Sparks Fly On E Street: Bruce Springsteen, "Jungleland" (1975)

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This, the majestic closing track of Born To Run, is the song that some people think should be retired. I’ll get to that bit of insanity in a little bit.

“Jungleland” is one of those E Street tunes that employs a full range of emotional and sonic textures, beginning with Suki Lahav & Roy Bittan’s gentle violin and piano introduction and extended out with crashing guitars and, of course, Clarence Clemons’ sax solo. The solo. And there are all of those E Street characters — the Maximum Lawman, Cherry Tops, the Giant Exxon Sign, and Magic Rat. I don’t know any of these people, and I’ve never seen the giant Exxon sign in person. Somehow, I feel like I’ve known them forever. That feeling contributes to this other thing that happens when I listen to “Jungleland,” or any other selection on this album: I sometimes forget what song is playing…because the album feels like one long song. It’s an odd feeling, but one that shows just how cohesive the entire collection is. When I call Born To Run a perfect album, I’m not kidding.

As I write this, folks in the States are still waiting for the announcement about U.S. tour dates. We also have no idea what Bruce has decided to do about the whole Big Man situation. There are two popular schools of thought on this. One is the use of Ed Manion (from Southside Johnny) on saxes. Ed surely has the chops, is a great arranger, and knows the material. The other choice is to bring back the Miami horns. A third possibility, which most people dismiss (or maybe it’s just the loudmouths doing the dismissing), is Jake Clemons, Clarence’s nephew. As much as I love Ed (and would really miss him at my annual Jukes show), I’m kind of pulling for Jake. First, there’d be that emotional connection. Second, if he blew the roof off the loudmouths would have to shut their traps and find something else to complain about.

As for retiring “Jungleland”? Please. As Bruce said, “Clarence doesn’t leave the E Street Band when he dies. He leaves when we die. The thing is, there’s more at stake here than the E Street sax chores. Back in October at the Stone Pony/Boston College benefit show, the audience stepped in to sing the saxophone break during “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out.”

This reminds me of what Jake wrote about the passing of his uncle:

People have been saying to me – “It’s up to you now”, “You carry the torch”, “You are the legacy”. But this job is not one to be fulfilled by any single person; Clarence was more than a saxophone player, he was an ambassador with a mission to spread Love and Joy to the world. It’s up to all of us now. We must carry the torch. We must all be His Legacy.

.

Yes. All of us.

I can’t imagine the song not being played on the upcoming tour, no matter what the configuration.

Up next: “Badlands”

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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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