July 14, 2005

Born To Drive

Back in our formative proto-Punk days, we read a breathless article or two in NME or Melody Maker about someone called Bruce Springsteen, who was being hailed as the new Street Poet, an authentic voice of The Street. Great! That was what we all aspired to be... so one of us managed to steal a copy of Born To Run. We put it on the turntable, let it rip, and...

We sat there, almost literally open-mouthed, jaws dropping after only a few bars. How could this have anything to do with the street? This overblown, maudlin, sentimental, lumbering anthem to America? We quickly moved on to other things, and Bruce was forgotten.

Some time later, though, it clicked: when Springsteen -- and by extension, most American musicians -- talked about being on "the street", they meant driving, they meant being in a car. For us it meant walking, or lounging around under shop awnings or on front porches, or gossiping outside Redfern Station or on Crown Street, or something on foot. We didn't have cars (we couldn't afford them, let alone find anywhere to park them...). For us "street" meant something light-footed, conspiratorial, something that might run down the alley between Wilson and Abercrombie Streets late at night, something of the foot traffic and chance meetings surrounding the Tin Sheds or The Hub. Something to do with life lived on a street. For Springsteen it seemed to mean bombast, ponderous speed, chrome, rubber, the world viewed from behind a steering wheel or windscreen, power...

A sharp epiphany, for sure. One which also later helped me understand American takes on the whole "Punk" thing...

(Part of Punk (and Later)).

2 Comments:

At 7/15/2005 7:26 PM, Blogger Phil said...

how true, how very true. my troupe of friends only had 2 drivers amongst them - maybe they could identify with the boss??

 
At 7/16/2005 7:51 PM, Blogger Jimmy Little said...

Yeah, I was thirty and living over here in California before I owned or even needed a car. I think you really have to buy into -- or at least experience -- the whole (heavily sentimentalised...) car thing before Boss Bruce (or much US punk, for that matter) starts making much sense. Never worked for me, though -- I still think of "street" as being something on foot in London or Sydney -- rather than a large Hummer or Chevy on the streets of Noo Joisey or LA. My loss, I'm sure :-).

 

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