Bruce Springsteen, “Lost in the Flood” (1973): Deep Cuts

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“Lost in the Flood,” from Bruce Springsteen’s 1973 debut Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., has an unbelievably haunting feel. Crashing drums and the feedback from the guitar (which literally sends shivers up my spine) at the beginning come to a grinding halt — leaving a deafening silence, even if it is extremely brief. There’s a sense of intrigue to what is to come.

Both the minor and major chords on the piano increase the tension. Things are settled for the first two verses. But once the band come in, everything is interspersing to show off what a well oiled machine Springsteen has created. With the backing of the E Street Band, this song’s power gets turned all the way up to 11 and there is no turning back from there.

Garry Tallent’s bass provides the backbone in which the others bounce off. David Sancious makes his work on the piano sound so effortless even though you can hear the intensity and conviction in each note. Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez’s work on the drum kit at times is relentless as it is powerful. The chilling organ adds to the intensity the song demands.

In a way, the music mirrors the lyrics. The piano leads us through the first quarter of the song paired only with Bruce’s vocal. We are yet to determine the severity of the story “Flood” tells. Kind of like setting the scene, a prelude somewhat, to what is to follow.

However, once we’re introduced to the blaze-and-noise boy — kickass name for a character, if ever I’ve heard it — the drums come crashing in, the tempo rises and everybody is jamming, and Bruce takes it up a notch with his vocal work.

The music is now starting to match the lyrics even more so. From “riding head first into a hurricane,” you can feel the force behind the music. The constant snap the snare drum is producing, and the crashing cymbals, it’s all starting to rise. You can imagine the fire he’s got sprinting through his veins as he is pounding through this second half of the song. The intensity is simmering through the first part of the song, but by the time the band is in, it has reached boiling point and Flood swallows you up in its unrelenting force, and leaves nobody to spare.

Bruce Springsteen’s solo can be comparative to the lyrics. As he unleashes his fury on that Telecaster, it sort of signifies the chaos that has ensued. This is like the eruption, it’s all boiled over and that scorching solo is telling us what happened. Sancious’ final notes end the song just like it begins, except the last note is authoritative. It signifies the end, that there will be no more.

Bruce has managed to create many music subtleties which may go unnoticed to many. If you listen, you can hear Sancious’ piano replicate the sound of gunfire when Bruce belts out “And now the whiz-bang gang from uptown, they’re shootin’ up the street.” Lopez (and later Max Weinberg) has “five quick shots” after the cops are coming up for air covered when he bashes his snare to copy to represent the five shots. And we can’t forget the rumbling of his floor toms when “his body hit the street with such a beautiful thud.” It’s subtle, and a marvelous thing to behold once you pay attention to it.

The imagery in “Flood” is stark, powerful, intense, confronting and raw. It is the song where, for me, Bruce Springsteen’s imagery reaches it summit. The whole last verse pretty much plays out an epic gun fight between the cops, a gang, “that cat from the Bronx” and “some kid” who apparently comes blasting around a corner.

From ankles which are caked in mud, to the aforementioned body that hits the street with such a beautiful thud, and riding head first into a hurricane (that blaze-and-noise boy sure is one crazy cat), to the boy laying “on the street holding his leg, screaming something in Spanish.” Even something so simple as “he leans on the hood telling racing stories” has the ability to conjure up a vivid image.

That last verse is pure poetry. Absolutely flawless songwriting.

Bruce Springsteen has managed to create these powerful, detailed images which can be imprinted on our mind, and, I for one, am grateful for that when they are as great these.

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