BY GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE — While there are some things worth fighting for, others just aren’t worth the time.
After going to the brink of World War III on the topic of Bruce Springsteen, I have come to the realization that it is simply not worth the spike in blood pressure.
Either you get it, or you don’t.
And if you don’t, you don’t.
I feel more pity for you than anything else.
I don’t get the entertainment value of NASCAR or professional wrestling – let alone more meaningful saving graces for others, such as organized religion or thinking the founding fathers were seers and mystics with all the answers.
Either you see the light – and are willing to be blinded by it – or you are mired in darkness.
And, yes, this is coming on the heels of seeing the movie inspired by the music of Springsteen, “Blinded By The Light.”
It’s actually not the first attempt to incorporate the impact of Springsteen’s music on film characters.
Early in the filmmaking career of indie icon John Sayles, a movie called “Baby, It’s you” (made in 1983 but set in Trenton, N.J., circa 1966) featured Springsteen’s music. Although the songs in that film, starring a young Rosanna Arquette, were anachronistic (Springsteen didn’t record his first album until 1972), they surely represented how it he felt as a New Jersey high school student in the 60s (and were ideal for the lead male character).
Unfortunately, this critically acclaimed flick was more arthouse fare, and not something for large audiences.
The movie “Mask” (1985), was the true story of a teen boy with a facial deformity who was inspired by the music of Springsteen. The original movie had four Springsteen songs in it that were cut out by studio executives, who thought a swap with Bob Seger songs wouldn’t matter.
The director’s cut of the film, which netted Cher a well-earned Oscar nomination, has since been released with the intended Springsteen music and some powerful additional scenes.
Unfortunately, the damage was done.
A good movie could have been great. As such, it is now semi-forgotten in time, as it is both uncomfortable for some to watch and not as effective as it could have been.
So, now we have “Blinded By The Light.” It is neither set in the familiar Springsteen terrain of 1960s New Jersey of “Baby, It’s You” nor the outlaw biker California lifestyle depicted in “Mask.”
It is a true story about someone who came of age as an outsider – a Pakistani Muslim immigrant in 1987 London (when lack of jobs caused a lot of intolerance) – and yet it rings as true as if the central character were from a traditional Springsteen hub on the U.S. East Coast.
Like, for example, myself in high school in Northeast Philadelphia.
As a 10-year-old, I bought Springsteen’s “Born To Run” album when it came out in 1975, so I was well aware of who he was for a long time.
When I entered high school in 10th grade, circa 1980, his album “The River” was all over the radio, but I have to admit that it wasn’t speaking to me.
I was more into Genesis, Pink Floyd, the aforementioned Seger, Tom Petty and The Cars.
Then came the mandatory heavy 1960s trip of The Doors and Jimi Hendrix, before coming to believe that the members of Led Zeppelin were living Gods.
But, as high school progressed, so did the natural feelings of alienation that almost all teens – from those in the Homecoming Court to the marching band to the delinquents catching a smoke between classes outside – felt.
All those bands had a place and stirred something inside me, but nothing spoke to my soul.
Not until I felt like taking a knife cutting the pain from my heart.
Not until I wanted to say that I wasn’t a boy, but a man.
Not until I talked about a dream and tried to make it real.
For the uneducated – and that’s OK – those are all paraphrased lines from Springsteen songs.
I don’t know who or where I’d be today – not that I’m anything anyway, but I can’t complain – without learning them like a seminary student learns to recite, and interpret, scripture.
I should have nothing in common with the main character of “Blinded By The Light,” but I actually related to Javed as much I have with any character in any movie I’ve ever seen.
I was semi-skeptical going in – I read they turned some songs in to Bollywood-style dance routines – but I knew pretty quickly that it was tailor-made when Javed, also a writer, first popped in a Springsteen cassette.
The song was “Dancing In The Dark.”
It was generally regarded by some of my Bruce brethren as just a frivolous pop song, while casual fans see it as a fun tune that doesn’t dig too deep and make them think too hard.
I never felt that way about “Dancing In The Dark.” From the moment it was released as a single in advance of the eponymous “Born In The U.S.A.” album that made Springsteen an international star, the lyrics – though set against non-threatening synthesizer chords and a steady beat that almost sounded electronic – came at me at a time in my life when I was transitioning from high school, where the music of Springsteen helped me find my niche, to college.
I was nothing but tired – tired and bored with myself.
I wanted to change my clothes, my hair, my face.
They said I had to stay hungry. I was just about starving.
I knew there was something happening somewhere.
And I knew – with the words of Bruce Springsteen – I’d find it.
And I did.
Just like many of you did.
Because you get it.
Some of you don’t.
If you don’t, you don’t.
All I can say is that I’m sorry.
I really am.
This column appeared in The Times Herald on Sept. 1, 2019.