Springsteen and a Turning Technology

It isn’t that the basic construction of an engine has changed very much in the past twenty years, but something else entirely unexpected that has made the world of cars a very different place to be.  Anyone who grew up on Springsteen would relate instantly to the appeal of the idea of an afternoon spent getting your hands covered in grease.  If your buddy happens to miscalculate something essential, or even worse, forget the order of parts when taking something apart, so much the better, because that’s the stuff that childhood dreams get made on.  This is the heart of the romantic dreams of the early Bruce Springsteen, where specs in the lyrics are as common as any references to real love.  The shifts in the world since his first album have made this a significantly more distant place.  Today’s dreamer, longing for a Mary who can’t decide, can move his own dreams along faster with a chevrolet service manual download, and that was something never available in the time when the classic songs were written.


It’s probably important to make the distinction between the old and the new even more clear, in the case of Springsteen.  The fans who were born in the 90s may have a direct access to the music that’s as basic as it can be to anyone who’s heart is particularly attuned to his talents.  But there is a daily experience of culture that is very different when technologies shift the way people think about vehicles.  It’s certainly an easier world, as well as a much safer world, but it is different now that roadside assistance is more easily available, and cell phones make it almost impossible to get lost.  The previous generation knew the service manual as an object to be kept at all times in the back of the glove compartment, and now it’s a virtual tool that’s easy to access from anywhere.  This suggests that it’s really not as necessary to have the knowledge of gears from the inside out as it once was, and people don’t have to be as self-reliant as they used to be.  This is very likely very good news, in a larger sense, and does seem to fit into the more visionary nature of Springsteen’s writing.  Although songs like Racing in the Street appeal to a sensibility of the lone wolf, there are other songs, more engaging for younger audiences perhaps, that do refer to an idea of the world where we can depend on each other, and some of the technologies of his newest generation of fans makes it possible to depend in more radical ways than anyone could have guessed.