The Hitter 
An Online Springsteen Commentary - Version 3.3 - 8 April 2001 -
Bruce, Do You Yahoo?

Three interesting things have happened in Bruce's own little
online world lately.  One is that his web site was mocked ruthlessly by fans when it surfaced as a glorified billboard for the new album. 

However, another was that the site suddenly began to boast some
honest-to-goodness cool content in the way of streaming audio and
video to promote the album.

Finally, and most interestingly, Bruce actually told an interviewer that he was interested in making music available through the Internet "in some fashion"  This makes us take pause, because when Bruce muses out loud about doing something, it has a funny way of happening, even if it takes awhile.  Witness the acoustic tour, the E Street Band reunion, and the Tracks boxed set.

So Bruce, if you're out there, here are some ideas for your Net presence, from one amateur
webmaster to another:

1.  Be Yourself.  Your web site should not be a glorified billboard, nor should it simply ladle out unreleased audio and video to greedy fanboys like us.  You should view it as an alternate creative medium. As wonderful as it is, don't just use Bob Dylan's site as a model.  Visit Prince's site.  From the Artist's essay on Napster, to the "U Tell Us" page where he collects feedback from his fans, to the banners fans can download to link to his site, that site reflects its owner in every way.

2.  What Can You Do on the Web That You Can't Do Anywhere Else?
 Is it making music available for a limited time that you wouldn't want to see memorialized on an album?  Is it providing more information about the charities and causes that you've supported from the stage, or about the the books that have influenced your songs?  Then that's what you should do. 

3.  Be Idiosyncratic in Your Choice of Audio and Video Content.  What are the things in your work that give you joy, and yet never find expression in your official releases? That's what should be on the site.  Why not post streaming audio of some of the great cover songs you and the band have done in soundchecks?  Why not post QuickTime video of some of the funnier moments from the gazillion hours of footage that NFL Films shot for you in 1985? Or outtakes from the video shoot for "If I Should Fall Behind"? Why not post selected images from your notebooks, like the memo in Songs that you wrote Jon Landau about the Nebraska album? 

4.  Don't Hesitate to Use Content From Others.  One of the coolest things the Dylan site ever did was to post Real Audio of a radio show
that Greil Marcus did in Berkeley to talk about the Basement Tapes and promote his book Invisible Republic.  Is there anything comparable in your world?  Streaming audio of the interview Will Percy did with you for DoubleTake? Something or
another that Dave Marsh has done? Pictures that your sister took? You be the judge.

Don't get us wrong, Bruce.  We would love all the unreleased
video and audio you might choose to ladle out.  But you could post your favorite recipes and we'd be delighted.  In fact, Marah did exactly that ... and they've got a great site!

Read Past Issues

Version 3.02, 26 February 2001
Version 3.01, 13 February 2001
Version 2.08, 3 January 2001
Version 2.07, 19 November 2000
Version 2.06, 3 August 2000
Version 2.05, 12 June 2000
Version 2.04, 22 May 2000
Version 2.03, 9 May 2000
Version 2.02, 12 February 2000
Version 1.3, 19 December 1999
Version 1.2, 24 November 1999
Version 1.1, 15 November 1999

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Where the Rivers Meet


Liver Than You'll Ever Be

We have to admit, our reactions to Live in New York City, both as album and HBO special, were overwhelmingly positive.   Looking at  it from a long-term perspective, it marks yet another triumph in the recent path of Bruce Springsteen's career.

In our view, the decline began in 1984 with the release of a  mass-audience friendly Born in the U.S.A.  It accelerated with the 1985 stadium tour, and hit its apogee when Bruce ditched the E Street Band and played an electrified "Unplugged" with a lesser   unit.  But it reversed itself when Bruce played a remarkable show in 1993 at the Count Basie Theatre, released the phenomenally successful "Streets of Philadelphia," brought back the E Street Band, reasserted his stage power in a series of great club gigs with Joe Grushecky, undertook a remarkably daring solo acoustic tour, and brought back the band yet again for an outing that, at a minimum, avoided unflattering comparisons with the "Glory Days" of the 1970s and early 1980s.

