Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thunder Road - Part 3: Magic In The Night

There are things that haunt us in our lives. Regret chases away our dreams and petrifies our motions.

Throughout “Thunder Road,” we get a sense that Mary has some thing that is holding her back from joining the protagonist in his car but we aren’t sure what it is. While we never hear the details, the last part of “Thunder Road” focuses on how much bravery it takes to move beyond the ghosts of the past into the possibilities of the future.

 Mary has made promises that she has broken. These boys that she has hurt and sent away haunt the “skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolet."  Mary can’t escape all of the mistakes she has made, all the sins of her past and in the darkness of the night they overtake her. Her graduation gown, the symbol of what she worked so hard for, is in rags.  What she thought would bring her liberation is just an illusion.

As the night ends, there is a “lonely cool before dawn.” The engines of the burned out Chevrolet's filled with her broken dreams, start to roar like an animal heading towards her soul. But when Mary steps out onto the porch and sees him standing there, all her regret and fears, disappear on the wind.

The perspective switches one more time and as Mary climbs in, he thinks, “it’s a town full of losers and I’m pulling out of here to win.” This line is about leaving everything behind, moving on with one’s life and taking a chance to make something happen. As Springsteen sings “win” we hear the music rev up like an engine and in the sailing saxophone line we see the car drive out onto thunder road.

“Thunder Road,” like many of Springsteen’s songs works through a simple arrangement of chord progressions. If you know the basic I-IV-V chords on a guitar you can work through most of this song. Combined with the harmonica at the beginning of the song has a folk-like sensibility. Springsteen mixes this with the grandeur of Phil Spector’s symphonic pop songs like “Unchained Melody.”

“Thunder Road,” lacks a clear verse and chorus structure.  Instead it unravels with a stream of consciousness, slowly building and evolving across a musical landscape that reflects the nostalgia in all of our hearts.

When Springsteen broke into this song in the pouring rain at Wrigley Field, I pulled my wife close to me. As the harmonica line sailed into the night, I felt tears welling up. You could feel the entire stadium begin to sing with Bruce. Then Bruce put his mic down and let the audience sing “ . . . young anymore, show a little faith, there’s magic in the night, you ain’t a beauty but hey you’re alright.”

Then Bruce responded approvingly “well, that’s all right with me.”

With these words, the audience is singing about Springsteen himself. He’s not the twenty-something he was when he first sang “Born To Run,” but he’s still our man.  These lines are about what is the most important things in life, faith, love and the belief that there is magic out there. There is wonder in the unknown and if we believe in something hard enough and take a chance, we can all find our own “Thunder Road.”

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