Monday, April 14, 2014

Tips of Icebergs

I like Bruce Springsteen a lot, but I really ought to make more of an effort with his back catalogue. At time of writing, I only have three Springsteen CDs: Born in the USA, which I picked up at a car boot sale some years ago; Greatest Hits, which I found in a charity shop; and Nebraska, a more recent purchase that I bought after reading about it in this book.

Admittedly, buying three CDs by the same guy does suggest moderate commitment to the artist in question, but Bruce Springsteen's discography spans across four decades; I don't feel like I can call myself a full-blown fan when he's got sixteen studio albums that I haven't even listened to.

But with a back catalogue that big, where does one start? Born to Run would probably be the obvious next step, but I feel like I should try an album whose best songs I don't already own (this is the curse of all Greatest Hits compilations: they put you off investigating the albums from which those hits are culled). So something more recent, perhaps? I've heard good things about Working on a Dream, and I suspect I'd be pretty keen on Magic (I certainly like Girls in Their Summer Clothes). Then again, I've heard that Darkness on the Edge of Town is Springsteen's true masterpiece...

As I mentioned in this blog, I love exploring the nooks and crannies of a nice, big back catalogue. But when that catalogue is as sprawling as Springsteen's, it's paralysingly difficult to pick out your next step - you could just start from album #1 (Greeting from Asbury Park, NJ in Springsteen's case) and work through them chronologically, but then you risk bankrupting yourself before you get to the good stuff.

Tom Waits is another good example. Here's how he's represented on my CD rack:

From left to right: a classic, a compilation, and his latest release.

Rain Dogs (bought at a record fair in Exeter) seems like it actually was the best place to start, but where to go now? I'm aware that Swordfishtrombones is his other masterpiece, but I feel like I've already had a good look at that era of his career with Rain Dogs, and given TW's reputation for reinventing himself, I want to get a broader view of his output before I start digging deeper into one particular bit. Asylum Years works pretty well as a whistle-stop tour of his earlier, weepier work, and the presence of Bad as Me in my collection ensures that I'm up to speed on his latest stuff.

And yet there's still a decades-long gap in my knowledge, and God only knows how I ought to start filling it in. Real Gone? Mule Variations? Alice? All of these albums are supposed to be good, and yet none of them stands out as an obvious entry point for Waits novices.

This isn't so much a blog post as it is a plea for help. If you're better-acquainted with Bruce Springsteen or Tom Waits (or Leonard Cohen, he's another one) than I am, please do me a favour and recommend their best albums in a comment or something like that. Cheers!


  1. Born to Run/Darkness/The River. That's the era to start with.

  2. Nighthawks At The Diner/Bone Machine for Tome Waits.

    Oh and you gotta get Swordfish and Franks Wild Years. Especially Swordfish.