Why Bruce Springsteen's Boomer Liberal Media Fans Are Ridiculous


Oh dear.

Reason has not been the most receptive audience to the dulcet prose stylings of New Republic lifer Leon Wieseltier. (Uncharitable example from Tim Cavanaugh, circa 2004: "[W]ho the hell is Wieseltier, who edits the most boring cultural page outside the old Pravda, who keeps dinosaurs like Jed Perl and Stanley Kaufman on the range, whose magazine is a laughingstock, and whose own essays read like five-page throat clearings (best read aloud, I've always found, in the fake "old man" voice Joseph Cotten uses for his nursing home scene in Citizen Kane), to be calling [William F.] Buckley ridiculous?")

But if you've ever found yourself wishing for an acid-tongued corrective to the never-ending story of boomer liberal journalists swooning over the barky-throated populism of Bruce Springsteen, Wieseltier has written what might be the definitive version. Sample:

"HE IS THE RARE man of sixty-two who is not shy about showing his ass—an ass finely sausaged into a pair of alarmingly tight black jeans—to twenty thousand paying customers." This panting observation about a rock star was committed by the editor of The New Yorker. I miss Eichmann in Jerusalem, almost. David Remnick's 75,000-word profile of Bruce Springsteen is another one of his contributions to the literature of fandom. Once again there is a derecho of detail and the conventional view of his protagonist, the official legend, is left undisturbed. It could have been written by the record company. The interminable thing is an inventory of Springsteen (and rock) platitudes, punctuated by the fleeting acknowledgment of a dissent about the deity, but much more interested in access than in judgment. "Springsteen Survives," the cover of the magazine triumphantly proclaims. Survives what? When Remnick turns from reporting to commentary, the earnestness becomes embarrassing, which is to say, fully the match of the earnestness of his subject […]

Better days

DO THESE MEN HAVE ears? The musical decline of Bruce Springsteen has been obvious for decades. The sanctimony, the grandiosity, the utterly formulaic monumentality; the witlessness; the tiresome recycling of those anthemic figures, each time more preposterously distended; the disappearance of intimacy and the rejection of softness. And the sexlessness: Remnick adores Springsteen for his "flagrant exertion," which he finds deeply sensual, comparing him to James Brown, but Brown's shocking intensity, his gaudy stamina, his sea of sweat, was about, well, fucking, whereas Springsteen "wants his audience to leave the arena, as he commands them, 'with your hands hurting, your feet hurting, your back hurting, your voice sore, and your sexual organs stimulated!'", which is how you talk dirty at Whole Foods.

Hat tip to Michael C. Moynihan. Reason on the Boss here.


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  1. Music critiques, like art reviews in general, are a waste of time. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. However, I do enjoy takedowns of figures I behold as mostly being propped up for some reason other than their art.

    And I love that “Born in the U.S.A.” was misunderstood as jingoism for so long by so many.

    1. Was? Still is. And it is great. Art belongs to the observer Bruce.

  2. James Brown: Sex Machine

  3. People are only now figuring out the he sucks?

    1. Yes.

    2. yeah, I never “got” Springsteen – and I’m a Neil Young and a Bob Dylan fan.

      1. never got him, either. Give me a Def Leppard show any time.

        1. They do have the best concert shirts, that’s for sure.

        2. What has nine arms and still sucks?

  4. In a just world, Tom Petty would receive all of the praise lavished on Springsteen. Their careers started in nearly the same year. The difference is Petty’s music has aged much better and Petty was producing relevant music all the way into the 00s and Springsteen hasn’t done a significant record since 1987.

    1. Interesting – and I tend to agree. I got lots of time for TP, who’s a WAY better songwriter, and much less of a douchebag than his New Joizyness. I was buying his stuff in the 70’s, and I still enjoy his music (most recently a concert on Paladia).

      Still got a shitload of TP on vinyl and CD.

      Springsteen? Bought Born to Run when it came out, thought it was OK, never got the hype, though, and never bought anything else. Fuck him and his throng of Man Lovers.

      1. Springsteen never wrote a single guitar riff a fifth as good or catchy as something American Girl or The Waiting or Last Dance With Mary Jane. Petty has very quietly had one of the great careers in music history. He was never the biggest star in the world at any one time. But he out lasted all of his contemporaries.

