My parents are visiting New Jersey from Nebraska, and I have been on a mission to win them over to the Garden State. This has mostly involved pizza and trips of the many fine Portuguese restaurants here in the Ironbound. However, I am bursting with excitement over our trip tomorrow to Asbury Park and the shore. Yes, it still may be cold and windy out there, and Sandy has done her worst, but I can't wait to walk the boardwalk and gaze upon the ocean again.
Asbury Park has really won a place in my heart, since it combines natural beauty with the ghostly ruins and refurbished palaces of its beachfront. Of course, the real reason I went there for the first time was because it was the adopted hometown and creative inspiration for Bruce Springsteen. Having spent time there, I finally understood the goofy, having a party vibe of songs like "I'm a Rocker" and "Cadillac Ranch," which seem to co-exist rather uneasily with his sad reports on the decline of working class America in tunes like "The River." Asbury Park bears the wounds of deindustrialization, but Shore life has a certain devil may care, you only live once attitude.
His first few records are inextricably marked by life on the Shore. The first is entitled Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ, and the second The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle, has a back photo featuring the band posing in some of Asbury Park's grungier environs. "Rosalita" appeared on the album, but it only reached full blossom in live performance, as is evident in this video.
The video didn't come out until the 1980s, but was filmed in 1978, before The Boss had been catapulted from stardom into super-duper-stardom. In the 1980s live performance videos were a common genre, especially with hard rock bands like Def Leppard and Bon Jovi. They always seemed so self-indulgent to me, and almost always featured live footage set to the studio track, not an actual live performance. This video, however, is one of the purest expressions of joy I have ever seen. The people in the audience are having the time of their lives; nubile young women are running up onstage and kissing Springsteen, and Bruce himself has a huge shining smile of pure bliss on his face. He and the band are clearly having a blast, and don't need tired poses to express themselves.
Musically, "Rosalita" is not one of the best Springsteen songs, but in its live incarnation, it allows a template for the E Street Band to really cut loose and go crazy. Watching this made me mourn the recent passing of Clarence Clemons once again. Not only does he blast out his usual array of killer sax riffs, his playful flourishes of the castanets behind Springsteen are absolutely hilarious. This band, and this song, would not exist if not for that special feeling you can only get on the Shore, which is why I am so excited to go back there tomorrow.