An Artist’s perception of his work can resemble Bizarro World. Consider The Boss. Some of his best songs were never commercially released. Submitted for your consideration: a perfectionist is his own worst critic, sometimes misconceiving the quality of his finest work. As will be demonstrated, the picture below is no “stranger” than whatever mad criteria rejected the musical selections discussed here. Proceed with caution. This could divide your mind, generating dual personae: your conception of Springsteen prior to seeing the kitten and manatee (BKM); and whatever remains (AKM). In one fascinating respect, Bruce is more “eccentric” than Warhol, Dali, and Pynchon combined.
This catchy gem had Top 40 potential in the way Pearl Jam’s biggest hit was Last Kiss. They share a vibe, yet it missed the final cut. This is why some of us endured Indiana Jones-like odysseys to acquire Springsteen bootlegs back in ye Olden Tymes, before everything was released in box-sets of outtakes. You kids don’t know how good you have it!
Rendezvous, never included on a studio album. Badlands-tier. Seriously, Bruce?
Thundercrack, primal, wacky, MIA.
Once you process that Santa Ana was a mere demo you’ll be ready to entertain conspiracy theories or Freudian hooey as explanations. Wait. You’re still at base camp. The next two songs can change your life.
“Driving, page-turning force” Publishers Weekly
This outtake of Stolen Car is arguably Springteen’s greatest moment in the studio. (AKA Son You May Kiss the Bride.) Art. Life-changing. “No matter what I do or where I drive nobody ever sees me when I ride by” captures a chilling sense of life’s transitory, ghostly quality like James Dean stopping at A Clean, Well Lighted Place. Yet the version that landed on The River could most charitably be described as filler. What. Was. He. Thinking.
In what fallen, twisted world is Stray Bullet an “outtake”?! This is Stolen Car-tier. This is one of his best songs. By the second verse you’re in Cormac McCarthy territory. (How’s that for synesthesia.) Allegedly it sounded too much like Point Blank. To the contrary, Point Blank is reminiscent of Stray Bullet. It’s simply stunning that The River could have been a better album, which seems impossible in principle.
Unsatisfied Heart, rough as rough drafts come. Haunting story: “Once I had a home here. My salvation was at hand. I lived in a house of gold, on a far hillside. I had two beautiful children, and a kind and loving wife … One day a man came to town, with nothing and nowhere to go. He came to me and he mentioned something I’d done a long time ago.” Achingly beautiful chorus. What could this have become? Why would you abandon this?
The “official version” of Racing in the Street isn’t even a shadow of this … masterpiece. (Clearly some of the lyrics hadn’t jelled.) There’s an urgency, a fury, a desperation, a magnificence never surpassed by anything on Darkness on the Edge of Town.
Johnny Bye Bye, b-side with a stone-cold groove few tunes attain. 112 seconds of Satori.
The studio version of Incident on 57th Street contained, only in embryonic form, The Beast it became live.
Jablonski met Springsteen after a solo acoustic show. He paid a few weeks’ wages for a seat in the orchestra pit. Paul Molitor, in the front row behind him, was teased by Jablonski for having a crappy seat. Jablonski told Bruce, “You know how you just made a concept album based on The Grapes of Wrath? Consider a reggae album inspired by Duck Soup.” Bruce laughed. He’s always laughing.
The plot thickens. What became of these:
Did Springsteen consider turkeys like Hungry Heart & Born in the USA better than the ones cited in this post? Maybe Shakespeare preferred Titus Andronicus. Freddie Mercury’s favorite Queen song was Crazy Little Thing. If there’s no accounting for taste there’s no accounting for most of what individuates us. There’s no accounting for taste.
In candor, what would possibly constitute an “explanation” of the Eccentric Genius Archetype, a pattern documented before Hippocrates. Recognizing the vast divide between mere descriptions and true explanations, marveling at the sui generis nature of our subject, the only conclusion is to redouble our gratitude to all those who made sacrifices to circulate Springsteen bootlegs back in ye Olden Tymes.
Jablonski once possessed 2k+ hours of Grateful Dead, Springsteen, Allman Bros, Dire Straits, Stones, Hendrix, Phish, Doors, Pink Floyd and sundry boots. On cassette. Those were plastic thingies with two small spools of tape inside. The preferred ones held 90 minutes. The GD let you record their shows if you sat in a special section. Jablonski would trade all his tomorrows for another run at Alpine. Paging Sean Carroll …