Incident on 57th Street
Taken from the schizophrenic (side one is boring: side two is utterly peerless) 1973 album ‘The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle’ this is Last Exit to Brooklyn crossed with West Side Story. From the opening lines “Spanish Johnny drove in from the underworld last night/With bruised arms and broken rhythm in a beat-up old Buick /But dressed just like dynamite” you know you’re in for an epic tale of broken promises and street life in Seventies America.
A brutally raw depiction of the heart-breaking hole left in people’s lives after the death of a loved one. Written and included on the post-911, reaction album ‘The Rising’ its personalisation of day-to-day grief captured the overall mood of a shocked nation. Since then it has become something of a tribute song amongst Springsteen fans to the late, great Clarence Clemons.
The Shakespearean story of family ties told in this song from the 1982 masterpiece’ Nebraska’ was so vividly cinematic that Sean Penn based his entire 1991 film ‘The Indian Runner’ on it. Heartfelt, gritty and tragic it paints a picture beyond rural Michigan society and into the complicated emotions and dynamics between siblings. No wonder Jonny Cash covered it.
It dips into pools of raw despair in a poignant and beautiful way that resonates long after the track has finished.
Another song from the post-911 reaction album The Rising but confusingly enough, it was seemingly written in the Eighties. The subtle but doomed ambiguity of the lyrics perhaps hint at the ghostlike ramblings of a suicidal hero or those of a war hero struggling to re-assimilate back into his community. Either way, it dips into pools of raw despair in a poignant and beautiful way that resonates long after the track has finished.
A modern take on the great American storybook kings of Steinbeck and Kerouac, Sinaloa Cowboys depicts the dangerous and tragic lure of two illegal immigrant brothers making methamphetamine where you could “spend a year in the orchards or make half as much in one ten-hour shift”. It is a stand out track on one of Springsteen’s finest piece of work ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’ from 1995 in which he returned to the stripped down brilliance of ‘Nebraska’.
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