Parallel Lines #2: A Saviour In These Streets [Guest Post by Erin from Uncomplicatedly]

28 01 2009

Dear readers,

It’s my privilege to present to you a guest post from my friend, colleague, and fellow Heaps-member, Erin, aka Uncomplicatedly. Erin contacted me a couple of weeks ago to say that she had an idea for a post in the Parallel Lines series I started with this post on Modest Mouse and the Talking Heads. She asked if she could make a couple of guest posts. I liked the idea so much that I’ve decided to open this blog up to other contributors. Songs About Radios is now soliciting requests for guest posts. If you’re someone I know in person in some capacity, and you have something you want to say about music in a public forum, send me an email with your idea!

Anyway, without further ado, here’s Erin’s Parallel Lines post:

You can hide ‘neath your covers
And study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers
Throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets
Well now I’m no hero
That’s understood
All the redemption I can offer, girl
Is beneath this dirty hood

—Bruce Springsteen, “Thunder Road” (Download) (Buy It)″

Bruce Springsteen - Born to RunLike many of Bruce’s songs, this one offers a glimpse of a renegade heaven. Bruce promises Mary that they can “trade in these wings on some wheels” and ride out tonight to “case the promised land,” as though salvation is something that can be stolen or negotiated for. In these lines, he’s disdainful of Mary’s equation of love with traditional piety; the mistake of “praying in vain / for a savior” is the mistake of “hiding,” of refusing to take responsibility for your own happiness. Bruce claims initially to not be a hero, but he is, ultimately, offering redemption– it’s just a different kind of redemption, one you go out and take rather than wait patiently for.

I’ve been looking for a savior in these dirty streets
Looking for a savior beneath these dirty sheets
I’ve been raising up my hands– drive another nail in
Got enough guilt to start my own religion

Why do we crucify ourselves
Everyday I crucify myself
Nothing I do is good enough for you
Crucify myself
Everyday I crucify myself
And my heart is sick of being in chains

—Tori Amos, “Crucify” (Download) (Buy It)″

Tori Amos - Little EarthquakesThe first two lines of this excerpt are so similar to Bruce’s song as to suggest direct influence– Mary “hides ‘neath her covers,” prays “for a savior to rise from these streets,” and is offered redemption that comes from “beneath this dirty hood.” In this song, Tori plays Mary’s part, perhaps in an effort to show us that it’s not as easy as Bruce says to just hop into some dude’s car and ride off to the promised land. Tori says elsewhere in the song that she’s got “a kick for a dog begging for love;” she rebuffs Bruce because “I’ve gotta have my suffering so that I can have my cross.” These lines are certainly ironized; she would love to be able to liberate her heart from its chains, but she can’t. In the context of Bruce’s song, her assertion that “nothing I do is good enough for you” becomes a revealing accusation. The way Bruce frames the problem, all Mary has to do is decide to be happy and decide to come with him– but Tori feels judged by him, judged because she can’t do those things.

The only crack in Bruce’s polished bad-boy seduction persona comes in these lines: “I know you been waitin’ for words that I ain’t spoken / But tonight we’ll be free; all the promises’ll be broken.” Here, he seems to acknowledge that he’s not offering Mary love, at least not with a capital L and a fairy-tale ending. A lot of seducers don’t hesitate to promise love falsely, but Bruce is nothing if not sincere. Tori may be right to be offended, but Bruce has correctly observed that the L-word has a dangerous power over Mary, who “makes crosses from her lovers”– she crucifies herself, and this is what Bruce wants to save her from.