Tonight’s post was inspired by a conversation I had earlier this evening with my hairstylist of 13 years. She was trimming my wet, freshly coloured hair, while I watched video footage on her iPhone of the Ben Harper gig she saw in Portland. She had also seen him in Halifax. I sighed that I regretted missing him, but I’d spent my concert dollars most recently on Kathleen Edwards at Harvest and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in Moncton. “Speaking of Bruce,” she piped up, and proceeded to search for Ben Harper’s cover of “Atlantic City”.
And…wow. It’s never easy to hear that song without Bruce’s iconic harmonica, but Ben made it work. And only made me regret not seeing him in Halifax.
So it got me thinking about how other artists interpret my beloved Boss. We all know of the obvious ones: Patti Smith Group’s “Because The Night” (Smith is listed as co-writer, but it was really Bruce’s song first), “Fire” by the Pointer Sisters, and that cover of “Blinded By The Light” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band that makes me blind with rage (let us never speak of it again.) But what about the not-so-well-known Springsteen covers?
I’ll start with one of my most recent favourite cover songs, Whitehorse’s version of “I’m On Fire”. Whitehorse is essentially husband-and-wife duo Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, both excellent solo artists in their own right. I like that this version squeezes more musical goodness out of the original, which was beautiful but all too short.
I admit, I don’t know much about Vampire Weekend beyond what I’ve heard on Songza’s Coffee Shop Indie playlist. But I do like what I’ve heard, and this cover of “I’m Goin’ Down” is no exception. It doesn’t stray much from the original track from Born In The USA, but it works for me.
Back to Nebraska: YouTube is full of surprises, like Chris Cornell’s version of “State Trooper” recorded live at a gig in New York. I’m not one for lengthy electric guitar noodling, but it’s a nice contrast to Bruce’s acoustic original.
Another version of “State Trooper” shows up prominently in search results: the one where Bruce teams up with Arcade Fire in Ottawa. I thought that was a one-off, until I found other Boss covers by Arcade Fire, like this one. The audio quality is shaky, but still captures the spirit of the performance.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I might actually prefer their version.
Bruce can do a mean Win Butler, too. Best part of this clip: dude completely losing his shit over the opening bars. And who wouldn’t?