Bruce Springsteen: The Working Class Hero

bruce2Born to Run will surely go down as one of the most historic albums of all-time. It has the classic radio tunes (Thunder Road, Born to Run), the iconic cover photo, and it was the album that turned Bruce Springsteen into a legitimate superstar and music powerhouse. But above all, it was the ultimate example of the American Dream coming true.

Born to Run was Springsteen’s third album. Before this seminal album, Springsteen was struggling with a reputation of being nothing more than a Bob Dylan clone. In a 1975 Rolling Stone article, author Greil Marcus says, “Certainly, I couldn’t find the reasons [to go to a live show based] on Springsteen’s first two albums, despite Columbia’s ‘New Dylan’ promotional campaign…both seemed at once flat and more than a little hysterical, full of sound and fury, and signifying, if not nothing, not much.”

Now, I don’t agree with Marcus (in fact, Greetings from Ashbury Park is one of my favorite Springsteen albums), but this was the general attitude towards Springsteen at the time. Bruce was considered a working class musician. He delivered solid (but not spectacular) tunes and gave great, energetic live shows. The only thing that special about him was that audiences would get their money’s worth. Springsteen says, “I wanted to be something you could depend upon, as best as I could. I was gonna have my screw-ups and make my mistakes and I was probably gonna do things you didn’t want me to do, but fundamentally I was gonna be at least out there searching for that road.”

At the time, Springsteen was happy to be able to make a living doing what he loved. He was like us all; he was plugging along doing the best that he could. Around his New Jersey neighborhoods, he was a success, too. He was a man of music, pulling his own weight. He was the guy that lived down the street that had the balls to do it his way and the will to make it work. Springsteen says, “Michael Appel [our first manager] said, ‘We didn’t do very well, we sold about 20,000 records.’ I said, ‘20,000 records! That’s fabulous! I don’t know 20,000 people. Who would buy a record by someone they have no idea about?’”

But just because Springsteen was happy, it didn’t mean that he was satisfied. In fact, he was far from it. He had dreams of going to the top, believing in his work ethic and talent. He didn’t see limitations. “We were pretty good. As we travelled around I said, ‘Yeah, we’re not only pretty good, we’re better than a lot of these other guys I’m seeing’, and I’d put the radio on and I’d say, ‘And I’m as good as a lot of these guys that are on the radio, too, so why shouldn’t I be on the radio?”

But he knew that taking it to the next level would require even more work and dedication. He needed to move like a freight train towards this singular goal. Of course, this would not be an easy thing to do without selling out and forgetting about the people and the places that he came from. Heading into the studio to record his third album, Bruce navigated this difficult road of ambition and humility, saying, “You just want to be in the band and be a part of that thing moving along, but then somewhere along the way that becomes intertwined with, of course, raving ambition, and you’re trying to make the best, greatest rock record that could ever be made. You’re trying to be the best and your ego pushes you, which is okay, that’s how things roll. I think as long as all those things are managed in a fashion that allows you to survive and continue, and keeps you on a reasonable path, it’s fine.”

As he and his band plugged along, they strived to push their limits and do something more with their album (for example, implementing the wall of sound technique), while staying true to their working class roots.  This, of course, resulted in an explosion of popularity upon the record’s release. It was the working man’s album, but sophisticated and smooth and refined. It was one of the greatest of all-time. It rose to number 3 on the Billboard charts and turned Bruce into the biggest thing in America. But even better, it was proof that the American Dream was real. It was proof that if a person works hard and stays true to himself, he has a chance to do something great with his life. The only question being: will you keep believing and working hard through it all?

SPRINGSTEENAfter Born to Run broke through, it would be safe to assume that Springsteen sold out and forgot about his roots, right? Not exactly. For 35 years, he has remained exactly the same, showing a mixture of humility and confidence. Of course, he does have one vice. To celebrate the album’s success, Bruce went out and bought himself a 1960 Chevrolet Corvette. I can’t say that I blame him. Long live the BOSS.

 

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Ryan Gosling Is This Generation’s “Bada** on Wheels” Star

gosling4Every generation has one star that represents “the bad ass on wheels” archetype. It all started with Marlon Brando in The Wild One. Then, there was Steve McQueen in Bullitt, Peter Fonda in Easy Rider, and Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit. Of course, there are a million more that I haven’t mentioned, but my point is that everybody and every generation has that image.

For the current generation, there is probably no one more emblematic of this needed icon than Ryan Gosling. Despite Gosling’s legion of teeny bopper fans (mostly coming from The Notebook), he also has a raw, nasty image that he has developed over the past few years. And coincidentally, this image has developed in two seminal films that both fall into the “bad ass on wheels” category. The two films, of course, are Drive and The Place Beyond the Pines.

