The screen door slams
Mary’s dress sways
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that’s me and I want you only
Don’t turn me home again
I just can’t face myself alone again
In two days I’m going to see Bruce play. I had something else I was going to write about today but then it hit me that I simply had to write about Springsteen. Because as much as any writer, artist, or performer he was the first spark in my interest in writing. His lyrics, the way he sings them and his genuineness as a performer and a person (from what I know) have been a signpost for me not only in that I write at all, but in what and who I choose to write about and the voice I aim to bring to my writing.
Some dismiss Springsteen as hokey and jingoistic, Born in the USA having much to do with that. Reagan tried to align himself with Springsteen in the 1984 US election but he was strongly rebuffed. Springsteen is a champion of the ordinary people. And, if you listen to that song, it’s about the toil of blue-collar Vietnam veterans and the hard time their country gives them, and despite that, allegiance to the flag.
But I don’t want to talk about that – I’m not going to excuse or devalue my passion for Springsteen’s passion. Look at those lyrics that open Thunder Road, the first song on Born to Run, and tell me they are not beautifully evocative.
I can hear that screen door slam, its lightness no match for the dry spring roughly pulling it shut in a clatter against the frame. It’s a weather board house, single story, modest, paint flaking away like sunburnt skin. There’s dry and dusty grass at the foot of the porch. It’s a clear and still summer night. Its hot.
Mary’s dress sways as she dances across the porch … her dress is a light weight floral. She’s bare foot. She may even have a beer in her hand. Her hair is a wavy dark brown, worn out so it adds a flourish as she sways. The porch light is on, a single globe, naked and yellow, insects circling it.
Roy Orbison sings for the lonely and the lonely sings for Mary. Because she is beautiful and deserves to be sung to. He’s about to walk out of the darkness below the porch, smiling at Mary as she dances so light and carefree. She can’t see him yet, but she soon will. He’s come to declare himself hers.
Ordinary people with ordinary but strongly felt passions and maybe not the means to express themselves, in words, the way their hearts would have them do.
Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night … and together these two people can find that magic. If they believe in it together, they will find it.
I was sixteen when I bought Born to Run in 1978, three years after it came out. I had no intention of becoming a writer. There was too much sport to play. It took another ten or more years and the discovery of Raymond Carver’s short stories and Richard Ford’s novels – The Sportswriter, in particular – before I really understood that I wanted to write and what I wanted to write about.
I’ll say it again – ordinary people with ordinary but strongly felt passions and maybe not the means to express themselves, in words, the way their hearts would have them do. Their ordinary lives get punctuated by events they can’t always control but have to find a way to live with, if not to completely understand. And they’ve got to have the courage to take the opportunities for happiness that do come their way.
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey what else can we do now?
Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
Isn’t that most of us? Isn’t that how it should be?