20060321

Born To Pun

I don't know about you (at all -- in fact, who are you? Go away and leave me alone), but I've always had a soft spot for the early Bruce Springsteen hits -- and in particular Born to Run:

In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway 9,


He conjures up an alluring vision of speeding through the rugged hearland of America, in the dark of night on a throbbing motorcycle, tearing through wildeness and then through the heart of a city, mostly asleep, but parts just seething with restless energy.

The problem is, I went on Highway 9 yesterday. The US does tend to recycle road numbers rather heavily, but I'm pretty sure it's the same one, since I was visiting Freehold, which happens to be The Boss's place of birth. And I have to say, it really doesn't live up to its reputation. Highway nine is the kind of road that seems particularly special to New Jersey: two lanes of traffic in each direction with a concrete bollard in between, it limply winds its way down south through the sparsely populated sub-suburban sprawl of semi-rural towns. Along each side it's peppered with seedy strip malls, decrepit movie theatres, retirement homes and golf courses. Born to Run you may be, but unless you want a ticket from the donut chewing cops, you'll have to stop every five minutes at the traffic lights that control the jug handles, New Jersey's unique answer to the problem of how to make a U-turn when you realize that the thing you want to get to is on the other side of the road. All the glamour of the storied America from my youth in this song turns out to be defined in tacky neon and mouldy plastic edifices.

Still, it got me out of the house, so mustn't grumble.

2 comments:

msw said...

Here in Oregon, every time I go out on the interstate I can't help singing to myself "I-5, more dead than alive!"

I don't think that's what Beck had in mind, though.

Anonymous said...

I suppose the British equivalent would be what? Doves' M62 song? At least the M62's an interesting road in places.

Chris Rea's The Road To Hell (about the M25). Dear god, no (Rea, not the oft-unfairly maligned London orbital)...

Billy Bragg - A13 Trunk Road To The Sea.

Anyone else think of more UK-based specific road songs?