The Pickled Priest Guide to Bruce Springsteen's Worst Lyrics
Turnabout is fair play. Last week, the good shit, this week the smelly shit. Even Bruce is capable of crapping out some duds. We thought we'd dig through his every written word and shine some light on some of his lesser moments. Bruce's attorneys were not happy, but here they are in all their sad glory.
Big black train comin' down the track
Blow your whistle long and long
"One Minute You're Here"
Bruce has abused the train analogy more than any other musician with the possible exception of Johnny Cash. You'd have to hire a seasoned switchman to avert catastrophe if all of Springsteen's trains came into the yard simultaneously.* Does he even realize he's doing it at this point? Thomas the Train Season One had fewer trains in it than Bruce's discography for chrissake. But the interesting thing is that the presence of a train isn't even the problem here, it's the whistle attached to said train that's the issue. Bruce informs us that when it's coming down the track the whistle is not only blown long, but it's also blown, uh, long. Initially, I thought the phrase "long and long" was a misprint in the lyric booklet. But no, sure enough, it's "long and long" and he sings it clear as a train whistle. Why he didn't go with "loud and long" we will never know—it would've fit perfectly and he could've avoided this public embarrassment.
*I didn't even spend much time on this, but here is a list of known Bruce "train songs" (either in the title or referenced at some point in the lyrics): Leavin' Train, Human Touch, Bobby Jean, Radio Nowhere, Better Days, Living Proof, Downbound Train, Burnin' Train, Tucson Train, The Last Carnival, Jesse James, I'm on Fire, Henry Boy, What Love Can Do, Hunter of Invisible Game, Land of Hope and Dreams, and even his tour stop roll call song, "I Hear a Train," which was often spliced into one of his covers at the end of his live shows back in the day.
Well I awoke last night to the heavy clickin' and clack
And a scarecrow on fire 'long the railroad tracks
"Hunter of Invisible Game"
Did little Brucie get woken up last night by a heavy "clickin' and clack"? Is he five years old still? I haven't checked, but has anybody ever said the phrase "clickin' and clack" in the history of the world before Bruce trotted it out?* The takeaway is this: Don't use your artistic license to alter the existing order of things. It sinks the credibility of the song. (Ask Billy Joel, who called a "Gin & Tonic" a "Tonic & Gin" in "Piano Man" and never heard the end of it from people like me.) On top of that, we get yet another train reference in the bargain. The problem with train references is that they no longer register with people. It's a symbol devoid of real meaning anymore and has been since roughly the mid-1960s, and I'm being generous. When I initially re-read the lyrics to this song I didn't even remember it at all. Total mental washout. Not surprisingly, it's from High Hopes, Bruce's song rummage sale from 2014. But wait, there's more. We've got a scarecrow on fire over here! A scarecrow that someone inexplicably put next to the railroad tracks, where you never see them in real life, let alone set ablaze. Does Dorothy have an alibi? This kind of forced imagery is what has shot down Bruce's songwriting in the last couple decades. Random, ham-fisted symbolism has become his forte and this is another prime example.
*The only cultural reference I know of is Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, of Car Talk fame on NPR. Other than that, zilch.
I'm rollin' through town, a lost cowboy at sundown
Got my monkey on a leash, got my ear tuned to the ground
"Livin' in the Future"
I guess by 2007 we were letting Bruce get away with anything, just like you would the shenanigans of a seventh child. At this point, who gives a shit, nothing we do will have any consequence anyway. So an unsupervised Bruce literally trots out a lost cowboy at sundown analogy with nobody around to call him on it. Yes, it's lazy and tired, but you tell him. I don't even get why the cowboy still qualifies as lost if he's rolling through a town. Can't he just pull over his horse and ask someone where the fuck he is? I would understand if he was in the middle of the desert or something. I recommend he grab a few shots of whiskey at the local saloon, a few ladies at a nearby brothel, and bed down in a cheap hotel room for the night. In the morning, he can get directions and head out. Problem solved. Or is it?
