Bruce Springsteen – Highway Patrolman

Bruce Springsteen cancelled a show today in North Carolina. He did to protest against the “bathroom laws” that have recently been passed there. There is a lot of commentary available on the subject already, so I won’t go into it too far other than to say that it is a ridiculous regression in human rights.

Thinking back to my travels (again) through Europe, one thing about Belgium has stayed with me – unisex toilets. You walk in, in the front you have basins, then cubicles and last you have the urinals. There is no question about gender at all. Obviously what is happening in North Carolina is bigger than unisex toilets, it’s an attack on human rights, but it would certainly remove some of the arguments that the bigots are using.

When I saw Springsteen’s name in the headlines, I started to think about his music and his incredible 1982 album Nebraska. It was recorded in a single night on a four-track in his bedroom, in a temporary studio set up by Mike Batlan.

The tracks were going to be used as demos for a new album together with the E Street Band, but after they spent time with it in the studio, they realised that the demos were better. They cleaned up the recordings and a few months later released Nebraska. There is talk about “Electric Nebraska” being in an archive somewhere, but as far as I know nothing has surfaced yet, and recordings tend to be quite buoyant.

The album is mainly about crooks, criminals, and murderers. Highway Patrolman is a little different because its protagonist is on the other side of the law.

Highway Patrolman is about Joe, a farmer, and his brother Franky who was in the Army.  Joe walked off his farm in the late 1960s when wheat prices plummeted in the US. He became a highway patrolman, and his brother Franky came back from Vietnam. Franky was always trouble, and Joe as the local policeman, tried to keep him in line. Joe firmly believed that you don’t turn your back on your family.

Joe gets a call from a roadhouse saying that Frank has killed someone and is fleeing towards Canada. Joe chases him down, but when he gets close to the Canadian border he pulls over and lets Frank go – obviously a crime in itself.

Listen to the track, consider that it was recorded in the early 80s on a simple four-track in Springsteen’s bedroom. A couple of guys, a guitar, a voice and a heaping helping of incredible talent – not a team of writers, producers, autotuners and whatever else they use to produce music these days.

I’ve done a little searching and it seems as though the places, roads and songs in the lyrics are all made up. Artistic licence is forgiven, but I do like visiting song places. Like the time I went to Serviceton…

If you decide to look up the video-clip for this song, it’s taken from the film Indian Summer and kinda stinks. The movie was based on the song, quite loosely, and the initial scene from the clip sets the mood in the polar opposite of what I want. I’ve therefore linked to just the song.

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Give ’em the boot.

I didn’t mean for this to become a mini brain-dump about genres, but it did:

I like a lot of different types of music. I think that there is good in all genres. Pigeon-holing music into genres can be challenging at times. Pick three bands – say Bad Religion, Rancid and No Fun At All. They all fit into “punk”, but without some improved pigeon-holing, you would expect them to have a similar sound. They don’t. If you ask me, Bad Religion is punk rock. Rancid are some sort of anarcho-punk ska mash. No Fun At All are skate or snowboard punk. Others would disagree, but that’s ok.

I think the more time you spend with a genre, the more you feel compelled to improve the granularity in your pigeon-holes. I enjoy classical music, but I haven’t spent enough time with it to get beyond that it’s in the “classical” genre. One day I would like to be able to improve on this, but for now I will have to be happy with just that. I’m sure there are people out there who insist on there being several different types of trip-hop, K-pop or Swedish Dance Band music.


This track, Roots Radicals is from Rancid’s “…and out come the wolves album” is great. Broke punk kids spending money they don’t have on booze and riding on the bus to get around.


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Leningrad – В клубе модном

I first heard this song В клубе модном (V klube modnom translates to “In A Fashionable Club) when I was in Sweden in 2004. A friend had just visited Leningrad and brought the CD back. I have no idea what the lyrics say, but I’m been assured that it’s mostly filth. Filth or not, I can’t get past the brilliantly loose guitar backed by the oompa oompa of the brass.

I refer to it as polka punk and I love it.

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Peter Gabriel – My Body Is A Cage

I first came across this Peter Gabriel cover of Arcade Fire’s My Body Is A Cage watching an episode of House. It’s a dramatic scene, House on the balustrade of a fifth floor balcony, getting ready to jump. It’s dark. Party goers notice him there, perched. The song builds in the background. House jumps. It’s probably one of my favourite House episodes, and if you haven’t seen it, I recommend you watch it. It’s the 16th episode in Season 7.

The song was powerful enough to make it track it down and buy the album it is on called Scratch My Back. It is an album of covers by Peter Gabriel, opening with Bowie’s Heroes, then goes through a surprising range of artists including Paul Simon and Regina Spektor. The final track is Radiohead’s Street Spirit (Fade Out). Originally a haunting track, the Gabriel cover of it takes it to the next level.

The plan was an album of Gabriel doing covers, followed by an album of the artists he had covered, doing an album of Gabriel covers. The follow up album was released in 2013, titled “And I’ll Scratch Yours”. I love the concept, and both albums are fantastic to listen to.


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