        1. That’s Campbell, TP’s guitarist. He’s got all these little, simple licks. He’s no Al DiMeola, but I still say the guitar solo on “Even the Losers” is the greatest guitar solo, ever. Period.

          SO cheesetastic rock-and-roll awesome.

          1. Campbell co wrote some of the songs and did a lot of song doctoring I think.

          2. And I absolutely love the twangy sound of their 12 string Richenbachers. It is just one of the great sounds ever in rock and roll. I know they got that from the Byrds. But Petty and Campbell perfected it.

          3. Campbell is great, but IMO, “the greatest guitar solo, ever. Period.” is Steve Howe on Sound Chaser.

            1. Eddie Van Halen

              Beat it

              That is all.


            2. Michael Schenker on UFO’s Rock Bottom.

          4. That’s Campbell

            I thought that was dunphy?

      2. and much less of a douchebag than his New Joizyness

        Isn’t that part of the source of his popularity?

        Do you think U2 would have gotten as big as they are without Bono’s political outspokenness?

        1. I think so. U2 became the biggest band in the world when they released the Joshua Tree. And none of the hits on that record were particularly political. The underlying popularity of the music allows the band to indulge in politics. If politics alone got you popular, Bob Geldoff would be one of the biggest stars in history.

          Think about Sprinsteen, his really popular stuff is about girls and cars and every day life. His overtly political records have never sold that well. Darkness at the Edge of Town sold a lot more copies than Ballad of Tom Joad.

          1. That’s not what I meant, but I know better than to try to explain it to you.

            1. I understand what you meant. And neither U2 nor Springsteen bot any bigger because of their politics. No one bought a record or decided they liked music they otherwise didn’t like because they liked the band’s politics. If anything it worked the other way, people convinced themselves that politics they otherwise might not have cared about or liked was important and good because they liked the music.

            2. Also, lol!

          2. U2 sucks. noise.

        2. U2 – yes. They made some truly awesome music.

          Springsteen has some OK tunes. Not sure I agree that the politics drove it – surely in part, but I don’t think he (or U2) wouldn’t have been mega-huge without the politics.

          Guess we’ll never know -hard to prove the negative 🙂

          1. Just pondering if perhaps some people’s first exposure was the front man being all political, and then figured they’d check out the music.

            I agree that there’s no way to prove it either way, but it may explain why BP outsold TP with shittier music.

            1. BS I meant.

              I like that.

              BS and TP. Bullshit and toilet paper. Totally describes their music!

            2. People’s introduction to U2 was on MTV and what they liked was the music.

    2. Vehemently disagree. Tom Petty is the king of sing-songy stoner nursery rhymes and was partly responsible for the unforgivable blight that was the Travelling Wilburys. I say keep his “American Girl” and Bruce’s “Thunder Road”, then shoot all the rest of their master tapes into the sun.

      On the other hand, the phrase, “which is how you talk dirty at Whole Foods” will undoubtably be the funniest thing I read today.

      1. I vehemently disagree with your disagreement. Petty has a ton of great songs. And Thunder Road isn’t the Springsteen song I would save. Probably Atlantic City is the only one worth saving.

      2. Anyone sour enough to hate on the Traveling Wilburys probably should look into rectal desticking.

    3. Damn the Torpedoes is a classic.

    4. A good indicator of a musician’s or band’s impact is how many artists in the decades following their heyday cite them as an influence. Springsteen was always touted as “the next Dylan,” but can anyone think of a person touted as “the next Springsteen”?

      As for his politics, it’s really the only thing that’s kept him relevant in the music scene due to the incestuousness of the liberal media/celebrity complex. After the Human Touch/Lucky Town double release bombed (platinum discs for both, but sales didn’t even approach Tunnel Of Love), his media profile was on life support until he released “Streets of Philadelphia” in 1994.

      1. Springsteen was always touted as “the next Dylan,” but can anyone think of a person touted as “the next Springsteen”?

        Johnny Cougar and Steve Earle.

        1. And Arcade Fire and a whole slew of hundreds of indie bands wanted to be (and were often heralded as) the next Springsteen as well. The Killers even wrote a Springsteen ripoff album.

      2. Springsteen wanted to be the rock roll Arlo Guthrie.

        Turns out Guthrie was kind of a douche-bag, which makes Springsteen’s douchiness kind of inevitable.