I've always wanted to say this but couldn't figure out how until today: Here's where the monkey comes in. Don't worry, he's fully leashed, but there's no attempt to explain why. Didn't Clint Eastwood already make this movie in the early 70s? There is no explanation for the monkey's presence. It is introduced and left to swing there with no resolution. I suppose I can fill in the gaps with my imagination (the monkey helps him cheat at poker somehow, the monkey is a quickdraw artist, the monkey is from the future looking to find his way back in time, etc.), but that should be Bruce's job, not mine.
And the strong man Sampson lifts the midget little Tiny Tim
Way up on his shoulders, way up
And carries him on down the midway
Past the kids, past the sailors, to his dimly lit trailer
"Wild Billy's Circus Story"
Jesus send some good women to save all your clowns
"Wild Billy's Circus Story"
Please tell me Sampson* is not going to rape poor, defenseless Tiny Tim in his low wattage cottage. I implore you. To add further degradation, the strongman is going to parade his itty bitty fuck toy down the Midway on his shoulders for all to see, including many unsuspecting children. Why the fuck would Bruce introduce such a scenario at all? The song would work much better without this prison bitch component burned into all our memory banks. You don't just think of something like this if you haven't been exposed to it at some point, right? So, from the get-go, Houston we have a problem.
There are some little gripes (literally) as well. Here, Bruce attempts a rare triple-redundancy, clarifying that Tim is not only a midget, but that he's also little and tiny as well. So, he's small then, is that what you're getting at? In my opinion, this is one of Bruce's all-time most overrated early songs—one where you really need to overlook a whole lot of dubious goings-on to enjoy this circus from hell. It's even more more disturbing than Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Karn Evil 9" and that one featured "seven virgins and a mule." Yikes.
For good measure, we've added a bonus lyric to this entry, where none other than the Son of God himself is being summoned in order to get all the clowns laid. Is there no end to human audacity? Not only that, Jesus is a magician, not a clown. If he's playing wingman, it ain't gonna be for some pathetic clowns in a traveling circus. So don't expect a VW Bug packed with whores to pull up next to the clown trailer any time soon.
*In all published lyrics for this song, this is how the name "Sampson" is written. However, in Biblical texts, the name is spelled Samson (as in Samson & Delilah). I assume since the Bible's Samson was also known for his super human strength, that's why the circus Sampson was named after him. If just a coincidence, I withdraw the criticism.
I swear I'll drive all night
Just to buy you some shoes
And to taste your tender charms
"Drive All Night"
Bruce fans love when he trots out a rarely-played song in concert. It gives them status when killing time waiting for a future show to start or while the GA pit is getting sorted out. It goes something like this: "I was in Buffalo three weeks ago and he played "Drive All Night" for ten minutes!" At that point, you're supposed to be jealous, unless you have a "Jackson Cage" to throw back in the person's face (or some other live rarity equivalent). In truth, "Drive All Night" is much ado about very little. It's a drag that drones on way too long and suffers from repetition syndrome, where Bruce goes on and on about how "You got, you got, you got, you got my love," and how he will drive through the rain, sleet, and snow to bring her a pair of shoes. It's enough to make a US postal worker feel inadequate. The captioned snippet from the song is all well and good in theory—Bruce loves you so much he will drive all night to buy you some shoes—as it shows that he would do anything for you and time is no object. A nice, albeit a little whipped, sentiment. But, it's that last line that's truly troublesome. The shoe purchase, in theory, shouldn't be contingent on receiving something in return. Oh, he'll drive all night to get you some game-worn Air Jordans, but you have to throw in your "tender charms" in to the deal to make it worth his while. It's not an "or" statement—it's an "and" statement. So get your lucky charms ready, little girl, cause your shoes—and an invasive tongue—are on the highway headed your way.
