Sparks Fly On E Street: Bruce Springsteen, “My City Of Ruins” (2002)

Written for the decay and subsequent revival of Asbury Park, “My City Of Ruins” has taken on many other roles since its release. For my money, the most moving and powerful context that Springsteen placed it in began with the gospel and horn-drenched unveiling at that legendary Apollo Theater show.

Bruce took the opportunity to transform a band roll call into a statement of solidarity with E Street Nation. Those who’d been lost (Danny and Clarence) were brought up with a simple question: “Are we missing anybody?” The reassurance — that they are not just “ghosts,” but indeed a part of us — came with this response:

The only thing I can guarantee tonight… if you’re here and we’re here, they’re here. If you’re here and we’re here…they’re here.

I had a strange thing happen with that moment of the Apollo show. The day after, me and TheWife™ had gone on a visit to the campus of my Alma Mater. She was there on business, while I wandered around trying not to be overwhelmed by memories. I was not particularly successful. After remembering just how proud my parents were to see me off to college, I had the urge to tell them just how nice it felt to be there again…but they’re no longer here. A few minutes later, I sat in my car and heard via email about the previous night’s Apollo show and Bruce’s statement. It was a weird and wonderful bit of synchronicity.

Some folks think that there’s no spiritual side to Bruce’s music, that we as fans can take nothing away for ourselves, that the shared experience has no value. They need to think a little harder about what “We” really means.

Up next: Devils & Dust

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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, 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
Mark Saleski