Sunday, July 13, 2014

Song of the Day # 176 - Bruce Springsteen

Emerging from NYC at round about the same time as The Ramones but very different. If The Ramones gave you the idea that perhaps you could do this, or at least something like it, Springsteen gave quite the opposite impression. This is quite impossibly skilled, you sure as hell couldn't do this. You've just had to buy your seat and pay your respects.
This is the last song from his first album. The record only sold 25,000 copies when first released but it got him noticed, by the record company and critics, got his foot in the door. I don't like it all. It's an older brother's  record passed down to me by default. I might not have it otherwise. As generally with Springsteen there's too much bombast for my liking on occasion but this is wonderful. Evident obvious genius. The open lines are just as good in their way as Iggys 'Street walkin' cheetah with a heart full of napalm' and from there the song just builds and builds in an astonishing, unbroken flow of street poetry. An incredible evocation of New York City. You can see the sights, smell the smells. It's one of the most incredible, sustained desciptions of urban living ever written. Not the worst person to share a first name with.
"It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City"
I had skin like leather and the diamond-hard look of a cobra
I was born blue and weathered but I burst just like a supernova
I could walk like Brando right into the sun
Then dance just like a Casanova
With my blackjack and jacket and hair slicked sweet
Silver star studs on my duds like a Harley in heat
When I strut down the street I could feel it's heartbeat
The sisters fell back and said "Don't that man look pretty"
The cripple on the corner cried out "Nickels for your pity"
Them gasoline boys downtown sure talk gritty
It's so hard to be a saint in the city
I was the king if the alley, mama I could talk some trash
I was the prince of the paupers crowned downtown at the beggar's bash
I was the pimp's main prophet I kept everythning cool
Just a backstreet gambler with the luck to lose
And when the heat came down it was left on the ground
The devil appeared like Jesus through the steam in the street
Showin' me a hand I knew even the cops couldn't beat
I felt his hot breath on my neck as I dove into the heat
It's so hard to be a saint when you're just a boy out on the street
And the sages of the subway sit just like the living dead
As the tracks clack out the rhythm their eyes fixed straightahead
They ride the line of balance and hold on by just a thread
But it's too hot in these tunnels you can get hit up by the heat
You get up to get out at your next stop but they push you
Back down in your seat
Your heart starts beatin' faster as you struggle to your feet
You're outa that hole and back up on the street
And them South Side sisters sure look pretty
The cripple on the corner cries out "Nickels for your pity"
And them downtown boys they sure talk gritty
It's so hard to be a saint in the city
C - Springsteen

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