My secret teenage shame

I hung out with the gothic kids in high school. Black tee-shirts. Doc Martens. Heavy metal. Righteous alienation. We were angry, depressed, rebellious. We hated everyone. We scowled.

Music was loud and angry. Nirvana. Smashing Pumpkins. Type O Negative. Marilyn Manson. White Zombie. Deftones. Rammstein. Metallica. We wore our teenage disaffection on our sleeves.

You know how it is. You fall in with a group of kids. The consensus determines what’s cool and what isn’t. You quietly conform. You listen to what your friends listen to. You like what they like. You wear what they wear. If you have disagreements, you keep them to yourself.

Which is why I never told my friends that after a long day of scowling at the mall, loitering at hot topic, demonstrating our nonconformity by making a giant fucking mess at our table at Carl’s Jr, I’d go home, slip on my headphones…and rock out to Bruce Springsteen.

Yeah, that Bruce Springsteen. Like many artists, something weird happened to him in the eighties, but if you’ve never listened to his earlier albums like “Born To Run” or “Greetings from Asbury Park, New Jersey” do yourself a favor.

It was the cover to “Born to Run” that sold me. I found it, originally, in a stack of LPs that my older brother got for free someplace, hidden between the Sabbaths and the Zeppelins. I don’t know why by brother even had them, since this was well past the record player era. I suppose the men in my family never could pass up free. Anyway, something about that pose, that guitar, that leather jacket. It called to me. I pulled out that warped old record and put it on my parents dusty record player.

And then I heard it. The piano, the harmonica. And Bruce’s inimitable voice.

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


How could I explain to them, my tragically cool friends, how Springsteen spoke to my teenage angst, to this unformed yearning in my heart, better than Nirvana or Manson ever could?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a place in my heart for the Deftones and Tool and Nine inch Nails. But at some point I got tired of being so angry and depressed all the time. Nine inch Nails was just wrist-slitting music, but in Springsteen there was hope. There was this pull, this desire to go and find something better, to just get up and go.

When I got my first car, I loaded up and went on my first solo road trip, blasting Springsteen and singing along to every word…and then I crashed and had to call my parents to come rescue me. Thunder Road, indeed. But that secret teenage shame is a whole other story.

Bonus Springsteen:







8 thoughts on “My secret teenage shame

  1. Not for nothing, but I always know when Max is sitting in on Conan – he just has that “thing.” I think they all did. It was a moment in time that forgot how to let them all go. Him and he E street band. As you said – poetry. Poetry that moved us all. When he goes, well…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sometimes the planets just align and the right people get together to make some music. It was bad enough when the Big Man passed on; I’m not sure I want to think about a world without the Boss.


  3. As I have mentioned before, I stay in Africa and Bruce came to perform here, and I was lucky enough to watch him live. In spite of all the years on the stage and in the industry, he has such a down-to-earth authenticity that he feels so real. He still has that blue-collared, no-nonsense presence that is all soul and unpretentious ‘poetry’. [I trust that as you are no longer a teenager, you are no longer ashamed of your good taste :-}]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve never seen Bruce in person, but I’ve watched video of his concerts. I was always impressed to see him performing songs he’s performed literally thousands of times, and still giving it 110%, like he’s truly grateful to be onstage. And yes, I no longer feel the need to hide my musical tastes.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I grew up on Springsteen in the Rust Belt. I probably have a few years on you based on your high school music preferences, but Springsteen before Born in the USA is some great music. I can listen to Darkness on the Edge of Town over and over again. There was some of that blue-collar industrial worker, American dream kind of hope in the lyrics and that dangerous growing up period in our lives.

    Outside the street’s on fire
    In a real death waltz
    Between what’s flesh and what’s fantasy
    And the poets down here
    Don’t write nothing at all
    They just stand back and let it all be
    ~ Jungleland

    Liked by 1 person

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