Sunday, November 22, 2015

Some Things Hurt More, Much More, Than Cars and Girls

Bruce Springsteen's "Growin' Up," from his first LP, 1973's Greetings from Asbury Park, is about being a "cosmic kid in full costume dress" at the end of the 60s, apparently indulging in the sex, drugs, and rock and roll that defined the era, when he "hid in the cloud" and "never once gave thought to landing." Basically, Bruce was, like a lot of us, just really, really high, "taking month-long vacations in the stratosphere." It wasn’t existentialism, it was merely growing up. However, he tells us, "you know it’s really hard to hold your breath," once again alluding to the stratosphere, which seems to indicate that the deep introspection and self-exploration that psychedelic substances in particular often induce can be extremely challenging. Through the spontaneous therapeutic process that Springsteen underwent along with many in his generation, he sings, "I swear I lost everything I’d ever loved to fear," perhaps suggesting that these transformative chemical compounds forced him to face his fears and overcome his attachment to them. Although his "feet they finally took root in the earth," seems to mean that he moved past this exploratory phase, bearing a striking resemblance to shamanic initiation, à la  Carlos Casteneda's Don Juan, he held onto "a nice little place in the stars" that he could apparently return to as a transcendent source of inspiration and renewal. Ultimately, he tells us, "I swear I found the key to the universe in the engine of an old parked car," discovering profound meaning and beauty in the mundane or the down to earth. Years later Prefab Sprout would eschew the idea with their song "Cars and Girls": But look at us now (quit driving), some things hurt more, much more than cars and girls." I dunno; I wonder if they do.

As probably the most realist of the 60s triumvirate that they form with the Beatles and Dylan, the Rolling Stones recognized in "You Can’t Always Get What You Want" that life is always a negotiation between desire and necessity. When we're young, many of us have high aspirations, to be a rock star or the President of the United States and, as Jagger seems to recognize, that's as it should be. However, not all of us are destined to be icons, though life has a way of slowly and inexorably leading us toward new and unexpected paths through the kinds of daily encounters that Jagger describes in the lyrics, from "the reception" where "she was gonna meet her connection," to "the Chelsea drugstore" where "Mr. Jimmy" was looking "pretty ill." But the point Jagger is making in the chorus is that even though "you can’t always get what you want," this isn’t cause for Morrisseyan despair. Rather, Jagger seems to say, the realities of life are the constraints we must work within to become what we are meant to become. Keep striving toward your goal, he suggests, and life will give you "what you need."