        1. No one from that clan of commies should really be expected to be anything less.

    5. When Tom Petty plays a 4 HOUR concert, you’re left wondering why it ended so early before he had a chance to sing all of his hits. After a Bruce Springsteen concert you’re left with the realization that you spent 2 hours listening to crappy covers and a terrible rendition of Born in the USA.

    6. Tho I do love Petty, and some of his videos are the most masterful ever made, he never has danced in the dark with Courtney Cox.

    7. The local “classic hits” station plays “Free Falling” all the time, and I hate hate hate that song and its idiotic lyrics.

      I’ve really come to hate the music of John Cougar Mellencamp, too.

  5. I was just going to launch into my own critique elsewhere of the over-fawning that is Springsteenmania. He’s more overrated than TCU with a rasher of Wisconsin, and always has been.

    But, frankly, this critique is itself a little too much. It’s not the Springsteen of critiques of Springsteen, but it is douchtastic.

    Fuck Springsteen, fuck Obama, fuck socialized medicine, fuck Wieseltier, and fuck the gay whales.

    That is all.

    1. Funny how Sprinsteen tried to be all tough guy working class his whole career and his biggest fans ended up being douchey wanna be intellectuals.

      1. the lulz are delicious

    2. Don’t forget L. Ron Hubbard and your tattoo.

  6. Better alt text on that top picture

    “He is just a little fellah”

  7. I walk along the avenue.
    I never thought I’d meet a girl like you.
    Meet a girl like you.

    With auburn hair and tawny eyes.
    The kind of eyes that hypnotize me through.
    Hypnotize me through.

    And I ran.
    I ran so far away.
    I just ran.
    I ran all night and day.
    I couldn’t get away.

    –Bruce Springsteen

    1. That sounds like Flock of Nimrods Seagulls. Is it?


      1. No. It’s Springsteens’ Born to Ran Away.

  8. Oh, PS – even the THOUGHT of comparing Epstein to JAMES BROWN, JAMES BROWN, JAAAAAAAAMES BROWN! (RIP) is truly revolting.

    James Brown is in a different universe from…like…everyone.

    Stop it.

  9. Last – saw The Who at the Isle of Wight again recently. That one concert blows away ANYTHING Springchicken has ever done. Also, Woodstock. Also, the Shepperton Sound Studio recordings. Also…

    Isle of Wight slapped me into remembering why I was a MEGA Who fan as a yoot – and stands in stark contrast to all the grimacing, three hours of boredom from fuckstick. An hour and a half of The Who was perfect, and left you wanting more. My whole family sat and watched, mesmerized. The musicianship, the greatness of the music, four guys onstage basically soloing at the same time – SO intense!

    “Yep, that’s why they were ‘The Who’….”

    1. One of the best bass and drum players of all time combined with the guitar playing of Pete Townsend, hell yeah! Oh, and Roger Daltrey.

  10. Here is how you can tell the Who (or any other band for that matter) is great. They did music that should not have worked and anyone else trying it would look ridiculous. You should not be able to have a rock band with a drummer who refuses to keep proper time. You should not be able to have a rock band where the rhythm section follows the guitarist instead of the other way around. Yet The Who did.

  11. I’ve always disliked most of Springsteen’s music. But there are three songs that I enjoy — The River, Philedelphia, and Pink Cadillac — which probably just prove I have no taste in music.

    1. Yep. Least you’re honest, but I think my own bias against maudlin anything sounding like phoney unnatural human emotion is why I’m agreeing.

      1. To be clear — you’re agreeing that I have no taste in music?

        1. Pretty scary that Boston is only three back from a decent wild card shot. I may not get my warm hammy tears this year.

    2. Oh dear god, “Philadelphia” the song makes me want to retch.

      And the movie Philadelphia is one of the few that makes Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner look subtle.

  12. That New Yorker article was just atrocious, so it deserves whatever abuse gets heaped upon it. Springsteen hasn’t done anything worth a shit in 30 years.

    1. The follow up to Born in the USA he did in 87, wasn’t that bad. But that was 1987. All but the biggest douchebag Springsteen fans would be hard pressed to name a single song he recorded in the 1990s or 00s.

