I was 16 in 1973 when Bruce Springsteen’s Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ album came out on January 5th. 16 at a time when rock music ruled the school yard, and rock radio dominated the airwaves. At least in my little part of the world anyway.
My little world was suburban Trenton, NJ (capital city & Garden Spot of the Garden State), in lovely Hamilton. David Bowie’s Ziggy…album was our musical highlight of the previous year. My favorites were always Bob Dylan and Van Morrison and the Four Tops and Marvin Gaye and the Supremes and too numerous to mention insane Philly Soul sides as spun by the great Jerry Blavet. We also loved what Lou Reed was doing (even more so fueled by Bowie), Neil Young, and the Allmans Eat A Peach. I loved The Band and Joni and Stevie and Curtis Mayfield’s amazing Superfly and some new guy named Jackson Browne. Yes was a big deal and we greeted Mott The Hoople (hello again, Mr. Bowie) with open ears and arms. The Rolling Stones, Elton John and Rod Stewart always were a part of the landscape. The Beatles and their now various new incarnations always demanded attention.
I was 16 at a time when music was something more than a stolen computer file. I was 16 at a time when music mattered. You could debate the merits of any particular record with any of your friends for hours on end (with no resolution, of course) flip on the radio, hear something new and have the process begin again.
And needless to say, the radio was on constantly. My station of choice at the time was WMMR out of Philadelphia. Legend has it that that station’s then Program Director, Jerry Stevens, was tight with the folks who ran the old Main Point in Bryn Mawr and he put Greetings… into the new releases category to help expose this new artist from across the river to help out his Main Point pals who’d booked Bruce and the band to open for Travis Shook. The station’s DJs embraced Bruce and the album, and played it like crazy. The rest, as they say…
I was blown away. I can’t tell you which song I heard first, but I can tell you that the first song that blew my mind was “Spirit In The Night.” I was in with both feet and that was that. I loved the lyrical sophistication of “Blinded By The Light” (hey, I was 16). I loved everything about “Spirit In The Night.” I was afraid of “Mary Queen Of Arkansas” (hey, I was 16). And then there’s “Growin’ Up,” which was something that I was furiously trying to do at the time. I have, in fact, spent the past 40 years trying to find the answer to every impossible question/situation in the engine of some old parked car. My quest continues… To find out that the guy making this amazing music was from Jersey, and actually embraced it was almost too much to handle. Almost too good to be true. I bought the album and listened to it over and over. Savoring each little songwriting gem, and always the mind boggling sax parts on “Spirit In The Night,” the album spoke to me like nothing else had ever before.
So Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ turns 40. And as I listen to my 40 year old copy of said album on my stylish, retro record player, I do so with wonder. That album kept me in good stead when I left home for college the following year. It’s been with me in Ohio and California and felt especially comfortable at the Jersey Shore. My sister lives in the house that we grew up in, and I’ll often take a minute to look in on my old room. How blessed I am that so many of the dreams and schemes that were hatched in that room have come true.
Sunday, January 6 on the Bruce Brunch on 105.7 The Hawk, Bruce Springtseen’s first album will be touted and celebrated. I’ll play the entire album throughout the course of the show. And hit the vault for some cool early ’73 live songs. Garry Tallent will be calling in and Vini Lopez will be visiting in the studio. They both played on the album and it’ll be great to hear them reminisce.
40 years later, I thank Bruce Springsteen for standing up when they told him to sit down. 40 years burning down the road and the story continues. Here’s to a magical 2013.
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