The criminal clown has stolen the throne
He steals what he can never own
"House of a Thousand Guitars"
Bruce appears to be taking a shot at The Donald in this line, which I wholly support, but calling him a "criminal clown" seems a little forced, especially since nothing else in the song is the least bit political. It sounds like he was dying to use his clever insult and was going to work it in somehow, someway.
People come for comfort or just to come
Taste the dark sticky potion or hear the drums
If line one is intended to be sexual, or at least a double-entendre, then this is pretty gross for a 70-year-old man. Discuss. I'm assuming he meant to be a little salacious, especially based on the following line which references the tasting of a "dark sticky potion." That's gotta be sexual, right? Pardon my naivite, but what does that mean exactly? Don't answer, that was rhetorical. Pearl jam would make more sense, but why is the potion dark in this instance? Is some penicillin in order? The fact that I have to even think of such preposterous questions only proves that this is a terrible line for a song—his most overtly creepy couplet since anal penetration was broached in "Reno" back in 2005.
Once they tried to steal my heart
Beat it right outta my head
But baby they didn't know
That I was born dead
"Iceman" (not a tribute to Spurs legend George "Iceman" Gervin, unfortunately) is mostly known for being the original home of the famous "Badlands" lyric "I wanna go out tonight, I wanna find out what I got." So it has justified its existence by being a lyric donor—but the rest of the host body is seriously fucked up anatomically. It's a good thing "Badlands" didn't need a heart, too, because here it seems to be located inside the cranial cavity, and not behind the ribs where most hearts call home. On top of that, there's a claim made that the stolen heart was taken from a dead body. Last I checked, the heart doesn't do much good if it ain't beating (unless your name is Hannibal). There's a reason this song was on the Tracks box; it was meant to be a cadaver song, mined for parts, but never meant to exist on its own.
I got seven pictures of Buddha
The prophet's on my tongue
Eleven angels of mercy
Sighin' over that black hole in the sun
There are a bunch of Bruce songs I could do without, but this is right there at the top of the list, right next to "Light of Day," another song that seems to get all lathered up with little real payoff. Nobody has ever heard either without thinking at one point "This has gone on too long." There's nothing worse than a party where people feel forced to have fun. Turn up the music—wooo hooo! This pull quote is a Springsteen word scramble at its finest. It sounds like it was written from a Mad Lib: I got seven pictures of (noun), the prophet's on my (noun), (number) angels of mercy (verb) over that (noun) in the (noun). Insert meaningless symbols and read aloud for laughs. Or, even more likely, Bruce was given one of those magnetic poetry kits as a Christmas present and then wrote the song on the fridge. There's got to be a logical reason for this mess. To make matters worse, he even alludes to Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" in the process. Never a good idea.
Well I run that hard road outta heartbreak city
Built a roadside carnival out of hurt and self-pity
I built a shrine in my heart
It wasn't pretty to see
Made out of fool's gold,
memory, and tears cried
Bruce is building all kinds of shit in this song, but with metaphorical materials. Must everything be metaphorical in Bruce's world now? It's like he's not even trying to say anything directly anymore. After a heartbreak, he builds a roadside carnival out of "hurt and self-pity." WTF? If you're building an imaginary amusement, why even specify that it's a roadside carnival? Why does the type of carnival matter? Later, apparently in tribute to a lost lover, he builds a shrine inside his heart. Why not build it on the roadside, too? That would be more practical. And why didn't he build her a carnival? Is he fresh out of hurt and self pity? Supply chain issues? Either way, the clunky materials listed do not in any configuration equate to a shrine. Gold, memories, and tears? Wasn't that the disco cover band from your cousin's lame wedding reception? Such poorly thought out lyrics are the problem that plagues the absolutely abysmal second half of Human Touch, not to mention much of his later lyric writing in general. Individual lines taken out of context may sound deep, but stack up a bunch of them in a row and it almost feels like Bruce is using lyric-generation software. The end result is a house of cards where nothing is structurally solid or built to last. After an ill wind blows it over all that is left is Bruce sleeping on the couch, working on a dream.
