When you move to another country and don’t know many people, you have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone. You cannot be afraid to walk up to a stranger and say hello; or saddle up to a pub by yourself and have a chat with the barman, open to wherever the night takes you. A social situation that could be frightening to some, I find thrilling. The last two months have been equal parts challenging, liberating, and hilarious. Getting the chance to tell my story and learn from a variety of cultures and backgrounds from around the world has been very rewarding. (I’ve realized my answer to the standard “Where are you from?” is a bit confusing: well, I grew up in Minnesota, spent my 20s in Boston and the better part of the last 6 years running off to Los Angeles every chance I get. Yes, I’m officially an American mutt.)
Last week I struck up a conversation at the Front Door (one of my favorite Galway watering holes) with a nice woman who was traveling from Argentina. My failure to remember her name gives a strong indication of how well the conversation went. At some point during our casual small talk, the guy playing guitar that night dove into a great version of Springsteen’s, “I’m On Fire.” After the song I shouted in appreciation, “Brruuuucccee!” like I usually do when presented with a Bruce moment of any kind. Miss Argentina immediately looked at me like I had six heads.
Realizing a shared love of all things Bruce was not in the cards for us, I hastily attempted to explain who this legend was and what he meant to music history. Along the way she maintained a moderate level of interest in the subject, asking a few innocent enough questions to humor my clear excitement. One in particular, “What is your favorite Bruce song?” sort of caught me off guard.
One song?! How on earth could I decide on one song from a catalog so rich? After a minute pondering, (pretty much from when the topic of Bruce came up Miss Argentina continued looking at me like I had six heads for the remainder of our conversation) I decided on “Thunder Road.” A classic story, a classic love song that never fails to give me goosebumps any time I hear it. She nodded in passive understanding, and excused herself to take a phone call. It must have been very important as Miss Argentina was never to be seen from again. And to think I didn’t even get a chance to finish telling her my feelings of Tom Morello filling in for Little Stevie on the High Hopes tour. What a shame.
Now that it’s been a few days though I’ve decided there can’t just be one favorite Bruce tune. The man has too many to choose from. It’s been said before that he also has at least 1-2 albums worth of new unreleased material in his back pocket at any given time. His ability to continue writing great music well into his 60’s is amazing. After a few hours spent narrowing my list from 30+, and a serious YouTube bootleg deep dive, I’ve come up with my top 5 below along with a live version of each for your Sunday listening pleasure.
And Miss Argentina, if you are reading…”the screen door slams…”
MLK’S TOP 5 FAVORITE BRUCE SONGS
1) Thunder Road- listen to this live, either acoustic or full band and tell me it doesn’t get you every time. The video is from Belfast last summer, the final song played on the last night of my infamous Bruce IRE tour.
2) No Surrender- includes my favorite all time lyrics – “we learned more from a 3 minute record / than we ever learned in school.”
3) The River- I was at this show last summer in Limerick with my buddy Danny (biggest Bruce fan I know). Right before Bruce launched into the powerful and somber number we were approached by two Irish girls to see if they could go up on our shoulders for a better view of the stage. I laughed and didn’t think much of it. Danny was absolutely appalled at their song selection for such a request. 10 months later I think he is still just as upset.
4) Wrecking Ball- defining song of my late 20s, and Bruce’s early 60s.
5) Dancing In The Dark – the ultimate party song. Brings me back to the Misk wedding every time I hear it.
So there you have it. Thank you, sweet Argentinian lady, for listening to me preach about the legend known as The Boss. Moral of the story: don’t shy away from a conversation with a stranger in a foreign land. You never know what sort of YouTube deep dive they will send you on. And for those of you out there lucky enough to catch Bruce and the legendary E Street Band yesterday at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, know that I am infinitely jealous.
What are the Bruce hits you can’t live without?