When Nebraska came out, it took me by complete surprise. Long before the Internet told us everything we needed to know about our favorite artists, we had to rely on publications like Hit Parader, Creem, and Rolling Stone. So if there was a hint of this album in any of those magazines, I completely missed it. I’d walked down the hill to the University of Maine bookstore, intent on buying a record or seven, and here was this shiny new Bruce Springsteen release. I just couldn’t believe it. Of course, since I had absolutely no idea of what to expect, I was really knocked out by the starkness of the musical presentation and the stories. It was some harsh listening.
Some have said that Nebraska is an outlier in the Springsteen catalog. Though it may have seemed so at the time, it’s fairly easy to draw a line from the desperation and turmoil shown here, moving back through The River and Darkness as well.
From the chilling harmonica opening through the cold resignation of the first person account of the killing spree seen through Charlie Starkweather’s eyes, “Nebraska” is as relevant today as it was all the way back in 1982. The truth is that we can gather up the all of the information we want in the effort to figure out why people like Starkweather and James Holmes are driven over the edge. “I guess There’s just a meanness in this world” is both a distillation and an over-simplification of things. And yet…it rings true.
Next up: Atlantic City