(This is an updated repost of a blog from 2014)
On May 8, 1974 Jon Landau seemed lost. If you read anything in the beginning of his 1974 Real Paper review, you see a tired human being who is drained. Columbia Records marketing material aside, Landau's article begins as a lament about a cold harsh human truth - purity doesn't seem to last.
Then came May 9, 1974.
Many of us remember how we discovered Springsteen. I first heard this kid on the radio (I don't know exactly when), and a few months later(maybe more) came Born To Run --- after which music was never the same.
Born to Run was a symphony, an opera. It's a small town story, a city drama, a psychological super highway.
It's poetry and guitars and a haunting sax --- what more could a young man ask for in the early 70's?
I remember Maxanne, on WBCN, so smart, so sophisticated and worldly. And I remember Springsteen performing on one of her shows.
Truth be told, I don't remember if I heard this live or replayed, but that radio performance, so amazing in it's improvisation and intimate access to this young man, lit up the atmosphere. You can hear parts of the performance at the link below, but don't go there yet.
It was in this environment that Jon Landau met Springsteen. Here was this young kid from New Jersey full of hope, promise, innocence and desire, and there was Landau.
"It’s four in the morning and raining. I’m 27 today, feeling old,…"
It's not that Jon Landau was going to go on and write one of the most important reviews in rock and roll, and it's not that he and Springsteen were to go on to become one of the most successful teams in music...the importance of that review in the Real Paper on May 22, 1974 is that Jon Landau was facing a future that all of us eventually face…the apparent end of that beautiful and hypnotic state called innocence.
Innocence ends secretly.
Before May 9, 1974, Landau, and we, in childhood had lost a president. He, and we, had lost a president's brother and a minister. We had lost a war, we had lost friends, we feared being called up, lost hope.
Walter Cronkite implied America was lost.
We lost an election, were in the process of losing another president, and on the very day of the concert he reviewed on May 9, 1974 at the Harvard Square Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the impeachment hearings in the US House of Representatives had begun.
So there is not just music in Jon Landau's review. There is the question of where to go and why...and how? The music which had helped him grow into the being he was on May 9, 1974, was not providing what we all need from great music and art - so it would seem: there was nothing to lead him in his adult life.
We know that Columbia used the review which Landau wrote and later was published in the Real Paper, for a marketing blitz. And Springsteen has often said it was the bane of his existence. But Landaus' story was about a bigger truth than music or history or the Harvard Square Theater. The Real Paper, Rolling Stone, and reviews that do their job well, help us understand why art is so vital to - why it's the energy of - the human soul.
We watch, we listen, we study, we absorb art because it gives us access to our higher selves. An artist, if we are lucky, has used their medium to compose a truth in a way we have never heard or seen before. Landau's article broadcasts this for us. And of course, Springsteen has given us that for decades.
I am one of those who thinks Born to Run is one of the best records ever made. It's a symphony, an opera. It's a small town story, a city drama, a psychological super highway. The photograph that anchors this site is from that concert Landau attended. It's a concert during the time Springsteen was creating, and beginning to perform, Born to Run. And if you listen to the Maxanne WBCN recording now, you will hear the joy and transparency of a young man with tons of talent, who was just emerging on the scene, beginning to tell us his truth.
On May 22, 1974, the Real Paper published his review. Landau wrote, "But in my own moments of greatest need, I never give up the search for sounds that can answer every impulse, consume all emotion, cleanse and purify — all things that we have no right to expect from even the greatest works of art but which we can occasionally derive from them."
We're lucky Springsteen and Landau met. People talked, ideas were exchanged, work was done, souls were nourished. And we're fortunate if we have had the chance to grow through these years as well.