2007: “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” (Bruce Springsteen, Magic)
Since I’ve already broken one promise I made for this series by not wrapping it up by my birthday, I figured I might as well break another one by repeating an artist. The main reason being that 2007 was a pretty damn bleak year when I went and looked back at it. I was struggling between “Grace Kelly” by Mika and “Love Song” by Sarah Bareilles, for crying out loud, both of which are perfectly fun little songs in their own right, but hardly worth immortalizing on this list. Then I remembered this was the year Bruce Springsteen released Magic, and the events surrounding my purchasing of that album, and figured that if anyone deserves to barge onto here breaking rules, it’s the Boss.
I’d already heard “Radio Nowhere,” the first single from Magic, and that, along with some sterling early reviews, had me pretty pumped to get the album. So much so that I left straight from work to head to Super Target and pick up the CD the day it came out. I’d enjoyed The Rising and Devils & Dust and The Seeger Sessions just fine, but word was Magic was a return to that old Springsteen feeling, and I absolutely could not wait. But I would have to, because a school bus smacked into me on the way to the store.
Okay, that makes it seem far worse than it was. I had a green light to go forward, and this school bus tried to sneak through the left turn signal and missed. Well, the turn anyway, not me. He wasn’t going very fast, I had just started accelerating from the light, so the crash wasn’t at a speed to do more than crumple bumpers and scare the ever-loving crap out of me. And fortunately, there were no kids on the bus. The driver even got out of a ticket because, ahem, apparently the lights weren’t synchronized properly, leading his yellow light to bleed a little into my green. Or so they said. Regardless, my car was driveable, but for little more than getting back home, and certainly not for something as frivolous as buying a CD. So, after the trooper and the statements and all that fun, I turned my car towards home, scraping my bumper along the road the whole way.
And then… This is kind of tough to recall, because it was one of my favorite things that ever happened in the course of our relationship. But when I got home, Hannah took me to Target to buy the CD. She knew how much I wanted it, and she wasn’t going to let me sit around moping about my car. It might seem like a small thing, but I was — and remain — so grateful for it.
So this album had a hell of a lot to live up to, and boy did it deliver. It’s nothing than Springsteen the home run hitter finding that tape measure swing one last time, recalling all that made him the Boss in the first place back in the 70s. It’s like the great lost album Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town, with a little bit of The River‘s polish to it. There’s longing and bitterness and hope and regret and all the emotions that Springsteen can wield like paint on canvas, and “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” is easily the stand-out track for me. There are echoes of “Hungry Heart” in it, as if it’s the same guy, still searching, but now older and wondering if he’s ever going to find it, and looking back on those days when it seemed it would be so easy. It’s plaintive and wistful and just beautiful, a real gem on an album full of them.
But it’s the circumstances of owning the album that stick with me. In a way, it was almost a Springsteen-ian tale, in which life gets sidetracked out of nowhere, and yet there’s still a shred of hope even as you survey the wreckage. And where, even after things go bad, the memories of the good still remain, sometimes filling you with regret, sometimes filling you with hope, but always part of the road you find yourself traveling down.