In an interview on TV which aired about a year ago, after having written his personal memoir, Bruce Springsteen was asked which 5 songs were his favorite Bruce songs, which is hard to do, when you are Bruce, and all your songs come from your very soul, your own life experience. For me, I had to think as a diehard fan, who has only grown in my admiration for this artist, as the time drones on. But I was pleased to have guessed 3 of Bruce’s actual picks from the best songs he has ever written. One was fairly obvious, the track “Born to Run.” But for me, “Jungleland” was a true masterpiece of length, of a story of young love, of the futility of trying to assert control over your own life and love. And Bruce did pick this song, to my delight. We were in agreement on what an amazing song this is, of the search of young love, and the things that get in the way. And in some ways, the song rings true for me too, in the ambivalence of choices made, at tender ages, “as the girl shuts out the bedroom light, in whispers of soft refusal, and surrender…”
Yup, I have a real life tale, at Philadelphia’s now torn down Stadium, when I saw Amnesty International do a mega concert, which had Bruce playing too, one of 5 acts that whole day, with a friend, who came with me, who has since passed away, one year ago. So no one has first hand proof of what happened to me when Bruce opened up with that famous chord that signaled the only dreamt of, long denied, suppressed, screaming from the depths of my soul, where I fell on my knees, hearing “Jungleland,” and truly astonishingly, had an unusual physical reaction, which was only in the realm of fairy dust and spells…it is not to be physically described here, but which remains with me, to my dying day, that reaction I had…Because needed things in the body of a true fan need no real explanation…just believe, and it will come. And that day, it did! Oh my!
And so, in listening, over and over, with a magnificent coda by the immortal Big Man, Clarence Clemons, on a brilliant saxophone solo, making you think about the boy and the girl of the song, with a backdrop of teen rebellion, and the law not far behind, chasing young Bruce, whether in Freehold, NJ, or out on the boardwalks of the shore, with a girl who captured his sweet stony heart, with her soft hair, and pearly whites, running, but not too fast, because she wants to be caught, by him….And the depression of not having the right keys to open the lock, at the right time, he gets and gives what he can, but it seems like not enough…
Because the price is too high. “He winds up wounded, not even dead…” A horrible epitaph of longing unfulfilled, which is kind of like the living death, because death is at least clean, done, no more awareness of what you cannot have, because you lack the key that opens that door. Yes, this song really hits home for me. And the mists of time swirl around you, remembering past loves, and the AGONY and the ECSTASY OF not ever getting what you need, not really want anymore….Because the longing has surpassed that depth, of the “lawman running down Flamingo, chasing the rat, and the barefoot girl…” The metaphors and imagery are beautiful, and yet somber. And they stay with you, forever, wondering if the breath left in the body is enough, to actually catch that boy, who is now long since, a man. And you are long since, also, a woman, who left her heart in a darkly shrouded room, somewhere near Flamingo Road, chasing the dream.