Sparks Fly On E Street: Bruce Springsteen, “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)” (1992)

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A mostly spoken narrative (about the vapidity of television) supported by just a bassline and shadowy keyboards, the sound of “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)” was definitely a departure for Bruce. I have to admit that my bookish self liked this song just because of that theme. A few years later I would happen onto the book “Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television,” and my elitist outlook would be complete (though I didn’t become a cable-cutter until about four years ago).

Another departure here is the video. One of the very few Springsteen videos that I find more compelling than the song. First, it’s just plain weird seeing Bruce sitting there playing a bass. Sure, I know he can play one, but you just don’t see that too often. Actually, this might be the only time for me. Second, the video ends with a recreation of the Ant Farm art collective’s “Media Burn” stunt, in which a highly modified 1959 Cadillac El Dorado Biarritz was driven through a flaming wall of televisions. The Ant Farm folks were also responsible for the original Cadillac Ranch installation. Yessir, our Bruce is into some art weirdness. Another reason to love him.

Two videos follow. The first is the “official” one for the song and the second is a cool acoustic version he did live back in 1990. The “Johnny 99”-ish take on this “modern” track definitely sets up a bit of contrast (lyrically and otherwise).

Up next: Cross My Heart

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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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