Drive

The first film that cements Gosling as the “badass on wheels” of this generation is Drive. In this 2011 film, Gosling stars as a movie stunt driver that works for a down on his luck garage owner played by Bryan Cranston (all hail Walter White!!!!). But as dusk falls, Gosling moonlights for crooks that need his superior driving skills to pull robberies and other crimes off.

gosling2Starring as a character that is only known as “the driver,” Gosling and director Nicolas Refn tear down the boundaries of this age old genre. Gosling creates a modern day version of the classic Eastwood character, “the man with no name.” Like Eastwood, Gosling’s character leaves us disoriented, wondering if we as an audience should invest our feelings in a character that is equally capable of rage and heroism. Critic Tom Glasson writes, “Whether Gosling’s character is also a ‘hero’ or not, though depends on your understanding of the term…[He goes though] a somewhat emotionally ambiguous transformation from sympathetic nice guy to violent avenger that might seem out of place were it not just so impossibly, impossibly cool.”

On top of Gosling’s great performance, director Refn blends styles that are reminiscent of Top Gun and True Romance (both classic Tony Scott films). In the end, the audience is left with a film that will not soon be forgotten (and if possible a soundtrack that is even better). In recognition of the film’s classic appeal, Christopher Orr of The Atlantic says, “Suffice is to say that the movie is an homage to old car-cult B-movies such as Bullitt and The Driver, and that it starts slowly before accelerating to harrowing velocity.”

The Place Beyond the Pines

The second of Gosling’s paradigm performances comes in the 2012 film, The Place Beyond the Pines. In this film, Gosling is the perfect example of Tolstoy’s “a stranger coming to town” character, playing a stunt motorcycle rider that is traveling with the carnival. This powerful film opens with Gosling learning that he has fathered the child of a small town woman- played beautifully by Eva Mendes. In an attempt to reconcile their relationship and develop a bond with his son, Gosling resorts to robbing banks so he can put food on the table for his family.

Unlike Drive, in this film, Gosling creates an out and out criminal (only enhanced by face tattoos!), while still managing to make the audience fall in love with him. It’s an electric and magnetic display of talent that is usually reserved for all-time greats like Marlon Brando.

gosling3Critic Blake Howard writes, “Gosling is flying in Pines. Watching him as the hyper cool, tattoo covered Luke gives you a feeling like you’re caught beneath a brewing electrical storm; at times he literally made my hairs stand up. However, it’s not just Luke’s steely calm that makes the performance, it’s the frenzy with which his desperation manifests to give his son a better life that takes the character to another gear.”

With these two films, audiences have witnessed the emergence of a new cultural icon wrapped in an age old archetype. At just 33 years old, Gosling’s future is bright, and we can expect that he will only become even bigger.

Bottom line: If you haven’t seen Drive or The Place Beyond the Pines, I recommend that you go out and find those films…ASAP

A Psychedelic Trip with the World’s Most Iconic Bus

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Author Ken Kesey

In 1964, just a few years before the widespread eruption of the hippie culture, Ken Kesey purchased a yellow 1939 International Harvester school bus. At 29 years old, Kesey was fresh off the success of his debut novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and he decided this bus would be the perfect tool for his newest adventure. Little did he know that the bus would go down as the most iconic vehicle of the 60s, inspiring a handful of novels and films, as well as helping to build the hippie culture.

Reverse 1 Year

In 1963, Kesey was living in La Honda, California, and he had a deep seeded urge to take an enlightening road trip to go see the New York’s World Fair. However, he didn’t want to make the trip alone. So, he recruited 13 other members- which would later be referred to as the “Merry Brand of Pranksters”- to go with him. However, going to see the World Fair was not the only reason for the trip.

Writer Tom Wolfe says, “The trip had a dual purpose. One was to turn America on to this particular form of enlightenment, the other was to publicize [Kesey’s] new book, Sometimes A Great Notion. Kesey was a great writer. It was too bad he abandoned writing but I think he meant it when he said, ‘I’m tired of waiting for an echo, I want to be a lightning rod.’” Kesey wanted an adventure; he wanted to get people talking; and he wanted to stir up the American consciousness through his actions, not his words. This trip was the perfect solution.

electrickoolOriginally, Kesey and the Pranksters planned on cramming into a station wagon to make the trip happen. Something didn’t sit right with that plan, though. The car would be too small, and it wasn’t the appropriate symbol. So, Kesey went out hunting, and that’s when he came across the ’39 Harvester.

As soon as Kesey saw the bus, he knew it was perfect because the previous owner had gutted it and turned it into a camper. Inside of the bus, there were amenities such as a stove, refrigerator, and bunks. All Kesey had to do was make a couple of simple, electric alterations. First, he added a sound system to the inside of the bus that also blared out externally into the streets. The next thing that he needed to do was make the bus magnetic, capable of burning a memory into onlookers’ minds. The best way to do this was with the paint job.

In his book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe describes the bus, “[It was] glowing orange, green, magenta, lavender, chlorine blue, every fluorescent pastel imaginable in thousands of designs, large and small, like a cross between Fernand Leger and Dr. Strange, roaring together and vibrating off each other as if somebody had given Hieronymous Bosch 50 buckets of Day-Glo paint and a 1939 International Harvester school bus and told him to go to it.”

koolAfter all the renovations were done, the group hit the road with one of their main accessories: a jar of orange juice laced with LSD. This trip was about turning on and seeing the world from a new perspective, and there was no better tool than the acid. “Being psychedelic characters, we were taking LSD, and LSD opens your mind to other things,” said road member Ken Babbs. “LSD goes into areas where you’ve never been before, and you’re using all that newfound consciousness with all those psychedelic colors.”

