Bruce played Darkness on the Edge of Town in its entirety back in February, at the concert I’ve already written about. I haven’t really stopped thinking about it. Helen Razer and the Melbourne crowd got Born to Run and if you’re interested she accurately and effectively maps out the despair and love that Bruce sells: the charm and the faff of those baroque seventies and early eighties, the before time. It’s an excellent review and probably nothing more need be said. But me, I’ve kept on thinking about ‘Racing in the Street’, obsessing in an offhand sort of way, to see if it manifests some resemblances to the life I’m living, to the despair and love I know. There’s a pleasure in picking the song apart, the de-rendering of the product into its constituent raw materials, and thinking about the craft required for such precisely emotive assembly.
There’s not much outcome from this process. You hear a flash of Motown, an echo of Martha Reeves; you hear the dextrous gurgle of uber-professional musicians underplaying the overblown romanticism of a contradictory narrative in which women become pictures of Dorian Gray; you hear aphoristic masculinity nurtured and celebrated through proxy combat; and you hear longing, layer upon layer of indeterminate longing, longings that might just be satisfied through robust action, and the struggle for that satisfaction given absolution in the same gesture. The passion of the joust is supposed to be a crucible. That the true man might be revealed as his unguarded, known and loveworthy soul. There’s also the beauty of the thing, which I admire with croon and swoon. But it’s not much for a couple of months of rumination.
So I find myself here wondering what I’ve been thinking about for three months. I’ve been playing Bruce over and over: in the car, in the kitchen, at work, over the pc speakers right now. And the answer is simple, I’ve been thinking about myself. What it has come to mean to me, racing in the street as a trope, is the passion for life blind to all else, a passion for my life, passionate me. A passion is not without cost I cannot help but know, a me whose being implies cost to others. Wanting this, not wanting this, has sent me deep into a pointless hall of mirrors. Second guessing myself at every turn, I’ve wondered if I’ve not gone racing in the street enough, or maybe too much. Or maybe I did and I faked it, and an untrue guardedness is revealed, maybe I’m unmasked as a fake racer. A true fake. Or maybe I went racing in the street and I lost and I can’t make it matter. Or maybe I didn’t do it and I don’t know why, and so I told everyone I was racing in the street.
So fuck it, it’s a song and it’s not about me.