Thursday, October 9, 2014

31 Days of Writing: Love Letter to a Song- Atlantic City

Well they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night,
Now they blew up his house too.

Down on the boardwalk they're gettin' ready for a fight,

Gonna see what them racket boys can do.
Now there's trouble busin' in from out of state,

And the D.A. can't get no relief.
Gonna be a rumble out on the promenade,
And the gamblin' commissions hangin' on by the skin of its teeth.

Everything dies, baby that's a fact,
But maybe everything that dies, someday comes back.
Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty,
And meet me tonight in Atlantic City.

Well I got a job and tried to put my money away,
But I got debts that no honest man can pay.
So I drew what I had from the Central Trust,
And I bought us two tickets on that Coast City bus.

Everything dies, baby that's a fact
But maybe everything that dies, someday comes back.
Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty,
And meet me tonight in Atlantic City.

Now our luck may have died, and our love may be cold,
But with you forever I'll stay.
We're goin' out where the sands turnin' to gold,
So put on your stockin's cause the nights gettin' cold.
And everything dies, baby that's a fact,
But maybe everything that dies, someday comes back.

Now I been lookin' for a job. but it's hard to find,
Down here it's just winners and losers, and don't get caught on the wrong side of that line.
Well I'm tired of comin' out on the losin' end,
So honey, last night I met this guy, and I'm gonna do a little favor for him.

Well I guess everything dies, baby that's a fact
But maybe everything that dies, someday comes back
So fix your hair up nice, and fix yourself up pretty,
And meet me tonight in Atlantic City.

I have loved the Boss since I was 8 years old and my mom played a cassette tape of Springsteen's 1987 Tunnel of Love. I would stare at the front cover on the way to school & on long car trips. Bruce leaning against a white convertible, hands in pocket & wearing a bolo tie. While I didn't understand the meaning behind many of the songs on the album (My favorite was Brilliant Disguise. I thought it was about Halloween costumes), I knew Springsteen sang with emotion. Even if  it was emotion I didn't understand until I was older. 

Now, I love songs that tell a story and nobody tells a story like Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen's album Nebraska is full of songs about blue collar people confronted with a turning point in their lives. I first heard the album in high school and I remember being struck by the emotion behind every song. The album was haunting and dark. I could visualize the people depicted in the songs and the vast majority broke my heart. 

My favorite song on the entire album was and continues to be Atlantic City. Atlantic City tells the story of a young couple who move out to Atlantic City in hopes of making all their dreams come true. But life doesn't turn out the way they plan. Springsteen refers to mafia violence in Philadelphia (the chicken man he refers to is the real-life  mafia boss, Philip Testa who was killed by a bomb placed in his home in 1981) and the end of the song indicates that the boy takes an unsavory job in order to pay off what we can only assume are gambling debts. Springsteen paints a bleak picture of the mafia and gambling presence that engulfed Atlantic City in it's early years. 

Springsteen recorded Nebraska on a cassette tape Portastudio. He originally intended the primarily acoustic tunes to be demos that would ultimately be recorded with the E Street Band, but decided to release the songs on his own. In the above video, Springsteen performs a much more rocking version of the song with his band and I must say, something is lost in the translation.  If you've never heard the album version, I strongly urge you to check it out as soon as possible.  

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