Bruce Springsteen – “Lost in the Flood” from Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. (1973)
The Boss’ first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., has been compared to Van Morrison’s seminal Astral Weeks (1968), and with good reason. Both albums came early in their respective composer’s careers, both contain extraordinarily dense, poetic lyrics dealing with similar themes of alienation and unrequited love, and both pay homage to their composer’s hometowns (Springsteen’s Asbury Park, New Jersey, and Van the Man’s Belfast, Northern Ireland). Both albums also share the same bass player, but that is little more than a neat-o coincidence.
Born to Run (1975) is widely regarded as the album that “made” Bruce Springsteen. It is a fine album to be sure, but Greetings is just as good, if not better. The lyircs (arguably the most important part of the early Springsteen canon…I’m not familiar with his post-70’s stuff) on Born to Run are oftentimes lost in the too-busy arrangements. This is not the case on Greetings, where the words are far clearer, except of course for the famous deuce/douche chorus on “Blinded by the Light,” but that is an entirely different discussion (not really…it’s “deuce,” for the record).
The “flood” in this song is of the metaphorical variety. My reading of the song sees it as a suffocating flood of humanity in which one feels trapped. Each of the song’s three verses is about a different character, experiencing increasing levels of this anomie. In the violent final verse, “Bronx’s best apostle” reminds me somewhat of Travis Bickle in that he seems to be a crusader for the good, he wants to “wash the scum off the streets” in the same way Bickle did in Taxi Driver three years after this album’s release. At the risk of veering entirely off topic, Martin Scorsese has said that Taxi Driver is in part based on the aforementioned Astral Weeks.
Or maybe “Bronx’s best apostle” is just another gang-banger. I dunno.
Either way, the climactic last verse is about the the urban alienation so familiar to us big-city dwellers. One often feels invisible in the constant presence of so many strangers, and some feel like the only way they can get people to notice them is to go on a shooting rampage. Fortunately, most of us have the presence of mind to avoid such things.
Posted by Adam