Monday, June 27, 2011

For Clarence

I never thought it would be like this. I always joked that I better go to a Springsteen show sometime soon, cuz the guy obviously was gonna keel over from a heartattack after the umpteenth marathon show. Umpteenth is probably the wrong word...countless? Infinite? Time was running out, and though Bruce is one of my favorite artists in the history of histories, I've never seen him. In fact, I've only been to one "real concert" in my whole life, and that was AC/DC at the Boston Garden in 98. That was an incredible show, but I'm just far too much of a cheapskate to throw around money on these big concerts. I'm more of a house show kind of guy through and through. But I still needed to see Bruce. That's how I referred to him, just Bruce...though in my mind, that was the complete package. Bruce was the E Street Band also...I guess I just didn't think of the individuals in the band that much. And I had some reason, Max Weinberg always struck me as kind of a dork, Little Steven could be hard to take seriously and a bunch of the others I don't know anything about at all. I loved Clarence, but I vaguely put him in "guilty pleasure" category as it was the Big Man's sax that I had to deal with anytime I got into one of those "a friend dislikes Springsteen conversations." It was always "I just can't deal with the sax" or the "I just can't deal with all the U.S.A. lyrics." Of course the latter is easily attributed to the mainstream perception of Bruce overtaking the actual meaning of his work, but the sax thing was harder to contend with...Clarence's Sax is bigger than life and sort of coexists with the supercorny urban sax thing(which I love in another way, but that's another story), but it's different. I always tried to explain, but I'm always having these conversations with NOISE DUDES, and it just doesn't connect. And I get it, cuz well, I'm a NOISE DUDE and I have been for many years. Getting into experimental/noise/actuallyunderground music kind of prefigures that you have a distrust of popular music. Sure, I like tons pop music, but there is a certain separation. I love it for it's production quality, audacity in pandering, and it's power in affecting people/myself despite all this. This is also how my friends relate to pop music, but I have another little thing. I have Bruce.
Sure, I've got Neil Young and Prince. Those guys also get me right in the heart and the brain and the spirit, but there's a difference. Neil and Prince are WEIRD. They are experimenters, they are oddballs, they send you juicy curveballs to absorb. Bruce is NOT WEIRD. If he's a little weird, then the rest of the E Street Band possesses not one atom of weirdness. So what grabs me? I don't know...realness and hope, I guess.
Yeah, my relationship with the music of Bruce is completely unique to me. The way I relate to Neil Young and Prince is similar but not close. Bruce has a piece of me, and it's a secret piece and it's a precious thing. I don't listen to him unless I'm in a very specific and special mood. There's a good reason for that: most of the fucking songs bring me to tears. Why? The only thing I can say is that rascally aforementioned realness, the obnoxious, hard to deal with hope stuff. That's my theory anyhow, I just don't know.
I'm a cynic and sarcastic bastard by nature and I have a hell of time just fucking FEELING y'know! It's painful to really FEEL, because to do that you need hope. You need a sliver of humanity, a grain of belief. I'd tell you on any fucking day of the week that belief is a folly and faith is annoying. I'm into being as good a person as I can be, cuz that is what makes life livable, but if I attached it to some grand belief or faith in the fate of the human race, I'd kick my own ass for being such a stooge. But yeah, every once in a while, I will bust out those E Street Band LPs and feel like a fool, but a hopeful fool...and it's painful and hard for me to deal these feelings don't have much to do with how I actually live my life. But it hits me somewhere in the core of my fucking heart. I don't know. The musical voice that is Bruce is always searching, begging for meaning. The various characters, no matter how beaten or carefree are trying to understand and trying to feel as deep as possible. It's unintuitive to identify with that, especially as a disgruntled 32 year old!
As you may have noticed from the way I write about this music, my focus was on BRUCE/THE BOSS. And this is why I was so sideswiped by the loss of The Big Man 9 days ago. I didn't know it was coming, and I didn't know what it meant. But I knew immediately, that he was irreplaceable and he was gone. Sax styling I thought needed defending before were now revealed to me as inimitable. Anybody else playing like him could only sound like parody. The only antecedents that made sense to me were Jr. Walker and King Curtis, and that was still something different. Clarence was his own, but he was also half of a pure partnership.
As soon as I read that Clarence Clemons had passed, I knew it was the end of The E Street Band. I knew I would never see that band play. Incompleteness was like a void rushed upon my heart. I never knew how important it was to me...what they were. Bruce and Clarence. As soon as I read that he died I just fucking google image searched him to put up an acknowledgement on that Facebook thing and the first thing I saw was the "Born to Run" cover shot. That partnership, that teamwork, that friendship, that fucking LOVE evident in that photo brought me to tears. I always looked upon it with a fondness, but FUCK. This man is GONE. This pillar. I had always focused on Bruce but Clarence, Clarence was almost like his reason for being there. I knew that Bruce and Little Steven had a close personal bond, but they were more like equals. Clarence was more the yin to Bruces yang, or whatever. The rest of the band lays a foundation...and those two are like the fucking twin towers. Fuck the cynical youth if it thinks The Big Man's sax is too corny, I don't care! I feel it like anvils on my chest!
And maybe it's not yin and yang, maybe it's something stranger, more least musically. The way I see it, it's like Stevie, Max, Roy, and the rest of the band create the world...Bruce becomes the creature...stalking the world, reaching for meaning, or reaction, or salvation...and Clarence is the spirit world, like a god, sending his rays of beauty to light up the world and give salvation to the the man a soul. You listen to "Jungleland" and you'll know what I'm talking about. Really, just listen to it. But now, this spiritual combination is broken, at least in the physical realm. But will the spirits of the night be broken? Will my hope be lost? That's kind of the thing I've always feared; that the me I become when I allow myself to be so affected by this music, is my real feeling self, stifled. I know it's too late to experience this salvation in the flesh (why am I such a fucking cheapskate), but hopefully (there's that "hope" word) that part of me (and potentially YOU) didn't die with the body of my my friend Clarence Clemons.
I love you though I never met you dude, RIP.
DJC 6/28/11 2:42am.


Sean Casey said...

Love this, Dan.

Mathew S. said...

I'm right there with you from the experiences of defending the Big Man's sax to the fact that I too never shelled out the dough to see my favorite artist and his E Street Band live (those shows at Fenway woulda been cool). What cheap dummies we are.

-Matt Swiatlowski