Cover me - David McCullagh on why Bruce Springsteen still matters

Cover me – David McCullagh on why Bruce Springsteen still matters

It’s been a mixed few weeks for Bruce Springsteen fans: there was some good news as well as some questionable public opinion, mixed in with a bit of ho-hum, for good measure

To start with the good, Bruce finally confirmed that in his song thunder roadMary’s dress actually sways instead of waving.

While the lyrics are printed on the born to run Choosing the latter, Bruce told Jimmy Fallon that he had sung the former all these years.

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The question had fans divided, but now those of us who were staunch ditherers have been proven right. Of course. How could a dress “wave”? Those who said that’s what Bruce sang were clearly wrong.

But they aren’t the only people who hold wrong opinions (ie everyone who disagrees with me).

My colleague Michael Cahill conducted a listener poll for RTÉ Gold to identify the Irish public’s favorite Bruce songs.

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A very fine undertaking that met with a great response. But as with all these lists, it provoked more than a minor argument.

See (spoiler alert) born to run at number 1 is no surprise, I have no problem with that Rosalita at number 2 – aim dancing in the dark at number 3? Give me a break! A hit song about not being able to write a hit song, Bruce’s biggest chart hit is a little too popular for the purists (myself included).

As for the rest of the top 30…none of Nebraska, arguably his most critically acclaimed album? Or from his latest albums with original material, western stars and Letter to you? And don’t get me started on the public’s failure to recognize the brilliance of New York Serenade gold racing on the street. other people, right?

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And so, ho-hum…

Springsteen’s 21st studio album, Only the strong Surviveconsists of cover versions of “fifteen soul music greats” (according to the press release) and is very pleasant to listen to.

But the question I have about the album is: What’s the point?

The covers are respectful and faithful to the originals – a bit too respectful and faithful perhaps as they don’t really add anything. And that’s the point of a cover version, isn’t it?

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Springsteen has spoken about how he wanted to showcase his voice on the new album and honestly he sounds great – for a Bruce album it all feels a bit irrelevant.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s not pretty, but hey, it’s okay. If a new album of Springsteen originals isn’t on the cards (and he’s made it clear that’s not the case), then I’ll take it.

He has said he will play some of the songs when he goes on tour next year and should he break out Do I love you (actually I do) on the RDS, with the E Street Band at full throttle, I’ll enjoy it. As long as the covers don’t crowd out his own material.

Because while Springsteen is a superb recording artist, the real magic happens live. Songs that only sound ok in the recording studio get so much better in concert.

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It’s impossible to appreciate Springsteen’s appeal without seeing him live and it’s been seven long years since he’s played in Ireland – partly because of his long-running Broadway show, partly because of Covid.

So those three nights at RDS next May are eagerly awaited by fans – even those who think dancing in the dark is his best song.

Since his last visit (two nights at Croke Park in 2016 on The River’s 30th anniversary tour) he has released two albums of original material as well as the cover album so the setlists will be interesting. And the good news for those who attend all three nights is that he will change it up each night so we’ll be hearing a lot of different songs over the course of the Dublin stand. So there’s more than enough for Springsteen fans to look forward to.

Do we need a Springsteen cover album? Probably not, but just let him.

Do we still need Bruce himself? Indeed we do.

Only the strong Survive by Bruce Springsteen is now available.


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