Screen door slams Mary's dress waves like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays
Sometimes, when I just wake up or before I go to sleep or when I've had a long night, I wander around trying to find a song to sing to order the chaos. 'Tangled Up in Blue' is usually my first try, but I fade around the third or fourth line, jumping to 'The only thing I knew how to do was keep on keeping on' before fading off. Other growled snippets of Dylan follow, then the refrain to a rock song, The Violent Femmes or Flogging Molly or whatever. A song about whatever I'm doing, whoever I'm trying to forget. Then I skip to it. Clarity, like finding the perfect image to masturbate to and send you to sleep, like seeing a girl across the room and knowing you're going to spend all night going after her. Your fingers curl around an invisible acoustic guitar and you play, slowly, delaying each word until the tension reaches its breaking point.
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely Hey that's me and I want you only
You read once about how Dylan does that on 'Lay Lady Lay', but there's never been a time when that song was this immediate. You can see yourself, 17, 18, dressed in your leather jacket, jeans, slicked back hair. You're cool, you know that... you've got the best car in Jersey and a voice that makes the girls melt. Except this one... she just sits there, cool and collected, among the ruins of all the boys she's danced with and spun away, all the prom nights ended with tears (his) and silent, private laughter (hers). You know she spent all night getting this affect perfect, and it doesn't matter.
Don't turn me home again I just can't face myself alone again
She's moving to your favorite song (how'd she know you liked Roy Orbison? Did she see you studying his voice in the mirror, trying to get that wounded bit, trying to drag out the emotion?), and it's so innocent, so free... she's dancing like the Jersey smog is perfume, like sunlight filtered through industrial clouds is the only stage she needs, like there's no calculation at all. And how can there be? She's dancing for you, dancing for herself 'cause she's going to spend tonight with you, Bruce Springsteen, the guitar hero of Freehold High, and all your dreams are gonna come true. You're going to write a song about that little leap she's doing on the porch, like she's going to fall... and you catch her, suddenly, and you know she's won.
You can hide 'neath your covers
And study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers
Throw roses in the rain
They did this before LiveJournals and Robert Smith. The roses were red, not black, and things were more beautiful.
Waste your summer praying in vainFor a savior to rise from these streets
I always heard this line as 'mean streets' or 'E streets'. Rock and roll has always been about religion, the worship of idols. Some stars take on the Aspect, become the trickster or the God. Bowie in his glam makeup, Dylan with his constant evolutions, Madonna and her sex.
Well now I'm no hero That's understood All the redemption I can offer, girl Is beneath this dirty hood
He'd be bragging, only he isn't. He's not a hero. He's a man with a fast car and a guitar, and that sounds funny until you realize how much life is contained in cruising down those dead streets, rolling down the window and letting the wind blow back your hair, playing your music, moving your arm close enough so she can cuddle in but not close enough that it looks like you care (because for all his bravado, he still needs her, and he's begging, pleading with her to make his night complete. Mary can take him or leave him, or thinks she can)
Hey what else can we do now Except roll down the window And let the wind blow back your hair
The point of playing the song slow is to realize that the important bit is the 'hey what else can we do now'. Life's life, and New Jersey ain't no place to grow up. If you're living in such desolation (and I've been to Freehold, where he was born. There's lots of trees, and its very small), literal or figurative, ya gotta say 'fuck it' and crank the engine.
Well the night's busting openThese two lanes will take us anywhere
In the most recent Dark Tower book, Wolves of the Calla, Stephen King (who loves Springsteen like he should be loved) writes of a priest who discovers the 'hidden highways' of America, slipping and sliding from alternate reality to another. This line isn't about that. This line is about the bit in some of Michael Moorcock's multiverse novels when a Von Begg or a Rosie or a Jerry realizes that he's a mukamir, a player in the Great Game of Time, and he can do anything and go anywhere.
It's also about those nights when its 3am and you're at the 7/11 with your buddies and ya know you're not sleeping tonight 'cause you're too wired and its cold and the stars are weird, and even if ya never read Lovecraft you know you're in Lovecraft country, and every cig ya buy and every joke you tell is suffused with the aura of legend.
Bruce Springsteen is the Walking Dude, he's the Working Class Hero, and I'm only using fantasy 'cause its the best way to express the reality of certain East Coast nights.
There were ghosts in the eyes
Of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road
In the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
It's a horror story, and why I link Bruce and King. Its an American horror story, watching your beloved dance with another man as she sees her reputation go down in tatters. I don't know; I'm not wise in the ways of women, and at this point this song stops being about me walking back from uni singing to myself. Its about everything I've seen, read, and done, and it gets too much, and i gotta get to bed soon... so I shift the song back, repeat the second part of the first verse, make it like a round, kinda:
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
Don't run back inside
darling you know just what I'm here for
So you're scared and you're thinking
That maybe we ain't that young anymore
Show a little faith, there's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty, but hey you're alright
Oh and that's alright with me
I have never been able to give those lines the full force they need, that gentle gruffness where they just hang in the air, a resigned importance. Something is happening, and it is significant and it is wonderful and its the adolescence you never had, and you're putting on your brave face, convincing yourself she ain't that important, convincing her of your generosity, just flipping the words out, casually, and no matter how the night was there was a girl in it or ya wouldn't be singing this song, so you either sing it ironically or unironically but either way its perfect... just you and your guitar, ending the night the way it should end, capping off any drunken disappointment bitterness with a smile, happy that they'll always be a girl dancing to your favorite song, and it might not be great but hey, that's alright.
There are people who don't take Bruce Springsteen seriously. If they listen to this song, really listen, they will doubt themselves. If they hear the live acoustic version floating around, they'll start to cry. And if you trying singing these lyrics, reading them, slowly like I said... things will just fall into place and fit.
So Mary climb in
It's a town full of losers
And I'm pulling out of here to win.