I was never much of a Bruce Springsteen fan. His music was too much the anthem of the pop-collared frat boys who dominated the social scene of the east coast university where I spent my early ’80s undergrad days.
There was too much … New Jersey … in his fans. Too much Jersey Shore before MTV brought that stereotype to life for the rest of America.
Too much “Born in the USA” chest-pounding from College Republican cadres who hadn’t bothered to listen to the lyrics. Too much “Bruuuuuuuuuce!” blaring from the windows of the dorms on warm fall days. Too many privileged prep school kids trying to own his working-class outsider vibe.
But … there’s this one song.
It’s hard for me to put in words what I love about this song. The music is spare, but beautiful for that spareness.
It’s dark lyrically. It speaks of broken people reaching for a tattered and tawdry diversion from the grim day-to-day sameness of their lives.
Like “Born to Run” or “Thunder Road,” “Atlantic City” is about escape. But here it’s fleeting.
Put your makeup on fix your hair up pretty, and meet me tonight in Atlantic City.
This is the only Springsteen song I need, Nebraska the only album. The real fans can have the rest.
Happy 67th birthday, Bruce.