Bruce Springsteen: “Spirit in the Night”
This one is for Clarence Clemons, 1942-2011.
It actually took me a long time to really be able to appreciate Bruce Springsteen. Something about his music just didn’t click with me throughout my years in junior high and high school. I was more interested in newer sounds than his earnest, roots-bound story songs. Which isn’t to say I actively disliked him…I certainly appreciated his talents, and liked, even loved, a few of his songs. I just couldn’t get into him enough that I felt it necessary to buy any of his albums. It wasn’t until years later that his songs filled with nostalgia for days gone by started to feel something like the nostalgia I was feeling for my own days gone by, and I finally bought his 1973 debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. It’s a great album that feels like what it was: the start of something big.
I still only have two other albums of his, from that mid-’70s period, and I don’t expect that I’ll necessarily buy any more. But Greetings will always be a great album in my mind, and the song that really makes the album for me is “Spirit in the Night” — it’s still the first thing I think of when that album comes to mind. And what makes that song so great is the saxophone — Clarence Clemons’ tenor sax on the song completely sets the mood. It’s a beautiful, sultry sound that snakes throughout the song and sets the scene for its story of youthful debauchery, friendship, love, and lust. Apparently it’s the first song Clemons ever worked on with Springsteen, and in my mind, it may in fact be the best. Sax can sometimes seem like a tacky add-on in rock and roll songs, but Clemons had a way of incorporating it so that it flowed with and filled out the songs, and no song demonstrates that better than “Spirit in the Night.”