4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) (1973)

Bruce Springsteen

The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle
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Asbury Park, New Jersey, was Bruce Springsteen’s original land of hope and dreams. When he was coming of age, the seaside town was already decrepit, a mere shell of itself as a honky-tonk amusement park refuge for blue-collar families.

The story that unfolds in “4th Of July” has the singer/narrator explaining to his love of the moment – Sandy – a catalog of failures, shortcomings, and anxieties.

And me, I just got tired of hangin’
in them dusty arcades
bangin’ them pleasure machines
Chasin’ the factory girls
underneath the boardwalk
where they all promise to unsnap their jeans
And you know that tilt-a-whirl
down on the south beach drag
I got on it last night and my shirt got caught
And they kept me spinning,
babe, didn’t think I’d ever get off

That is not summer gussied up to fit into some slick Hollywood movie. We find real sketches of real lives around every cotton candy stand.

When he sinks low enough, he then holds out in his hand not the physical displays of the amusement park at night but a metaphorical glow – an “aurora” that stands for all the future possibilities he foresees. Implied is the notion that Sandy will share those explosive, expanding moments.

Oh, Sandy, the aurora is rising behind us
This pier lights our carnival life on the water
Runnin’, laughin’ ‘neath the boardwalk
Ah, with the boss’s daughter

I remember, Sandy, girl
Na, na, na, na, na, baby

“4th of July, Asbury Park” is engaged in hyper-realism. The swirling, carnival midway music corrals a densely used amusement park at night. You can feel the sweeping masses of people working hard to find fun where they can. You can feel the whoosh and whirl of the rides. You can smell the ocean in the mid distance. You sense all the disjointed jigsaw pieces that make a whole painting that ends up being realer than real.”

The track, from The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle, is not an upper, but more than any other summer song it accurately portrays a thousand eternal summer nights and the dreams we all leave behind.

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