Saturday, November 5, 2011

Broken Promises

Listened yesterday to both CDs in Springsteen's The Promise (aka The Lost Sessions: Darkness on the Edge of Town.) Struck as ever by the incendiary talent of the guy. I mean, this is largely stuff that didn't make it to official release and it's obviously classic. Having said that, it's taken me several months to grow accustomed enough to the songs to assimilate the big choruses, big melodies, rich arrangements that the Boss accurately characterises this work as possessing in his liner notes.

As so often with the work of a writer who's been in any one's terms a stunning success, it's Springsteen's ability to deal with failure and the broken lives of those who've faced it that seems to come from a place beyond mere talent. He gets inside ordinary lives to explore territory we usually avoid. The brilliant song from which the set takes its title is an example: When the promise is broken you go on living / But it steals something from down in your soul. It's saying something obvious, that we all know, but of which we need reminding when so much of what we encounter in popular culture talks of having it all - and going into a hissy fit when we don't get it.

Come to think of it, that's what seems to go on in schools so much of the time. It's amazing the number of kids who are told they'll be the leaders of tomorrow when they won't. Preparing people for inevitable disappointment still serves some use, I think.

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