Rock Tales From The Swamps of Jersey: Bruce Springteen?s VH1 Storyteller?s DVD

Greasy Lake, 2005-10-16, by: Maureen Shames
?It?s an iffy proposition,? said Bruce Springsteen. ?Talking about music is like talking about sex. Can you describe it? Are you supposed to??

A resounding double YES is the only possible answer to these questions!

For us, Bruce proves it all night throughout VH1 Storytellers, a 90-minute DVD that was filmed in an intimate venue, Two River Theater Company located in Red Bank near his home turf seven months ago and was released in early September.

Wearing a brown jacket and blue jeans, Springsteen looks like just the coolest college professor to breeze in the door with his poofy mussed hair. His remarks run the gamut and are sometimes jovial, self-deprecating, and honest. He is verbally demonstrative and quite likeable.

Bruce dissects lyrics, explains the origin, tells some interesting anecdotes and also plays eight complete acoustic tunes. A standing ovation greets the end of just about every song.

The Boss gives a solo performance on all but Brilliant Disguise when his lovely wife Patty Scialfa sings in beautiful harmony with him. Bruce plays other classic songs such a ?Thunder Road? and ?Blinded By The Light.? He balances these with newer tunes including: ?Waitin? On A Sunny Day,? ?Devils & Dust? and ?The Rising.?

?Thunder Road,? is a stand-out moment.

?Screen door slams, Mary?s dress waves, like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays,? opens this treasured classic.

These words are an invitation to join in an adventure, Bruce explains. This song is what struck a chord for many people and hooked me into this rockin? music pretty early in Bruce?s career. Wish it were right from the start in the 1970s, but I was so much younger then!
?Well, I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk,? is a famous line in ?Thunder Road,? but Bruce glibly points out this was the ?hokiest line? he ever wrote!

Laughter emanates throughout the Two River Theater Company often during this exciting evening.

In ?Blinded By The Light,? Bruce visibly has some fun tearing it apart line by line. He wrote this with a notebook in one hand and a rhyming dictionary in the other that he believes eventually must have been in ?flames? by the song?s finish.

Did you know that the opening words, ?madman drummers bummers,? refers to former E Street Band drummer Vini Lopez who was always getting into ?shit?? according to Bruce.

With such an incredible body of work over a such long period of time, it is astonishing to learn that ?Blinded By The Light? is the only song Bruce ever had a number one hit with and NOT with his own version. British rock group Manfred Mann struck number one, and Bruce gives this some hilarious analysis.

?Blinded? is such a whirlwind of rhyming information and it is quite enjoyable to hear Bruce run through every verse and explain how he created it at the Jersey Shore, after being urged by the famed Clive Davis to write some hits for the first album.

?I always say that?s a song that explains why I never did any drugs, Bruce said. ?I don?t think I could have stood it. My mind was already reeling.?

?Brilliant Disguise,? is a brilliant choice for the DVD. Bruce said he wrote it at the age of 37 in 1987. It was his first foray into writing about male/female relationships. It is on the Tunnel of Love album where the cornerstone issues were identity and love. He explains how the meaning of the song changes with time remaining relevant.

?My wife will often tackle an argument with me by saying, ?SAY THAT in your next interview, Mr. Bruce Springsteen,?? Bruce said. ?She?s implying that there?s a gap between an opinion I?ve just voiced and my public self. In a public forum it would shock, outrage and disquiet my fans. She usually is right so she wins. We all have multiple selves. There?s a public face we show to others. I?m wearing mine right now.?

More laughter.

The program ends with a particularly gratifying and thrilling question and answer period. How did the Beatles and The British Invasion influence Bruce?s work? How does Bruce infuse certain songs with such an understanding about minorities when he is a white man? We feel like we know Bruce as he bares his soul in songs like, ?Growing Up? and ?My Hometown,? but do we really?

These are among the many questions Bruce tackles with finesse!

It would have been interesting to also hear Bruce explore more about his own folk and rock heroes such as Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan.

I recommend Springsteen?s VH1 Storytellers to every Boss-A-Holic. It provides us with a deeper understanding of Springsteen?s work and we get to know his charming personality better than ever.

Not only is the song selection stellar, but Bruce?s storytelling skills capture it all and lead us on a path from Thunder Road to beyond our wildest imaginations.