Bruce Springsteen Singin’ in the Rain in Italy, and How He Creates Powerful Imaginary Worlds

David Brooks, the sage New York Times op-ed writer, begins yes­ter­day’s thought piece, The Pow­er of the Par­tic­u­lar, with these lines:

They say you’ve nev­er real­ly seen a Bruce Spring­steen con­cert until you’ve seen one in Europe, so some friends and I threw finan­cial san­i­ty to the winds and went to fol­low him around Spain and France. In Madrid, for exam­ple, we were reward­ed with a show that last­ed 3 hours and 48 min­utes, pos­si­bly the longest Spring­steen con­cert on record and one of the best. But what real­ly fas­ci­nat­ed me were the crowds.…

Here were audi­ences in the mid­dle of the Iber­ian Penin­su­la singing word for word about High­way 9 or Greasy Lake or some oth­er exot­ic locale on the Jer­sey Shore. They held up signs request­ing songs from the deep­est and most dis­tinct­ly Amer­i­can recess­es of Springsteen’s reper­toire.

The odd­est moment came mid­con­cert when I looked across the foot­ball sta­di­um and saw 56,000 enrap­tured Spaniards, pump­ing their fists in the air in fer­vent uni­son and bel­low­ing at the top of their lungs, “I was born in the U.S.A.! I was born in the U.S.A.!” Did it occur to them at that moment that, in fact, they were not born in the U.S.A.?

Brooks goes on to explain this phe­nom­e­non by intro­duc­ing the psy­cho­log­i­cal con­cept of “para­cosms,” which describes the cre­ation of pow­er­ful fan­ta­sy worlds. And he sug­gests that only the most dis­tinc­tive artists, the ones who come from a tru­ly par­tic­u­lar place, can cre­ate this spe­cial con­nec­tion with fans.  Spring­steen does just that. But part of his appeal is some­times his tran­scen­dence — his abil­i­ty to tran­scend his own music and embrace the uni­ver­sal spir­it of rock ‘n roll. Case in point: The Boss singing The Bea­t­les clas­sic “Twist and Shout” in Flo­rence ear­li­er this month. It’s rain­ing, rain­ing hard, but did any­one notice?

Thanks to Wired writer Steve Sil­ber­man for flag­ging that clip for us.…

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Comments (5)
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  • gi haller says:

    Cor­rect me if I’m wrong, but was­n’t “Twist and Shout” a cov­er tune for the Bea­t­les? Phil Med­ley and Bert Rus­sel? Ring a bell, any­one?

  • loren says:

    Yes, you are cor­rect. Bruce has been doing this song for many years in con­cert — not always — but this is one of his stan­dards.

  • Dan Colman says:

    Hi Gi,

    You’re right that the Bea­t­les did­n’t write the song. So prop­er cred­it is due to Med­ley and Rus­sell. But would any­one, let alone Bruce, still be singing it had the Bea­t­les not done that cov­er a half cen­tu­ry ago? Just a thought, but, all in all, I take your point.


  • Zeke says:


    Giv­en that the Isley Broth­ers ver­sion is the one upon which Bruce Spring­steen bases his arrange­ment, and that the Ise­ly Broth­er’s ver­sion went to #2 on the R&B charts in 1962, yes.

  • Paul McConnell says:

    Not to nit­pick, but this Flo­rence con­cert was on the 10th of June of this year, not last fall (damn Euro­pean date meth­ods)

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