I was nine, lazing on a swimming pool float, when I first heard Bruce Springsteen. A harmonica and piano drifted from a window and the rest of the album followed it out. I spent that late summer afternoon face down on that air mattress, listening to that record blasting out of my friend's sister's bedroom window, over and over again, and I knew it was great. I was wise enough at nine to know it was a fantasy, but I was also the kind of boy who embraced fantasy and in those songs I was sure I heard the secret life of every teenager I knew. I heard the secret life that was waiting for me, just a few short summers in the future.
But I wasn't hooked. I was nine, man. I got out of the pool, dried off on the hot concrete and by the time my sunburn started to peel, I'd forgotten about the record. Mostly.
When Darkness On The Edge Of Town came out, I was twelve and I'd grown up about as much as any kid could in the three years that had passed. In those three years, I'd lost friends to distance and death, my Gramma to Heaven-Up-Above and I'd learned that darkness could fall on you even when you're still just a kid. I was on the edge of my teens, really getting into music and when I saw that album in the store, I remembered that late summer day in 1975 when I looked into my teenage future. I snatched up the new album, expecting teenage fantasies about hot rods and backstreets and barefoot girls. They were all there...the cars and the girls and the roads, but the only teenage fantasy was one about a lonely prostitute and all of the rest were stark adult truths. I was wise enough at twelve to know that these songs were more a glimpse of my own future than anything on Born To Run ever could have been.
It wasn't one song that hooked me. It was those ten, in that sequence, and I've been a rabid fan ever since. Forty-one years burnin' down the road.