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The Boss Prefers Green to Blue Collar

September 02, 2002|JOHN ZAVESKY

The headline on Robert Hilburn's Aug. 26 review of Bruce Springsteen's Forum concert was "Rock, With Respect." Hilburn ended his piece by pointing out that the Boss chose the Forum over the newer Staples Center because the older venue better suited Springsteen's blue-collar tradition.

What I would like to know is, in this time of poor economic conditions and widespread layoffs, how many blue-collar folk were able to afford the tariff of a ticket that sold for $75, not including Ticketmaster's "convenience charge"?

Much has been said about the patriotic tone of Springsteen's latest album. That isn't new. The patriotism card was played when the last E-Street collaboration was released back in 1984. The Boss is one of those artists who, in writing about the people and landscape of this country, evokes a certain sentiment for all things American.

What is unfortunate is the fact that Springsteen, as an artist, has also allowed himself to be sold as a man of the working class, drawing on images of Woody Guthrie barnstorming through America on the rails during this country's worst economic period of the 20th century. Springsteen has added to this mystique by recording Guthrie tunes and evoking the lead character, Tom Joad, from John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath," another work of art depicting the downtrodden of America's Great Depression.

The difference between Guthrie and Springsteen is as wide as the mighty Mississippi. For all the concerts, records and radio shows Guthrie did, he remained a man of the people up to the day he died. Springsteen, on the other hand, has chosen the path of crass commercialization, taking more than the lion's share of concert ticket sales, not to mention the revenue from the sale of snappy-looking T-shirts. He and his family are ensconced in a $13-million mansion in New Jersey. He continues to own a home in one of California's priciest and exclusive areas.

Yet he and his minions of journalist supporters continue to spread the gospel of the Boss being one of us. The last I looked, those factory workers, waitresses, truck drivers and other assorted blue-collar folk weren't able to afford a garage in the Boss' neighborhood.

It can be argued that Springsteen is merely enjoying the fruits of his labors. This is something that any person is entitled to in the USA, and I wouldn't argue that. What is objectionable is the blindness to the fact that a false image has been milked for all it's worth--and that such an artist is exploiting his fans, unless one doesn't believe that paying $75 to stand some 80 yards away from the stage and stare at the collective backs of the people in front of them is excessive.

Springsteen is doing what countless other artists have done in recent years: Take the money and run.

How many commercials for cars, food and athletic shoes have 30-second musical sound bites by artists who once professed not to trust anyone over the age of 30 and who called for a revolution?

A major music magazine that had John Lennon on its debut cover now sports such revolutionary headlines as "Summer Style Issue." Unfortunately, if Springsteen is supposed to evoke the continued Everyman concept that rock once had, then rock is deader than Lennon--and we are all slightly less for allowing that to happen.

John Zavesky is a freelance writer who has recently completed a novel about the 1953 Los Angeles mayoral election. He lives in Los Angeles.




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