Boss Time, part 1

Well, it’s 23 September 2020, the forecast is for drizzle. We’re heading back into lockdown again. I coughed earlier and, for a moment, had a little panic. Good grief. It’s over, isn’t it? We’re doomed!

On the positive side, it’s an important date. On this day, 71 years ago, Bruce Frederick Springsteen was born, at Monmouth Medical Center, in Long Branch, New Jersey. An awkward kid, whose difficult relationship with his cantankerous father became toxic as he got older, he didn’t really fit in. I can identify with that part. Thing is, Bruce grew up in the late-’50s, into the ’60s. As a little boy he swayed to Elvis on the TV and said “I wanna do that when I grow up, Momma”. And he did.

His mother indulged his dreams, while his father sneered and told him to get his hair cut.

As a spotty teen, he was invigorated further by the British Invasion. Playing ’til his fingers bled, he gradually got the hang of the guitar. As he’s always said, first thing’s first. Learn how to hold it. How to pose with it. Playing is what comes next. As a child, watching footage of Bruce, my brother and I learnt how to pose, how to sling the guitar one way and look the other, to leap onto the grand piano (coffee table) and tap the keys (coasters) with the toe of our leather boot (football socks).

I remember at university, a friend of mine, someone who, in my experience, was never one for wasting her words, watching me messing about with another of our flatmates’ electric guitar. I didn’t know a single chord. “You look really cool holding that guitar,” she remarked. Course I did, I learnt from the best. I’ve never been told I look cool before or since, as far as I can remember.

As a small child I had it in my head that liking a band was akin to supporting a football team. In my family we supported Everton, who play at Goodison Park. And Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, who play at Wembley Stadium. As a five or six year old I begged my parents to take me with them to the old Wembley when they went to see Bruce on the Born In The USA tour. I’m sure my selfish sod of a father went a few times. Ok, maybe I was too small. But I got it.

A rare memory of being with both my mum and dad I have is a recollection of the three of us walking through the gate off Lord Street into Barclay Park, between the two of them, the three of us holding hands. One of them must have been carrying my baby brother. I can’t have been much more than five. Bowl cut, wellies, knitted cardigan. I put my “supporting bands and football teams” theory out there. I’m sure they laughed, fondly, as I do when Enid comes out with one of her brilliant realisations today.

That’s a happy memory. I had it all back then. My little family. Everton – who were among the best teams in England, if not Europe – at around that time, not that I really understood that, it was all I knew, the pain would come later – and Bruce. Within a couple of years my dad would implode anddisappear. Everton would end an all-too-brief period of success spiral into decades of turbulence. Even Bruce disappeared to an extent, going almost 20 years without producing a studio album with the E Street Band.

Events had conspired. I felt very alone in my teenage years.

To be continued…

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