawyer.

For me, Racing is the quintessential marriage of word and music.  If one merely reads the lyric above, which are the final words of the song, without hearing the music that accompanies it then one might be misled into believing that the song is some sort of rousing, stadium-sing-a-long anthem.  One could not be more wrong.  When heard in context with the music that accompanies it, the air of resignation and almost defiant self-delusion in the narrator's voice leaps off the turntable at you.  The life of which he sings is not one of triumph.  It is one of desperation. 

In the song's final verse, Springsteen spins a lyric that thirty-five years after he penned it continues to represent to me the high-water mark of anything he has ever written.  Speaking of the woman who is his companion (wife ? girlfriend ? the relationship is deliberately vague), he recounts for us the consistently downward trajectory of the relationship, a description that culminates with an especially stark and haunting image 

I met her on the strip three years ago
In a Camaro with this dude from L.A.
I blew that Camaro off my back and drove that little girl away
But now there's wrinkles around my baby's eyes
And she cries herself to sleep at night
When I come home the house is dark
She sighs "Baby did you make it all right"
She sits on the porch of her daddy's house
But all her pretty dreams are torn
She stares off alone into the night
With the eyes of one who hates for just being born

Annually this day's arrival immediately makes me think of Racing in the Street.  I found myself whistling it as I drove north on 287 this morning.  It is for me inexorably linked to this day.  This day - the one in the Northern Hemisphere on which we shall have more sunlight than any other day this calendar year - a bit more than fifteen hours or so.  The first official day of Summer.  It was but eight months ago that Hurricane Sandy sought to beat the State of Concrete Gardens into submission.  She failed.  We are still standing.  We are still here.  Summer is here.  The beaches are here.  The ocean is here.  The highways beckon. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines. 

And thank you Dave Herman - wherever you may be....


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