The Best Bootleg We Heard All Year Spanish Harlem (Piggham).
The Best Bootleg We Didn't Hear All Year. The Dream.
Best Fan CD Artwork. At
We'd Like to See a Fanzine Like... The 910.
Why Can't Somebody Put Out a Bruce Bootleg Like..The Beach Boys, Smile Sessions: Unsurpassed Masters 17 (Sea of Tunes)?
Why Can't Bruce Tour With...Steve Earle and the Dukes, Buddy Miller, Los Lobos, or Marah?
The Best Things We Heard All Year That Had Nothing
to Do With Bruce ... At First Blush.
Read Past Issues
2.07, 19 November 2000
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Was The Year That Was.
Every other publication in the world gets lazy at the end of the year and surveys the past twelve months. So why not us, too? Here's what we considered to be the most intriguing subjects of 2000, Bruce-wise:
1. Bruce, Meet Cyberspace. One of the most significant developments of 2000 had to be the Springsteen organization's canny manipulation of cyberspace. Presumably no one would be more hostile to the wild west of the Internet than our favorite control freak and his minions. Yet at every turn, the Organization seemed to turn lemons (to them) into lemonade.
Let's start with how they sat by quietly as Napster and Gnutella distributed audience recordings of "American Skin" just days after the Atlanta shows, feeding the controversy that set the stage for Madison Square Garden. Let's continue with Jon Landau's remarkable post-tour letter to Luckytown. And finally, let's toss in Bob Benjamin's plea to RMAS for charitable donations to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, when a soundboard tape of a benefit show leaked under what Bruce must have viewed as highly irritating circumstances.
Obviously, Bruce hasn't embraced the Internet like, say, Prince has. Almost certainly he would prefer that it didn't exist, at least insofar as it concerns him. (Want some proof? Visit his own lame web site.) But equally obvious is that somebody who works for him has put some creative -- if reactive -- thought into how to adapt to the Net.
That's a good thing, to the extent it facilitates the availability of Bruce's performances and builds ties between Bruce and the fan community. But it's a maddening thing, too, as Bruce and Landau continue to be leaders in a record industry that would like to see Napster and its ilk killed, sliced, diced, and minced into little tiny bits.
Maybe in 2001 Bruce will go beyond a grudging acceptance of the Internet, and move toward a full embrace of its possibilities. A genuine integration of the medium into Bruce's own, current work? Concerts and outtakes available for download? If dreams came true, now, wouldn't that be nice?
2. Political World. Bruce seems to be more politically focused than ever. And yet few seem to care. Set aside the American Skin controversy for a moment. We're thinking about how Bruce's performances are consistently focusing these days on the topic of human dignity -- in a way, incidentallly, that seems heavily influenced by Catholic theology.
We're also thinking about how his personal political involvement is much more conventional, and perhaps extensive, than previously supposed. What happens if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears? We don't know, but the silence was sure deafening when we reported that Bruce had actually given money to Bill Bradley's Presidential campaign.
So why has the conversation about Bruce and politics been left to the likes of Eric Alterman and Greil Marcus -- each of whom, it seems to us, has his own unsatisfactory axe to grind? Mostly because matters of faith and politics are inherently divisive and don't lend themselves to discussion in places like Luckytown, Backstreets or (God forbid) RMAS. The result is that a critical aspect of Bruce's performances is not being given the attention it deserves.
3. Where the Heck Is the New Album, Huh? We heard the Monday night performance of "My City in Ruins" about a week later, downloaded from somewhere or another. Besides thinking what a great song it was (even overshadowing the wonderful Hank Williams tribute that preceded it that night), we thought, boy, wouldn't that fit nicely on a record with "American Skin" and "Land of Hope and Dreams."
So, Bruce, where is it, huh? We know it's done. You just don't want to put it out! To paraphrase Uncle Junior, why do you keep us hungry when you've got a Virginia ham under your arm? "American Skin" is the most absurd example. It was a wonderful song that generated news stories and even awards, yet the only way to hear it now involves breaking the law.
The sad fact is, "Skin" is going to meet the same fate as "Roulette," a topical song that first enjoyed official release a full decade after the event it discussed. If Bruce Springsteen were Neil Young, he would have put out"Ohio" after Nixon resigned and "Campaigner" after he died. Doesn't that bother you -- in some fashion?
4. And For Pete's Sake, Please Put Out the Live DVD! So Blood Brothers and an expanded Video Anthology are slated to come out this month. Yippee. Let's set aside the fact that the former often looks like a hostage video. And let's set aside the fact that the latter took about as much thought as an Elvis Christmas CD. It's nice that they're out. Really.
But would it kill Bruce to do something cool with the medium? Why not pair the rumored Madison Square Garden set with an interview where you give us your own play-by-play of the show? (Wouldn't that be fascinating?) Why not put out some of the eight gazillion hours of footage that NFL Films shot in 1985? That would help us persuade our spouses that we really need a DVD player! Why, oh why, oh why?
5. Whither the CD Bootleg? While the rest of us have busily burned our 800th copy of Earl's Court Night for our friends, Wanted's Jan Rodenrijs has been a veritable Jeremiah on the subject of CD-Rs, noting the downside that they pose for the bootleg industry as we know it. One correspondent recently mused to us that the age of the live bootleg CD may be over, that shows are so readily available for burning and download that it will become economically impossible for the likes of Crystal Cat to peddle their wares.
We confess a little ambivalence on the subject. It is painfully obvious that much top quality material does not -- and will not -- circulate freely. In our view, this is an unfortunate part of being a Bruce fan. When the artist stingily controls his recorded output, so too will his fans. Yet we prefer, indeed aspire to, a world in which music is traded freely.
The result may be that fans will have more
access to good recordings, and less access to great recordings,
for the time being anyway. But we're not too concerned about
the subject. Critical material always seems to find its way out,
wittingly or unwittingly. If necessity is indeed the mother of invention,
then somehow it will be possible for rare material to circulate in an economically
realistic manner. You'll see.