Friday, November 16, 2007

No Surrender

Today B&B blogger extraordinaire Koko the Clown pointed out that Betty should probably stop scrawling "No Retreat, Baby, No Surrender" on everything in her path (the shopping list, the facebook, the chihuahua) when she's trying to pump herself up to write boring term papers.

"Huh?," Betty asked.

Because it might be misinterpreted, Koko warned her.

"Huh?," Betty asked.

Then Koko told Betty that Tom DeLay is behind the biggest perversion of Bruce since George Bush I and his tin-eared take on "Born in the U.S.A."

Some might argue that the absurd and constant misappropriation of Springsteen by right-wing chauvenists has something to do with Bruce's "image," but I don't think so. Bruce has never really appeared hardscrabble. If anything, he's stood for the energy and promise of youth and the cautious optimism of maturity, and carried on the simple but profound "Man in Black" tradition of Johnny Cash. Go back and listen to Cash's song of the same name if you need a refresher. Bruce has quietly assumed Cash's torch in the last decade of his career. So my only explanation for such riotously stupid hijacking of Bruce by opportunistic politicians pushing causes he disdains is that these people are not listening to the words of the songs at all.

"No Surrender" is one of my favorite songs (by anybody) for a couple of reasons. First of all I think the lyrics are both beautiful and functional -- they don't call attention to themselves and they get the job done. But the words also convey a feeling that blends romantic dreaming with visceral heart-pounding life, no easy feat.

I also really enjoy the recording of the song (from the "Born in the U.S.A." album) because it is so tense and so joyous at once. I am increasingly coming to believe that tension is a necessary condition for and a part of joy, and that tension itself can produce joy and ecstasy. The recorded performance of "No Surrender" is also just so rocking and dancey and infectious that I go crazy. This is the same reason it works so well live, and Bimbo and I were jumping around like monkeys when Bruce and the band played it (second song in!) when we saw them perform in Oakland on October 26. This was the first time Betty had seen Bruce play this song live in six attempts!

Here's a different take on the song. It's one of the most beautiful things I've come across in a season pulsing with small, hidden joys.

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