And who am I to ask you to lick my sores?
Fair warning: I do not want any references to sores being licked in my songs going forward. No exceptions.
The interstate's choked with nomadic hordes
In Volkswagen vans with full running boards, dragging great anchors
Followin' dead-end signs into the sores
The angel rides by humpin' his hunk metal whore
"The Angel" is one of my least favorite Springsteen songs and these lyrics are a big part of the problem. Bruce was a great songwriter back in the day, able to pull off acrobatic backflips and stick the landing more often than not. But, as with any novice gymnast, sometimes you face plant, especially early-on when you're learning your craft. Such is the case on Bruce's debut. This is young, ambitious Bruce attempting, with every ounce of his talent and energy, to pull off a trick never attempted in competition before. If this was all he had, his urban poetic license would've been revoked immediately upon reciting "humpin' his hunk metal whore." We need hear no more, Mr. Springsteen. Don't call us we'll call you. Thankfully, he redeemed himself elsewhere.
All over the world the rain was pourin'
I was scratchin' where it itched
"Leap of Faith"
Now your legs were heaven
Your breasts were the altar
Your body was the holy land
"Leap of Faith"
If I was a songwriter, and I'm not, I don't think in a million years I could allow myself to write "I was scratchin' where it itched" into any of my songs. And no, I'm not saying I can hang with Bruce in the songwriting department. I'm just saying that I have an internal edit function that wouldn't allow it to happen. So why did Bruce allow it? Perhaps there's a very good reason of which I am not aware. But to me, this cringe-worthy line is well beneath him, and an immediate sign that his creative gas tank is close to empty. Unsurprisingly, not a single song from the Lucky Town/Human Touch undynamic duo is included on our 50 Best Lyrics list. Oddly, Bruce was, up to a point in his career, an amazing editor, able to spot songs that didn't fit his vision and revise others until they were just right. He was innovative and thoughtful and it showed. He was a tireless tinkerer and for the most part his instincts were dead-on. But here, something inside him said, "This works!" and then he moved on. Until he weighs in with his thought process I have no other recourse but to call bullshit.
The second entry here is only problematic for me because it surely was at least partly responsible for John Mayer's "Your Body is a Wonderland" and that's reason enough to damn it to hell for all eternity. Plus, Bruce has proven in the past that he really can't pull off anything overtly sexual. He doesn't have that kind of sensual vocabulary. Many great authors write clunky sex scenes as well. Some can write about sex convincingly, some can't.
Sparks light on E Street
When the boy prophets walk it handsome and hot
All them little girls' souls grow weak
When the man-child gives them a double shot
"The E Street Shuffle"
Again with the fucking "E Street Shuffle"! It's a good thing that Bruce left his Bohemian street poet persona behind early on. It didn't become him. Everything about this song bugs me. It even ruined the title of the record, which should've been just The Wild and The Innocent (simple, effective, evocative) and the song itself bogs down Side A with its over-the-top jam band-esque kadoodling. As with many other Bruce songs, the "little girls" represented are treated as mere playthings for oversexed boys. But the boys? They're seen as prophets who are not only handsome, but hot, too. Who wrote these lyrics, the editor of Tiger Beat magazine? It all comes crashing down at the end as weak, defenseless little girls get a "double shot" from some "man-child." Is what I think is happening really happening? Or are they just stopping for an espresso from Asbury Perk? I fear the worst.
They're breakin' beams and crosses
With a spastic's reelin' perfection
"Lost in the Flood"
Back in the 70s, people called each other "spaz" all the time to denote an awkward, mentally and/or socially challenged person. In retrospect, cruel and unkind. We would also use it for just about everyone else, too, as an all-purpose put-down. So the full term's use here isn't necessarily offensive, but it is clumsy and harsh. It reeks of trying too hard to be poetic. The line after it—"Nuns run bald through Vatican halls, pregnant, pleadin' immaculate conception"—is one of Bruce's funniest images, I would like it noted). This line is just an ugly visual that has aged poorly.