The HBO special does almost full justice to the 1999-2000 tour.  It is hard to fault nearly any aspect of the special.  While running less than two hours, it follows the arc of the entire show, especially with "Born to Run" in its  proper place.  The direction is excellent throughout.  At almost every moment you find yourself seeing what you want to see, whether it's Bruce's fingers on the guitar during "Prove It All Night," or Max's expression at  the climax of "Youngstown."  You even see some things you may have missed on tour, like Clarence's and Nils's hilarious jig during "Out in the Street."  One pines in anticipation of the DVD, especially if it contains a whole show.

The album doesn't hit the same heights.  It comes close, but only  after a rough journey to a reasonably decent outcome.  Part of the problem may have been that Bruce saw the album as a mere soundtrack to the HBO special,  which itself remained in flux right up to the last minute.  This may have been why the album initially ran absurdly short, why "bonus"  tracks were added in no logical sequence, and why "Born to Run" made an unheralded and  highly improbable journey to the spot between "Out in the Street" and  "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out."  Perhaps Bruce didn't initially realize that, while you couldn't hold a television audience for three hours, the same time limit doesn't necessarily apply to a compact disc.  Perhaps he didn't realize that  people expect a Bruce Springsteen live album to be something more than "as seen on TV."

Yet like the old cliche about laws and sausages, we ended up  liking the new compact disc a lot, regardless of how ugly its making had become.  The density and immediacy of the mix reminds us a little  of Bob Dylan's The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert.  The placement of the "bonus tracks" at the end of disc 2 is actually kind of nice, creating a good long patch of interesting listening.  To hear "Land of Hope and Dreams" and "American Skin" in official-release quality is a treat indeed.  And "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" holds its rightful place  as the centerpiece of the set.

There is any amount of quibbling that can be done over these  releases.  For instance, we would have liked an entire show on CD.  We didn't like the mix on "Youngstown," which didn't quite  capture the shocking nature of the performance.  We wish the  HBO special hadn't cut to Patti every time there was a lyric about a girl.  We wonder what the project would have been like had it  been taken from, say,  Philadelphia or Los Angeles in 1999, when the performances were a little fresher and a little less forced.  We can't understand why in the heck Bruce put "Born to Run" where he did on the CD.  We gladly would have swapped "The  River" on the HBO special for "Jungleland" and "Ramrod." 

All these quibbles are fine and dandy, but in our view, there are two very important points to keep in mind.  First, all of these are matters about  which reasonable people can disagree.  Second and most important,  you have to see the whole project in the context of Bruce's career, and for what it is.  Did you ever imagine you would see nearly two uninterrupted hours of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in peak fighting form, in crisp video and glorious surround sound?  Together, the CD and HBO special are a  welcome step in the right direction, one in which Bruce has been  consistently traveling for nearly ten years.

. . . And Another Take on "Live"

Readers of The Hitter may remember Joe Schwind, one of our contributors to the "Sages of the Subway" roundtable.  Before the HBO broadcast was aired, we were struggling with how to express our feelings about it.  As usual, Joe said it better than we ever could:

I've got a bad feeling. See, I've been in on this cool secret for the last 20 years with some friends of mine. These friends number a couple a thousand or so, but the rest of the world is pretty much oblivious. Fifteen years ago there was a short period -- 18 months maybe -- when everybody else got a whiff of it, but after a bit they  went back to their daily grind and forgot what they'd heard and seen. 

People would ask me and my friends about the secret and we'd all say the same thing: "you gotta see him live". Yes, the music was good but the obsession always came down to those five words: "you gotta see him live".

The thing was, we'd always say it but few of those who'd asked ever took us up on our advice. They were too busy, or the tickets were too expensive, or that kind of music was too damn loud, or he was a dinosaur who couldn't connect to today's younger generations. And we'd snicker and say that's okay, your loss. 

But I fear that come this weekend our secret will be out in the open for all to see. On the last tour two and a half million people, give or take, saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform. On Saturday evening at least FIVE MILLION homes will be tuned in to see Live in NYC. That's right - in two hours tomorrow night twice as many  people will watch Springsteen play as saw him in the last two years. 

More people will see the show than saw the whole BIUSA tour from start to finish. By the time HBO is done repeating the special eight or ten times.....and it gets broadcast overseas.....and the DVD gets released......more people might see this concert than *ever* saw  Bruce play live going all the way back to Steel Mill.

And I think they'll be stunned at what they see and hear, and  they'll finally and absolutely "get it". 

Our secret will be no more.