    2. Springsteen hasn’t done anything worth a shit in 30 years.


      1. Since he picked up a guitar? I would go with that.

      2. The song Born to Run is a classic, but there’s never been anything else he’s done that really excited me.

  13. I like Elvis Costello. Why? Because he’s not still doing the same music he was doing forty years ago.

    1. Yeah well, neither is Sting.

    2. Boston on the other hand, gives the people what they want.

      Sheer awesemeness.

      1. Boston? As in the band? Are you serious?

        1. Hey man, they build their own amplifiers and effects. Dude, you just can’t replicate that Boston sound!

  14. If you like Bruce Springsteen, you probably like M*A*S*H in the later years.

    1. And you’re a big NBA fan.

  15. “This is a song about a factory that closed down. It used to make smaller factories. It’s called ‘factory’.”

    Stole that from someone here, becuase I can.

  16. Wow man hard to believe the Boss is still rocking it after all these years!


    1. You’re balls are so punchable.

  17. I still can’t believe that this guy’s early work shares DNA with Suicide. In retrospect it’s beyond illogical.

  18. Saw the World Tour in 1992 with my wife and two female friends.
    The three are now my ex-wife, my current wife and my boss. True story. I blame the (uppercase) Boss.

    1. There’s a Penthouse letter in there that has cruelly been lost to time.

      1. I’m a slave to my finely sausaged ass.

    2. Saw the World Tour in 1992 with my wife and two female friends

      Do tell.

  19. I think the works that bookend Born in the USA (Nebraska and Tunnel of Love) are worthy albums. And Greetings from Asbury Park was really different from most of what was coming out in ’73. But yeah, mega-overrated.

    1. Honestly, Greetings from Asbury Park is probably his best record. A whole lot better than Born to Run.

  20. “an ass finely sausaged”


  21. I’m a slave to my finely sausaged ass.

    Like the butcher who got a little behind in his work?

  22. It probably shouldn’t, but it bothers me a lot that they still call themselves The E Street Band in spite of the fact that Clarence Clemons died a year ago, as though he was just some minor bit player member of the group.

    1. I’m still pissed the Rolling Stones kept their name after Brian Jones died.

      BTW, The Big Man (RIP) couldn’t play sax for shit

      1. Jones just started the band. After the band got famous, Jones turned into a whinny little shit who refused to do any work. They fired him with very good reason.

    2. They do a tribute every night to Clarence and Danny. He is certainly not being treated as a minor player.

  23. For a two paragraph throat-clearing, that was pretty good.

  24. I have to go on the assumption that most of you have never been to a Bruce show. Nor have you listened to his albums all the way through. He has written some of the most beautiful and insightful and heart wrenching lyrics. He has also written some good old fashion rockers. It’s fine if you don’t agree with his politics but that does not take away from his talent. For over 30 years he has been doing it better than anyone else. Have any of you listened to The Rising? That album captures the horror and anguish of 9/11 and the slow recovery from it.

    As for the length of his shows I can’t remember Bruce and the band ever doing a 2 hour show. He gives his all when performing. They broke the 4 hour mark the other night in Helsinki. How many 62 year olds can do that and still look smoking hot in a pair of tight jeans while doing it.

    He is as vital today as he was in 1975 when Born To Run was released. The hype of being the next Bob Dylan came from his record company not Bruce.

    Do a little research before commenting on things you don’t know anything about.

    Just saying

    1. Oh, and I’m not a liberal.

      1. Or burdened with good taste in music.

        1. I’m thinking it’s the sausage ass more than the music. Who wants to listen to a mashed potato butt singer? I can do that at home, with a mirror.

    2. I forgot about The Rising. That is a good record. And I have listened to all of his early ones front to back.

      I would say his first two records Greetings from Asbury Park and The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, and Nebraska were the three best. Those are great records. Tunnel of Love and Darkness at the Edge of Town were not bad. Born in the USA and The River were listenable. And I am sorry but Born to Run sucks. That whole record sucks. But that is it. Forty years of work and three or four really good records. That is called being overrated.

      And his lyrics are overrated. Everyone is a God damned victim in it. I hate the way he portrays working people. Everyone is a loser whose life ends when they lose a job. Songs like The River about losers who peak in high school offend the hell out of me.

    3. I’ve seen Bruce in person. He’s good live and there are a couple songs on most of his records that I like, some are even great, but he’s absolutely overrated.

      And The Rising is horrible.

