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2023/4 Albums Thing 338 - Bruce Springsteen “Lucky Town”

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As the other half of the same album “Lucky Town” is far and away the better half and it’s quietly one of Bruce’s better albums full stop. It’s no “Born To Run” granted but “Better Days”, “Lucky Town, “If I Should Fall Behind”, “Leap Of Faith”, “Living Proof” and “My Beautiful Reward” are a superb set of songs.

“Human Touch” had been recorded through 1990 with the whole process taking longer than expected. By early 1991 Springsteen put the album on a shelf (where I’d argue it should have stayed). By the Fall (sorry I’m in US English mode, I of course mean Autumn) of 1991 he returned to the studio intending to record one more song for inclusion, “Living Proof”. But in the intervening time he’d written another 9, so more sessions ensued. The personnel are slightly different on “Lucky Town”, different drummer, no superstar backing vocalists, this time Patti is joined by Sister Soozie Tyrell who will become an integral part of “The Seeger Sessions” band and later a fixture in the E Street Band, and on one song, I’ve only just discovered, a Small Face !

I couldn’t tell you what the songs on “Human Touch” are about but here on “Lucky Town” the whole thing is more stripped back, less LA sheen, and the songs are about things in Springsteen’s recent experience. Opener “Better Days” is a guy looking for a new start after recent troubled times (his divorce from Julianne Phillips?) and contains a doozy of a lyric in “But it’s a sad man my friend who’s livin’ in his own skin, And can’t stand the company”, it was a highlight of his recent gig in Cardiff; “Living Proof” is about the birth of his first child (Evan, born in 1990). “Local Hero” comes with an amusing back story. Springsteen saw a picture of himself in a shop window. When he went in to buy it the shop keeper, obviously not recognising his customer, told him it was a picture of a “local hero”. “Lucky Town”s songs are altogether more personal.

The first time I was struck by “If I Should Fall Behind” it was being played by ace singer songwriter Ian Prowse in a marquee pitched outside a country pub in South Shropshire. I had no idea what it was at the time and had to ask him. He was a little taken aback that I didn’t know, us both being self professed Springsteen-o-philes. I had to admit to not paying these two records too much mind for many years. Prowsey also told me to learn it and play it at any wedding I went to and I’d have ‘em all crying in the aisles. A few years later I did just that. As Best man (again!) for my dear old friend Dawse I played this at the reception in lieu of a Best Man’s speech (I’d already done that at his first wedding) and Prowsey was right, not a dry eye in the house. It also means Dawse can no longer diss the Boss.

So did the two albums on one day work ? Well it’s arguable that the writing and recording of “Human Touch” was necessary in order for Springsteen to get to the songs that make up “Lucky Town”, the former begat the latter as it were. But…truthfully, he could just have released only “Lucky Town” and no-one would really have missed out on much, if anything. Are we really desperate to hear “57 Channels (And Nothing On)” one more time ?

If I Should Fall Behind - https://youtu.be/JvZXl5-A38A?si=91hFUpPHz5YfjwhE

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