You don't have to call me lieutenant Rosie
And I don't want to be your son
The only lover I'm ever gonna need's
Your soft sweet little girl's tongue
"Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)"
Questions abound. Why would his girlfriend call him Lieutenant? Why would being Rosie's son even need to be mentioned? Has Rosie asked him to play such a role? This entire stanza, one I have sung at the top of my lungs for years without really thinking on it too deeply, is fraught with issues.* The centerpiece issue, of course, is the final line. At its core, it says the only lover I'm ever gonna need is your tongue. A tongue modified by three disturbing adjectives, especially when strung together. It's a soft tongue. Fair enough, I suppose. It's a sweet tongue. Never thought of tongues that way, but OK. But then we find out it's a little girl's tongue. Yes, I'm aware that Bruce calls even adult women "little girls" much to the consternation of some, but it just didn't play well then and it sounds even worse now. When a line in your song sounds like it has been lifted from the pages of Lolita, that's a real problem. I don't care what you meant, it sounds fucking creepy.
*The only logical explanation I can think of is that he wants to be her equal in the relationship. He doesn't want to have a dominant role over her, nor does he want her to have to take care of him, like a doting mother. If that's indeed the intent, I'll give it to him. But I remain suspicious of his motives.
There ain't no storybook story
There's no never-ending song
"Countin' On a Miracle"
A storybook story, daddy, read me a storybook story! There might not be a never-ending song, but the affront to the Springsteen catalog that is the generic, vanilla "Countin' on a Miracle" comes mighty fucking close for me. I've skipped the song every time it has been played since 2002.
The angel rides with hunch-backed children
Poison oozing from his engine
Wieldin' love as a lethal weapon
On his way to hubcap heaven
The triumphant return of "The Angel"! This is a failed song attempting to sound like it has something important to say. It's packed with unappealing imagery, hackneyed terminology, C-grade Dylanology, and overcooked street poetry. And did he really need to make the children hunch-backs? Why was that necessary? I'll accept poison oozing from his engine and I even kinda like the idea of wielding love as a lethal weapon (if love is a battlefield, then surely it can be a weapon as well). But he loses me at "hubcap heaven." Is that a used auto parts shop on the south side of Chicago? It's harmless in the end, but it does sound like he's trying to say absolutely everything in the cleverest way possible. He aspires to be a poetic champion composing, but in the end it just sounds pretentious.
Well I came home from work and I switched on Channel 5
There was a pretty little girly lookin' straight into my eyes
Well I watched as she wiggled back and forth across the screen
She didn't make me feel excited, she just made me feel mean
"You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)"
Hey, little dolly with the blue jeans on
I wanna ramrod with you honey till half-past dawn
Bruce has been criticized for his treatment of women in some of his songs. Mainly because he often refers to grown women as "little dollies" or "little girly" (and a host of other permutations of the same idea) in his lyrics. As I said earlier, this tendency hasn't aged very well. I truly believe he doesn't intend to devalue the importance of women in society by treating them as lesser beings—in fact, I think he uses the words primarily as placeholders for syllable gaps in his songwriting flow. When he has a small empty space in a rhythmic narrative he fills it in with one of his default words or phrases. These "filler words" are easy to spot. If he's talking about a female he uses some form of "little girl." It should be noted that there isn't really a male, or "little boy," equivalent because he generally writes from a male (first person) point-of-view. At most, he'll give another male character a nickname to accomplish the same thing (Wild Billy, Hazy Davy, Spanish Johnny, etc.) That said, when he's singing in the voice of a character, he will often insert a sign of respect such as "Sir" or "Mister" into his storytelling in order to keep the cadence on track. (It also gives the impression he's telling a story directly to a male listener.) It's your decision whether or not to call him out on the "little girl" problem. Can it be as simple as Bruce growing up with tons of early rock and roll singles that referred to females as girls almost exclusively? That may be the case. Still, any crutch that's consistently and pervasively used is somewhat disappointing from any artist, let alone one of Springsteen's caliber.
