Monday, June 20, 2011

They Killed Clarence Clemons the Other Night

I'm not sure who "they" are--I'm not one for conspiracy theories--but somebody did.

Anyway, I was in New York when I heard. I was carrying one of those blue Jambone portable bluetooth speakers with me and thought for a moment that I'd lie in bed (having returned, somewhat gassed, from the Bloomberg picnic), turn the light off and listen to some classic E Street Band stuff. Then I realized I'd loaned my iPad to my daughter for her trip to Miami and decided I'd wait til I got home.

So last night I listened to a couple of old albums--The Wild, the Innocent, etc. and Born to Run. For you completists, I was drinking Oban Scotch and wearing my "Can't sleep...clowns will eat me" t-shirt. Which made a lot of sense, actually, given how much that really early Springsteen stuff invoked thoughts of the circus.
Invoked? I'd have gone with evoked.
You're prolly right. Maybe I was blinded by the light.
Too late now, though--I already pushed the "publish" button.

Magic rats.
Anyway, it was a nice night. Sad but nice. It was also good to be home.

Before I started The Year of Magical Painting I used to belong (and actively contribute) to the Idiots Delight Digest--an open discussion forum that focused on the work of New York DJ Vin Skelsa--and some of those people had been to dozens/hundreds of Springsteen concerts. Me? I've been to either four or five. Which is enough to say, dear reader, that I know what the hell is going on.

So finally this: I'd never begrudge an artist like B. Springsteen the opportunity to re-invent his music. But, starting with The Rising (an album I love, by the way), it was clear to me that they were back-burnering Clarence. Somebody, apparently, had hired a violin player. Maybe it was because he wasn't well. Maybe it was just a change of direction. Anyway, it was never quite the same for me after that.

I'll close with a classic post from sometime near July 4th, 2008 (if my math is right). It's good clean fun, topically appropriate, and contains just enough of my usual bullshit to make you shake your head and wonder how a man of my skills could possibly have risen to the position I now occupy...


Oh Sandy...

Today is both the last day of the second year and the first day of the third year of magical painting. It's a time for reflection.

I always thought Bruce Springsteen's best songs were about both beginnings and endings. Leaving stuff behind and moving forward. The Rising jumps immediately to mind. So, in a completely different way, does Rosalita. Likewise Thunder Road. There are certainly others. But the best one of all, by a wide margin (discounting, of course, all the other really good ones you might like better), is Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy):
Sandy, the fireworks are hailin' over Little Eden tonight
Forcin' a light into all those stony faces left stranded on this warm July
Down in town the circuit's full of switchblade lovers, so fast, so shiny, so sharp
As the wizards play down on Pinball Way on the boardwalk way past dark
And the boys from the casino dance with their shirts open like Latin lovers on the shore
Chasin' all them silly New York virgins by the score

Sandy, the aurora is risin' behind us
Those pier lights, our carnival life forever
Oh, love me tonight, for I may never see you again
Hey, Sandy girl... my baby

Now the greasers, they tramp the streets or get busted for sleepin' on the beach all night
Them boys in their high heels, ah Sandy, their skins are so white
And me, I just got tired of hangin' in them dusty arcades, bangin' them pleasure machines
Chasin' the factory girls underneath the boardwalk, where they all promised to unsnap their jeans
And you know that Tilt-a-Whirl down on the south beach drag? I got on it last night and my shirt got caught
And it kept me spinnin', they didn't think I'd ever get off

Sandy, the aurora is risin' behind us
Those pier lights, our carnival life on the water
Runnin', laughin' underneath the boardwalk with the boss's daughter
I remember, Sandy girl... my baby

Sandy, the waitress I was seein' lost her desire for me
I spoke with her last night, she said she won't set herself on fire for me anymore
She worked that joint under the boardwalk, she was always the girl you saw boppin' down the beach with the radio
Kids say last night she was dressed like a star in one of the cheap little seaside bars, and I saw her parked with her lover boy out on the Kokomo
Did you hear, the cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin' fortunes better than they do?
For me this carnival life's through-- you ought to quit this scene too

Sandy, the aurora is risin' behind us
Those pier lights, our carnival life forever
Oh, love me tonight and I promise I'll love you forever
Oh, I mean it, Sandy girl
Manomanoman, is that a song or what? It's like he wrote it specifically for this very day. How, in 1973, could he have known? Interestingly enough, I always thought the line went "The road is rising behind us." Anyway, I bet Chuck Close is freaking out right about now.

And, just to add whatever to whatever, three days ago Bloomberg News reported the following:
July 1 (Bloomberg) -- Marie Castello, who told fortunes on
the Asbury Park boardwalk in New Jersey since the 1930s and was
best known as the ``Madam Marie'' in a Bruce Springsteen song,
has died, the Asbury Park Press reported today. She was 93.
Castello died June 27, the newspaper reported, citing her
granddaughter, Sally Castello. No cause was given.
In his 1973 song ``4th of July Asbury Park (Sandy),''
Springsteen sings: ``Well the cops finally busted Madame Marie
for tellin' fortunes better than they do.''
She was actually never arrested, yet Springsteen turned her
into an icon, Asbury Park Deputy Mayor Jim Bruno told the
newspaper. Castello stopped working on the boardwalk in the mid-
1990s, the Press said, though she continued telling fortunes in
Ocean Township. Sally Castellano and other family members still
do readings at the Madam Marie booth on the boardwalk.
New Jersey legend says that Madam Marie told a young
Springsteen he would one day be a success, the Press reported.
Springsteen later joked that she said that to every musician.
Where, I would ask you, would you get this stuff if not from me?

Anyway, it's a time for reflection. Season Two ends. Season Three begins. You can't go back. I don't even think about it anymore.

Me? I think I just got tired of hanging in those dusty arcades. And that waitress I was seeing lost her desire for me. And the poacher's daughter is floating on a canoe somewhere in the swamps of South Carolina with a straw in her teeth. And the road is rising behind us. And my car's out back. So Sandy, climb in. It's a town for losers and I'm pulling out of here to win.

Or at least come close.


Somebody killed Clarence the other night. And I'll miss him.


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