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Monthly Archives: February 2016

Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

News item: Bruce Springsteen announces the upcoming publication of his autobiography this September.

So, what’s he gonna say?

Bruce Springsteen faces a somewhat different problem than most other rock stars. He has been so open about himself in his songs, interviews and onstage raps that there seems relatively little of substance left to reveal.

If Bruce wants to make a dent in the crowded world of music autobiographies, he’s going to have to do something creative. Something unexpected.

Something maybe like this…

10 Proposed Opening Lines
for Bruce Springsteen’s Autobiography

1. “When I was just a pip, my father’s manservant gave me a piece of useful counsel I have always retained.”

2. “Carsick Crabby, my sister always called me. Carsick Crabby.”

3. “Are you loose?”

4. “Poor man wanna be rich; rich man wanna be king; but on this one particular afternoon, all I wanted was a chicken parm sub.”

5. “OK, here’s the truth: I really met Clarence Clemons for the first time while clothes-shopping one morning at Gimbels. He was buying pink platform shoes.”

6. “Politics is sex. Sex is fear. Fear is motion. And motion is what happens in New Jersey, the cradle of all human instinct.”

7. “When I sing my songs I picture the narrator in my mind. Usually he looks like Jack Klugman. This surprises people for some reason.”

8. “My dearest, earliest memory is the scent of Givenchy.”

9. “Sometimes I think I oughta drink less Yoo-Hoo … but only sometimes.”

10. “Sparks fly on E Street when the boy-prophets walk it handsome and hot.”

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It’s a short month.

Looking for a quixotic creative endeavor?

Own a kazoo?

Well, Bunky, have I got a proposition for you.

February, it turns out, is Album Writing Month. It says so right at fawm.org, a website that challenges participants to write 14 new songs in 28 days. (Why the tunesmithing has to stop for Leap Day, I don’t know.)

Apparently, you can also use the site to find others to collaborate with. Perhaps the next Bernie Taupin and Elton John will make each other’s cyberacquaintance over the coming weeks.

The idea here — like that of the more popular National Novel Writing Month, in November — is that too often we wait for fully formed inspiration to arrive before we start a creative project, and when the flame doesn’t seize us, we never get started.

FAWM and NaNoWriMo suggest that the biggest step is often just getting moving, and if we commit ourselves within a framework of both discipline and support, we can get where we want to go in a month — or, at very least, have something we enjoy and can be proud of completing.

Cynics will tell you that much of what comes out of NaNoWriMo is unreadable by anyone other than its creator. People tend to hyperinflate their word counts to reach the goal, or turn to zombie invasions and UFO landings when they run out of plot. Whether it’s worth staying up late for a month to complete 55,000 words of dumpster fire is in the eye of the beholder; to me it seems questionable at best.

Album Writing Month seems cut from much the same cloth, and its results seem likely to be similar for most people.

And yet — while I won’t be doing it myself — it impresses me more favorably than NaNoWriMo.

Maybe that’s because simple songs can be good songs, and regressing to a few chords and an emotion — as one is bound to do when one’s trick bag is empty — can do wonders.

Can a beginner who knows two chords produce better, more gripping art than a beginner who knows nothing about structuring a novel? Yeah, I’d go along with that.

Spur-of-the-moment songwriting can be marvelously absurd, too, and I’ve always dug the absurd.

Not the cute, nor the twee, nor the novel or shallow. The absurd, the unhinged, the dada, that which speaks other languages and occupies other realities while totally convinced of its own worth and logic — there’s the glint in the sapphire.

I wouldn’t read somebody’s 50,000-word Civil War epic turned zombiefest, but I’d listen to “Surfin’ Bird,” or “Bo Diddley,” or something much like that. They’re gonzo, they ride a wave, and they don’t overstay their welcome.

Not anyone can toss off something berserk, and those who can can’t do it on command. But when it happens, it’s above and beyond.

And, if you give enough people enough $150 acoustic guitars, it’s bound to happen every now and again, in a way that won’t happen if you give those same people Microsoft Word.