With that out of the way, the last line in "We Can Look" above seems to reference the attitude that a rapist or abuser might have toward women. Here, a man thinks the "little girly" is looking at him (she's not), enticing him with her wiggling body (she's not), but instead of feeling a little titillated (he's not) he instead feels "mean." How will this meanness manifest itself, if at all? Does the character feel manipulated by women to the point where he will want to send a message to one in a way that demonstrates his perceived power or superiority? I don't want to overthink this, but that type of extreme reaction to everyday stimuli can be potentially dangerous for anything in its path, particularly women.
On the other hand, the guy in "Ramrod" is just a typical he-man, oozing crass sexuality from every pore and proffering ham-fisted come-ons with the subtlety of a Howitzer. But the difference between this prototypical douchebag and the guy in "You Can Look" is a big one. As long as he respects the response to his ramrodding request, be it yes or no, that is.
There's a wonderful world where all you desire
And everything you've longed for is at your fingertips
Where the bittersweet taste of life is at your lips
Where aisles and aisles of dreams await you
"Queen of the Supermarket"
If this isn't Bruce's worst song of all-time it'll do until that song gets here. This cheeseball grocery store fantasy could be considered cute by some, but its cloying way of making everything seem so overdramatic makes me physically ill. We don't keep Bruce around for cute romcom ideas. Although I admit that Jennifer Aniston would be amazing in the role of the cashier and Paul Rudd is a no-brainer as the shy shopper spying on her from behind a display on aisle two. Put it in every theater in the country and rake in 200M on opening weekend. But the fact is, we don't need Bruce Springsteen writing the script. This song doesn't make me feel excited, it makes me feel mean.
He robbed a bank in his diapers and little bare baby feet
All he said was "Folks, my name is Outlaw Pete"
There's nothing worse than something permanent that's amusing only once. I briefly smiled upon first hearing this stupid song and ever since I've dismissed it outright as a stale joke. Then, as if to specifically aggravate me, a roadie was called upon to place a tiny pair of cowboy boots on the edge of the stage during live performances of the song—so a tight spotlight could land on them as the song ended, causing my dislike to suddenly balloon into disdain and resentment. The lamest opening track on any Bruce record, and it regrettably kicks off a miserable five-song run on Working on a Dream, easily the worst start to a Bruce record ever. No fucking contest.
I love to see the cottonwood blossom in the early spring
I love to see the message of love that the bluebird brings
"I Wish I Were Blind"
Well there in the high trees, love's bluebird glides
Guiding us 'cross to another river on the other side
"With Every Wish"
"I had skin like leather and the diamond-hard look of a cobra." Remember that line from "It's Hard to e Saint in the City" from way back in 1973? Well, fast forward about twenty years, and look at our prince of the paupers, our king of the alley, our backstreet gambler, and our pimp's main prophet, now! He's obsessed with flowers and bluebirds, the latter being the universal avian symbol for love, sweet love. He references the bluebird not once, but twice on Human Touch. What the fuck happened to our jacked American stud-muffin? In truth, I don't begrudge Bruce's newfound sensitivity—I welcome it. But "I Wish I Were Blind," a played-out concept to begin with, is so wince-inducing it's highly unlikely this guy's going to romance anyone, let alone the girl of his dreams. Maybe he could take out his trusty ramrod once more for old time's sake? That might get 'er done. In the second song, we find our friendly bluebird soaring high over the treetops, looking for love in the wrong place. After that, I'm not sure exactly what's happening, but it isn't love. Is this, in some bizarre way, the sequel to "The River"? "I went down to another river, and into that other river we'd dive...."