  25. Having read “Declaration”, I come away thinking of TR’s “It’s not the critic who counts” quote. Is that all there is to libertarianism? Is a libertarian one who merely one “points out how the strong man stumbled and how the doer of good deeds could have done better”? That’s the hit I get off Gillespie on every Maher appearance. Just a snarky cynic condescending to anyone who doesn’t agree with him. Much like Welch’s blog here. In his opinion, Bruce’s music has been declining for years. Well, that’s the great thing about art. It’s entirely subjective. So while the Boss may not do anything for Welch’s finely-tuned ear, there are millions the world over who would disagree. Millions who’d tell you that a Bruce song helped them through a dark time: loss of a loved one, a relationship, a job. Songs that provide hope, joy and healing. Oddly, something you’d never hear from a reader of Welch’s fabulous blogs. Are there misses among Bruce’s hits? Of course. But his contributions to music history, and more importantly, to the lives of his fans and listeners, far outweigh those of some “cold, timid soul” throwing bombs from the sidelines. Welch’s dozens of fans may not agree with me, but I wouldn’t want to discourage him from uplifting the lives of people who’d never be caught dead at a Bruce show, even if it risks changing their minds. Enjoy your narrow libertarian box, boys, where you’re always right and everyone else is wrong. What a fun party that must be. Yeesh.

    1. there are millions the world over who would disagree. Millions who’d tell you that a Bruce song helped them through a dark time

      Many more millions will tell you that Celine Dion touched their lives in some way. Does that make her a brilliant artist who is beyond reproach? Besides, the article is about the annoyance of hagiographies written about Springsteen, not his place in musical history. I suggest you take your hurt feelings elsewhere, because you’ll get no pity here. Of course, if that’s really your only take away from the Maher viewings, then you’re probably not smart enough to understand what’s going on most of the time.

      1. Ahh, there’s the libertarian superiority complex for you. You’re a genius and anyone who doesn’t “get it” is an idiot. Enjoy being right. And lonely.

  26. I like Springsteen enough but don’t consider myself a big fan. Still, I respect him as a musician and a songwriter and think he brings a rawness most artists don’t – certainly it’s a disservice to compare him to Tom Petty (a decent songwriter in his own right, but the complete opposite of Springsteen aesthetically). Springsteen’s populist stridency can get overbearing, but Billy Bragg’s one of my favorites too, and I can distinguish his talent as a songwriter from his sloganeering.

    “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” is one of few songs by anyone over the past decade that I enjoy.

    1. It does a disservice to Petty to compare him to Springsteen. Petty is a much better song writer. Springsteen never wrote a song that was catchy or had decent pop sensibility. Born to Run has the worst guitar hook ever put to vinyl.

      1. They are different songwriters with different styles and aesthetics, so stop comparing one to the other. I’m a power pop fan and find Tom Petty extremely boring although I respect his grasp of writing consistently catchy melodies.

        And Springsteen has written plenty of catchy songs with pop sensibilities. “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” is pure jangle pop catchiness.

  27. Loved Springsteen in the 70’s. Just happened to pop in a DVD of the making of Born to Run recently and it reminded me of how good it was. But somehow, singing Born to Run in your 50s seems a little ridiculous. At least when Mick Jagger sings Satisfaction in his 70s, it takes on a whole new meaning.

    I used to be a huge fan. Haven’t bought anything he did since the MTV Plugged cd. I couldn’t really tell if his music is still good or not. But I haven’t heard anything that makes me want to run out and buy it. And his politics don’t help. Only reason for me to see him is nostalgia and I’m not willing to plunk down $100 for that.

    Nostalgia is a funny thing, though. It takes you back to a time when you were something you are not now. I feel bad for the people who will pop in Lady Gaga to feel good about themselves in middle age.

  28. Bruce joins the pro-war entertainment/celebrity crowd with his support for Obama 2012. He’s slightly bummed out about Obama’s fascist corporatism, but ignores Obama’s deadly warmongering interventionism as if it didn’t exist.

    That’s enough to make “The Boss” completely irrelevant even more than the banality of his music (and I’m not denying that he works hard at his concerts).

  29. If you listen to the LP version of “I’m On Fire” at 45 rpm, it sounds EXACTLY like Dolly Parton. It’s the best time you could ever have, listening to a Bruce Springsteen song.

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