Musings: That Restless Kind of Feeling

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Hello all. Hope everyone is doing well. 

We had yet more snow again this week here, and a continuation of the usually lengthy cold as well. It looks as if we're finally going to be back to normal temperatures here starting this week (around 40°F / 6°C), and some rain tomorrow. 

With any luck the sidewalks will be mostly clear by the end of the week. It's been a long time since it's been safe to walk for an extended distance, let alone run, and I've been raring to ramp up both activities. It's been too long without them, at least at the levels I like. And need.

That feeling of restlessness is pretty pervasive in my life right now, and consequently has been on my mind quite a bit lately. I inadvertently hit Shuffle while listening to music a few days ago (I tend to listen to entire albums - old school, I know), and this song popped up:

"Restless" is from Gordon Lightfoot's 1993 album Waiting For You. It was recognized as a return to form after several somewhat sterile, overproduced albums (albeit with some hidden gems), and "Restless," the leadoff track, was rightfully hailed as one of his major works. (He apparently feels the same way, as he plays "Restless" at nearly every concert since the album's release.)

For me, this restlessness has been uncomfortable. But listening to his reflections on it made me look at it another way:

There's a kind of a restless feeling and it pulls me from within
It sets my senses reeling and my wheels begin to spin
In the quietude of winter you can hear the wild geese cry
And I will always love that sound until the day I die
There's a kind of a restless feeling and it catches you off guard
As I gaze off at the distance through the trees in my back yard
I can feel that restless yearning of those geese as off they roam
Then trade that for a warm bed and a place I can call home

As is so often the case, it's all a matter of perspective, isn't it? 

That restlessness isn't a bad thing to be overcome.

Instead, if you allow yourself to listen, it's that quiet inner voice telling you not to settle. 

Not to give up. 

To keep striving. 

It was a message I think I heard for a reason this week. 


Friday night I listened to what might be my one Desert Island Disc (if, God forbid, I could only have one): Bruce Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978). 

I've written about the album a number of times here. He recorded the album after a protracted legal battle with his former manager over the control of his career that, for a time, looked as if it would prevent him from being able to record again. 

Springsteen prevailed, but he was profoundly changed by what had happened. Born To Run, his previous album, was filled with songs about protagonists looking ahead with hope. 

Darkness, by contrast, was about those same characters several years later. Their youthful idealism has been battered by the harsh realities of the world. The songs were no longer about triumph, but instead were about survival.

That said, they were not about hopelessness, but about vowing to carry on no matter the odds:
Talk about a dream
Try to make it real
You wake up in the night
With a fear so real
You spend your life waiting
For a moment that just don't come
Well, don't waste your time waiting  

I came across a 2010 interview he gave around the time of a deluxe reissue of the album. Reading it this weekend, I was struck by something he said about his state of mind as he headed back into the studio to record what became Darkness. He and Gordon Lightfoot have a similar attitude about the virtue - the necessity - of giving your all in pursuit of your vision: 

“The only thing I was always nervous about was not living up to what my potential might be,” he said. “That frightened me the most. I didn’t think I was the most gifted performer or singer. I felt like I was given a heavy dose of journeyman’s talents, and that if I worked those things with everything I had, they could coalesce into something that was specifically mine.”

That's a remarkably humble assessment from one of the great American songwriters. But the message really hits home: it's about putting in the hard work to find something uniquely yours. If that approach is good enough for Bruce, it's certainly good enough for the rest of us, no? :c) 

And frankly, that's what transitioning is (if you do it the right way, at least), isn't it? Taking a leap of faith in the pursuit of being yourself, in spite of the uncertainty and fear, and then doing the hard work to make it happen. And if we can do that... we can do anything. A good message for a Sunday evening. Or any evening, really. :c) To quote a line from another song of his about living to the fullest: "Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun/Oh, but Mama/That's where the fun is." :c)


Part of the hard work Springsteen put in realizing his vision for this album was only including work that fit that vision. During the Darkness sessions he recorded, then gave away, songs that other artists made the centerpiece of their albums. He gave this song to the Pointer Sisters, who had a huge hit with it in 1979:

Most famously, he wrote and recorded "Because the Night," then gave it to Patti Smith, who recorded her classic version (with revised lyrics) that became a major hit in 1978:

A stark, riveting version that featured a ferocious, extended guitar solo from Springsteen was a nightly high point on the legendary tour following the album's release. This is from his show at The Capitol Theatre in Passaic NJ on 9.19.78. It's my favorite Springsteen show. Watch and you'll understand why:

Never get tired of watching that!


I thought I'd end with a song Springsteen co-wrote with Southside Johnny Lyon and Steve Van Zandt (a/k/a Miami Steve of E Street Band fame). "Trapped Again" was a highlight of Heart of Stone, the 1978 album from Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes. How this song wasn't a massive hit boggles the mind:

It really has that late-Seventies Jersey Shore sound, doesn't it? Such a great song.

That will do it for this one. Have a great week!


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