New Heathens

The pissed-off 10-day record

Like I imagine every American ought to, when I heard the news that 62-year-old Bruce Springsteen's new album Wrecking Ball hit #1 on the charts, I reacted like I do when I find out a United States Olympian has won a gold medal. Go team!

I was surprised to learn from The Boss' Rolling Stone interview with Jon Stewart, that he wrote and recorded eight of the 11 tracks on his new record in just 10 days. Springsteen told Stewart that for most of the sessions he woke in the morning, wrote a song, and had it waxed by the time he went to sleep. He said he even shelved around 40 tunes he'd been tinkering with to infuse Wrecking Ball with the energy and immediacy of tracks written and recorded in a single day. Like "Death to My Hometown."

The way Springsteen made Wrecking Ball reminded me of two other fairly recent records that I love, both of them also by veteran artists. One was Living With War by Neil Young, the other wasThe Revolution Starts...Now by Steve Earle. Young and Earle both said in interviews that they made those records by waking in the morning, writing a song, and recording it that same day. Here's Neil recording, "After the Garden."

All three albums were hailed as the angriest, most political records ever by their respective artists. Like Steve's "Revolution."

Understand that I'm a guy who blogs too much about buffalo presses, stresses and obsesses about writing songs; reading many an interview with successful songsmiths; spending hours vainly exercising my mediocre guitar skills; and despairing when idea after idea is nothing I'd ever have the stones to let anyone hear, let alone cop to creating.

I can't help but wonder. Can you really write a great record that fast? Do you have to be a genius like Springsteen, Young or Earle? Do you have to be pissed off about politics too? Are there other great records out there that have been written and recorded like this?

On the flipside, it took Leonard Cohen five years to write his (apolitical) masterwork Hallelujah.

Somewhere in between, I'll finish writing the songs for my next goddamn record.

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