Pedantry is not the first thing my friends would accuse me of (it’s probably the second; judging by Christmas Eve in the pub, the first thing is being “a cunt” – thanks John, thanks Tim) but the repetition in yesterday’s Observer of the falsehood that Bruce Springsteen’s Girls In Their Summer Clothes might be a Stephin Merritt tribute needs addressing.
Firstly, Springsteen’s song from last year’s excellent Magic album found its inspiration in Irwin Shaw’s superb short story from 1942, The Girls In Their Summer Dresses.
Secondly, Merritt owes as much to Springsteen’s influence as he does to any of the more fashionable names with whom he’s usually associated. Unfairly maligned or dismissed by indiepop fans (what band got its name from the lyrics to Springsteen's Blinded By The Light: “And go-kart Mozart was checkin' out the weather chart to see if it was safe to go outside”?), Springsteen is one of rock’s greatest portraitists.
Has Merritt ever written a verse as evocative as
Barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a DodgeJungleland (1975)
Drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain
The Rat pulls into town rolls up his pants
Together they take a stab at romance and disappear down Flamingo Lane
I had skin like leather and the diamond-hard look of a cobraIt’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City (1973)
I was born blue and weathered but I burst just like a supernova
I could walk like Brando right into the sun
Then dance just like a Casanova
I appreciate that elevating Springsteen over Merritt will be an unpopular position for many of you, but I maintain that stance with a conviction while fully acknowledging Merritt’s gifted guile.
I’ll leave off here with some more wisdom from Springsteen:
Is a dream a lie if it don't come trueThe River (1980)
Or is it something worse