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Young Fans Find Nostalgia In Bruce Springsteen, 'Girls In Their Summer Clothes'

April 18th, 2008 3:27pm EDT favorite Add to My News
Bruce SpringsteenBruce Springsteen and the beach are intrinsically linked. Imagine the Bruce of the 1970s chasing girls on a Jersey boardwalk, getting sand stuck in the scruff of his lazy beard and evading the pushers. It's nothing less than the embodiment of Mid-Atlantic state romance. Think The Beach Boys/West Side Story/The Sopranos. Wouldn't that be the life? The fireworks at the beach would be the red, white, and blue blazes that veer, explode and gently descend onto Bruce and Sandy in "4th of July, Ashbury Park." Then at the end of the season, "Atlantic City" would play as you took a pensive late night beach walk. Turning up your collar to combat the breeze advancing off the September waves, you'd look into Sandy's eyes and invite her to get out of this town for good.

We recommend added Springsteen's newest single, "Girls in Their Summer Clothes," to your unofficial "Being Bruce at the Beach" soundtrack. Springsteen rues a lost summer love as the E Street Band adds a double scoop of Brian Wilson grandeur to their usual fervor. The tune conjures visions of Bruce in a sandy jean jacket under a streetlight, watching the late evening Boardwalk traffic. He sees the girls in their spaghetti straps and flip-flops, giggling and sharing cotton candy. He longs for a return to that innocence, the purity of a smiling girl on the Boardwalk in the summertime with a heart that has yet to be broken.

Beautiful, right? Take the "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" video, which intercuts Bruce strumming and sauntering around a shoreline with women of all ages enjoying themselves in random beachy settings. All the women are presented in a dreamlike white haze. These are supposed to be all the girls Bruce has noticed on boardwalks his whole life. The images change the tone of the song from one of quixotic hunger to one of timid nostalgia. The girls aren't passing Bruce by, the years are. It's not a young man singing but rather an old man, alone, remembering the only thing remaining from those long gone summer days - a dusty sentimentalized collage of what might have been.


The aging Springsteen has enjoyed resurgence with youth culture in recent years. Bands like Arcade Fire, The Hold Steady, The Killers, and The National all admit to heavy Springsteen influence. But the Bruce that those bands love and that young people are discovering for the first time is the jean jacket Boardwalk Bruce of the 1970s. The one that tells Mary, "It's a town full of losers and I'm pulling out of here to win," in "Thunder Road." The Jersey boy who famously set out to write the "greatest rock'n'roll record ever" and then wrote "Born to Run." An outrageously ambitious young man burning for girls and guitars and wheels.

Maybe the reason young people shy away from Springsteen's new material is because we are reluctant to let go of our romantic visions of scruffy young Bruce snatching a girl off a rickety porch in a dead Jersey beach town, "strapping her hands across his engines" and heading for the highway without looking back. We don't want our Bruce to look back and feel the soreness of nostalgia because we don't want to deal with age and its inevitable wistful accompaniments. Losing that Bruce means growing up and saying goodbye to one of our most beloved modern Peter Pans. With "Girls in Their Summer Clothes," maybe he's inadvertently easing his newest fans, the current generation of young idealistic souls, into the hangover of age.

But for now, let's keep him in that everlasting Jersey summer, sand in his beard, overcome with so much love and ambition that at any moment he might just leave those girls in their summer clothes behind, straddle his bike, and ride off into an American flag sunset.

Story by Patrick Gaughan
Starpulse contributing writer


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