Tucker & The River

Wednesday, May 02, 2012
Very few things in my life have affected me as much as the death of my brother. Even a year later I am deeply hurt by his decision to take his own life. I suppose I will never get over it. The psychic repercussions of his last act will always be a mournful coda in my memories of him.

When it came to music, Tucker and I didn't have much in common. Sure, when we were high and feeling silly, we would launch into a fine rendition of “Mama's Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys”. We both appreciated the grandiose schlock that was “Bat Out Of Hell”, but where I was “into” music, Tucker was a musician. One of those gifted people who could pick up any instrument and tickle a tune out of it.

Me, I had no such musical luck, so I became an “appreciater”. Someone who sought solace through someone else's words and tunes. To say we didn't always agree on music was to put it mildly. In our later lives we would grow to have very divergent opinions on music, especially when it came to Bruce Springsteen.

Tucker would claim, without apology, that Springsteen's last great album was The River. That somehow, after that, Springsteen was just pandering to his audience. The first time he told me this I was aghast. Literally speechless, I am sure I gaped at his opinion. I own everything Springsteen has ever released. Sure some of his later has been just so so, but average Springsteen is still better than 99% of the crap out there.

We revisited this argument on and off until his death. Nothing I could say would change his opinion. I would put on Nebraska or The Rising or Tunnel of Love and he would be like, “It's okay, but...”. Now, maybe Tucker was just jerking my chain, which wouldn't be unheard of, but what is it about The River that made him consider it the last high mark of Springsteen's career?

The River itself is a bit of an odd duck in the Springsteen & E Street Band discography. Sandwiched between Darkness On The Edge of Town and Born In The USA, it often gets forgotten. When you listen to it you marvel at how many of the songs have become staples in Springsteen's concert set. It is not the album I reach for when I want to listen to some Bruce from that time period. I am far more likely to put on Nebraska or Darkness than any other album. So the question remains, why The River for Tucker?

My thought is that The River was the last Springsteen album Tucker heard before going to prison. Maybe it reminded him of a more innocent time, adding to the albums cachet. I remember singing Hungry Heart with him as we drove around Portland in his Toyota Corolla and it is a happy memory. It was a more innocent time. Perhaps that is the point of Wednesday Flashback in general. It is about music from a more innocent time in our lives or music that reminds of those times: When a song on the radio was a magical moment, each note in its place and of its time.

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