Sparks Fly On E Street: Bruce Springsteen, "The Angel" (1973)

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Bruce accompanied by a lone piano, playing a sparse progression. Motorcycle outlaws (“The angel rides with hunch-backed children”)? Little kids on a bicycle adventures (“Baseball cards poked in his spokes…”)? Though I love the mixed imagery, I’ve always read this as a metaphor for a society damaged and hell-bent on destruction. Poison oozes from the angel’s engine while he’s “Wieldin’ love as a lethal weapon.” The lullaby nature of the music makes this seem all the more ominous.

In the final verse, a last character enters — “Madison Avenue’s claim to fame in a trainer bra with eyes like rain.” A model? Too Young? Another metaphor, this time of society’s decay? No matter, because that bowed bass comes in and the powerful final line is delivered shortly afterwards: “The woman strokes his polished chrome and lies beside the angel’s bones.” To be honest, I never really wanted to know what Bruce was getting at here…mostly because I was afraid it might ruin the impact of that line.

“The Angel” has been played live very, rarely. But oh, those lucky bastards in Buffalo:


Next up: For You.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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