AUK’s Chain Gang: Bruce Springsteen “Born in the USA”

Being on the next link of the Americana Chain can feel a bit like being George Bernard Shaw in one of the funnier Python sketches (there were three in total if I remember correctly). Observe as Wilde, Whistler and Shaw try to outdo each other in ascribing unflattering comments about his majesty to another of the trio. Observe how the skewered wit, thus cornered, attempts to turn a questionable comment into a compliment.

That’s what it felt like getting last week’s Americana Chain. What, indeed, comes next when nothing springs readily to mind?

The idea seems to be that anyone can become anything they want, if they really want, by trying extra hard – but let’s face it there was never any way Charlie Drake was going to be a centre for the Nicks, I don’t even believe that Teen Wolf was that good. This confidence trick, aka ‘The American Dream’, is a fundamental example of the various methods of social control in America (See also rib ticklers like All Men are Created Equal / Democracy / Free Speech / Patriotism (but only as I define it). None of them stand up to scrutiny. In life’s lottery, some people don’t even get a ticket let alone entered in the draw. All of which is neatly skewered by Bruce Springsteen in his song, ‘Born in the USA’, which seems to put him firmly on John Fogerty’s side of the street if not that of the Avett Brothers – though I’m always in favour of a bit of self-actualisation, but for so many chance would be a fine thing.

When promoting his album Wrecking Ball in Paris, on February 16th, 2012, Bruce Springsteen told the journalists “My work has always been about judging the distance between American reality and the American Dream- how far is that at any moment?

In actual fact, that distance is so vast that we would need Professor Brian Cox to explain its magnitude – and we still wouldn’t get it.

Everyone, I am sure, is familiar with the bizarre sight of Trump using the song at his rallies – maybe unpalatable messages (for some) should not have such catchy sing-along choruses? Did anyone read the lyrics? But what else would you expect from a nation where some will shout ‘get in the hole’ as a golfer lets a drive go on a 600 yd par five (steady there Bryson)

As Josh Terry would see it –

For all of Springsteen’s public statements, “Born in the U.S.A.” has continued to be a rallying anthem for causes he doesn’t support. On top of his refusal to let Reagan use his songs, he’s also publicly disavowed Republican Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign use of the song as well the racist Pat Buchanan using it in 2000. Trump has tried to use the song at several rallies. Even Springsteen superfan Chris Christie, a one-time governor of New Jersey and former Presidential candidate who’s seen the Boss in concert over 140 times, [surely a sign of something deeply disturbing] has been often publicly rebuked by his musical idol.

But there’s no stopping them,

“I have not got a clue about Springsteen’s politics, if any, but flags get waved at his concerts while he sings songs about hard times,” wrote conservative bow-tie wearer George Will in a 1984 column. “He is no whiner, and the recitation of closed factories and other problems always seems punctuated by a grand, cheerful affirmation: “Born in the U.S.A.!”

What a mess. As Marshall McLuhan would have it, the medium really can be the message. Unfortunately.

About Gordon Sharpe 117 Articles
Retired music fan longing to get back to the Lakes and hoping to visit Scotland before much longer - somehow South Cheshire just doesn't cut it. Still seeking the grail in terms of a convincing description of what Americana really is but really enjoying the search. And still wondering when Kenny Rogers will get his just deserts
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