Two hundred dollars straight in
Two-fifty up the ass
She smiled and said
Perhaps Bruce's most controversial lyrics ever, this menu of services from the lips of a Nevada prostitute (a legal profession in the state, I may add) isn't even offensive—we've all heard and seen much worse by now—but once you mention the cost of anal sex, that's pretty much it. Nobody's gonna think about much else for the rest of the song, which makes the line a major distraction. Is $250 cheap or expensive? It seems a little pricey to me, doesn't it? Then again, it's a specialty item, not always on the table. So it makes sense that it would be surcharged. But is a 50-dollar upcharge the right number? You could argue a larger bump would be merited. But maybe it's not that big of a deal if you engage in anal sex daily. You'd probably build up anal flexibility to the point where it isn't a big deal after awhile. And what do you tip for such a boutique service? The same as you would for a "straight in"? I'd think a corresponding increase would be fair. What was this song about again? The amoral of the story is this: Don't use any lyric that people will fixate on or obsess over; It'll undermine and potentially take over the discourse around the song, not to mention the songwriter's intent. It takes away from what's really important: Who is responsible for bringing the lube to the hotel room? Is that a part of the service or the responsibility of the buyer?
Now those E Street brats in twilight duel
Flash like phantoms in full star stream
Down fire trails on silver nights
With blonde girls pledged sweet sixteen
"The E Street Shuffle"
"The E Street Shuffle" is saved by the music and the charisma of the singer, but the lyrics are an utter mess. They are some of Bruce's worst with only a couple redeeming passages peppered throughout. Not one of the lines above makes sense to anyone but Bruce, and even that is not assured. Bruce goes full mumbo-jumbo here, speaking in riddles even a sphinx couldn't solve. At least the songs on Greetings actually rhymed. The main problem here is the "payoff." What exactly is implied by "Blonde girls pledged sweet sixteen"? Is statutory rape in the offing at the end of the fire trails? Is "fire trail" a euphemism? All questions for which I absolutely do not need any answers.
If you've ever seen a one-legged dog
Then you've seen me
This set of lyrics from "The Wrestler" (originally released on the movie soundtrack and later as an add-on to Working on a Dream) rightfully raised some eyebrows when it was first released. Springsteen discussion boards lit up with a truly hilarious debate about the elusive one-legged dog, many claiming that Bruce accidentally wrote "one-legged dog" instead of "three-legged dog," which is definitely more feasible and common. Some said that there indeed could be a one-legged dog dragging itself down the street, so the song worked. That claim was roundly debunked. Mainly, people were having a hard time buying the one-legged dog idea because not many people could possibly have answered "The Wrestler's" question in the affirmative, which would severely limit the relatability of the song. How many people do you know who have witnessed such a canine "making its way down the street" in the first place? And how exactly would it make it down the street? By hopping? Crawling? Rolling? If you witnessed such a sad sight, wouldn't you help it somehow? Perhaps pay for a set of wheels so he could get around easier? It just didn't seem like a realistic enough scenario. Then, in a stroke of genius, one clever Springsteen fan checked in with a clearly photoshopped picture (see below) of a one-legged dog, standing proud and seemingly happy as a clam. Problem solved! While the rest of the song makes sense, and is almost beautiful in a way, this is a perfect example of how one song can get completely torpedoed by one ridiculous lyric. For me, I was never able to get over the "one-legged dog" problem. And I never will.
Postscript: If you find yourself in a similar predicament to me, good news. Cassandra Jenkins' song "Michelangelo" from her excellent 2021 album, An Overview on Phenomenal Nature, got the three-legged dog analogy 100% correct this year. See her lyrics below that fix all the issues of Bruce's version in short order. Listen up, Bruce.
I'm a three-legged dog
Workin' with what I got
And part of me will always be
Looking for what I lost
OK, that's all for Bruce for 2021. Next up, our 2021 wrap up posts. Look for the schedule of posts coming soon.