Feb 13, 2023, 06:29AM

Madman Bummers

Oh, the amusement parks I’ve never seen. What Year Is It (#255)?

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The picture above is of my brother Jeff on the boardwalk at Asbury Park, taken by my father a number of years before Bruce Springsteen was born. I mention that because until Springsteen’s debut LP Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. was released in early-1973—suckered by the “new Dylan” hype, I bought it, dug it and didn’t care that a lot of the lyrics were nonsense, stuffed into songs like a jaw-breaking pastrami sandwich at the now-closed tourist destination Stage Deli in Manhattan—I don’t think I’d heard of the seaside “resort” for middle-class Northeasterners. I’d been to Rye Playland as a kid, and loved it (its allure didn’t wane when my wife and I went on a day trip in 1991), Ocean City, Maryland once (a dump), Disneyland as an 18-year-old on my first trip to California and Coney Island several times. But never Atlantic City or Asbury Park; probably didn’t miss much, for a roller coaster’s a roller coaster, haunted houses are never very scary and fried dough never appealed to me, even as a youngster. (A notable exception on the grub front is, still, Nathan’s franks at Coney; a culinary classic that I think, but am not sure of, many famous chefs have championed for years.)

I saw Springsteen twice in 1975, both pre-Born To Run, and both shows were great, long, and unbelievably frenetic. The March 7th gig at Painters Mill in Owings Mills, MD opened with a favorite, “Incident on 57th Street,” a cover of Dylan’s “I Want You,” the future crowd-pleaser “Rosalita” and a lot of songs from the upcoming Born to Run, including a mesmerizing “Jungleland.” The more crowded Carter Barron Amphitheater appearance on July 28th had pretty much the same setlist, and you could sense that Springsteen was on the verge of huge success. I couldn’t have guessed just how big he’d become at that time, but the smell was in the air, stronger than the Mexican reefer every third person was smoking. I’ve never seen him again, too much trouble to get tickets, but have through the years liked a lot of his songs (“Lucky Town,” “American Skin (41 Shots),” “Point Blank” and “Brilliant Disguise,” which has—rivaled only by “Atlantic City”—his best set of lyrics) and dismissed entire albums. Unlike the ludicrously-romanticized David Crosby, Springsteen’s a legitimate pop music giant.

Springsteen’s lock-step Democratic politics bug me—he’s not much different from extremely wealthy celebrities who don’t practice what they preach—but I tune that out.

Take a look at the clues to figure out what year the photo was taken: Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend wins Best Picture Oscar; the Philippines is granted independence by the U.S.; in Atlantic City, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis perform for the first time as a comedy team; Yogi Berra makes his MLB debut (Boo-Boo was sent down to the minors); the first Tupperware is sold at retail outlets; Edgar Winter is born and Damon Runyon dies; The Ink Spots’ “The Gypsy” is #2 on Billboard charts; and Hermann Hesse wins literature Nobel Prize.

—Follow Russ Smith on Twitter: @MUGGER1955


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