This was going to be the ultimate hippie experience. Adding to the hippie legacy was the group of iconic figures taking the trip, one of which was driver, Neal Cassidy. Just a decade earlier, Cassidy had served as the inspiration for the Jack Kerouac’s On the Road character, Dean Moriarty. Now, he was reliving wild times and cementing the hippy’s place in culture inside of a bus that also featured Grateful Dead band members and leader Ken Kesey. It was pure madness.

In each town that the bus entered, people stood and watched to see what was happening; nobody had ever seen anything like it. Prankster George Walker said, “For the little kids, it was like the circus was coming to town. When we hit New York, we drove around the city, and the traffic was slow. We looked like the pied piper, with maybe 100 kids running along behind us. Adults were perplexed by it. Kids got it.”

koolaidAlong the trip, there were run-ins with presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, guru Timothy Leary, and writers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg to name a few. The bus was chronicled by newspapers and local news stations, growing a mythic quality along the way, inspiring kids to turn on, tune in, and drop out. The bus and the trip also inspired Tom Wolfe’s legendary best seller, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. To many, it was more than a book; it was a manifesto of an entire culture. New York Times writer, Eliot Fremont-Smith, said, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is not simply the best book on the hippies, it is the book . . . the pushing, ballooning heart of the matter . . . Vibrating dazzle!”

The trip also inspired this film:

Today, 50 years after its initial run and a decade after Kesey’s passing, the bus still stands firm in history. Not only does it have a legacy as one of the most iconic automobiles of all-time, it also serves as one of the main catalysts for an entire movement and culture.

So Far, Volkswagen Is Leading the Race for Top Super Bowl Commercial

superbowlOver the years, the Super Bowl has become more American than apple pie and super models and cursing at baseball umpires. It is an American event unrivaled by anything else, other than the 4th of July of course! Annually, the game pulls in over 100 million viewers. Some people watch it to see what happens in the game, others watch it for the 10,000 dollar bet they put down, and then there are a lot of people that just like the camaraderie and the parties. But EVERY ONE watches it for the commercials.

In the past few decades, the over the top nature of the Super Bowl has grown astronomically. Half time shows have gotten longer (and flashed some skin!) and advertisers have spent more and more money advertising. In a recent Sporting Charts article, author Chad Langager tells us, “During Super Bowl I, it cost an advertiser $45,000 for a 30-second commercial during the broadcast. Most recently, the cost of a Super Bowl advertisement was $4,000,000, which means that Super Bowl commercial costs have risen by an average of 10.18% per year on average.” That means that today advertisers are willing to pay $133,000 per second (Oh lawd, I think I done passed out).

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One of America’s favorite Super Bowl commercials in recent memory.

Now, Super Bowl commercials have become part of the American consciousness, being discussed in the days leading up to the event and the days after. Auto manufacturers have been aware of this for years. That is why many car companies are even releasing teasers of their Super Bowl ads! Don’t fool yourself; these teasers are no joke, either. They pull in upwards of 1,000,000 views on Youtube.

So far this year, the most popular teaser- regardless of genre- that has been released has come from Volkswagen. As of January 28th, the teaser has pulled over 1.7 million views and has been passed around the internet more than a joint at a Cheech and Chong screening. The commercial features a couple of hyperbolic German engineers discussing what Americans want out of a commercial. After that, the screen becomes littered with everything that is stereotypical of America. It’s unbelievably funny and will leave you wanting more on Super Bowl Sunday.

Of course, other auto makers are not just sitting on the sidelines as Volkswagen takes over the internet. Toyota is currently third in the teaser race (see video below), having released a very popular commercial that features an appearance from the Muppets. Coming in at 7th is a Ford teaser that features comedian Rob Riggle. But none have become as popular as the VW commercial, which is just another step in Volkswagen’s plan to become the top auto maker in the world by 2018.

DUI Is A Serious Offense: Why Is Bieber’s Arrest Treated As a Joke?

bieberEarly Thursday morning, Justin Bieber was driving a Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Spyder when he was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence, resisting arrest, and driving without a valid driver’s license. There have also been reports that he was street racing. Adding to the spectacle is a mug shot of Bieber, who is grinning from ear to ear. The photo is already being laughed at and talked about as one of the more memorable celebrity DUI mug shots in recent memory.

For Bieber, this has just been the latest in a long line of problems for Bieber, who seems to be enjoying every minute of the bad boy publicity. Earlier this month, Bieber was involved in an investigation surrounding accusations of vandalism (he allegedly caused 20,000 dollars’ worth of damage to his neighbor’s home with eggs). After the investigation, police reported that they found large amounts of drugs in Bieber’s home.

Bieber may be looking to “up his street cred”, but he is becoming more and more of a joke, especially amongst late night television shows:

 

Some are angry about Bieber’s portrayal in the media, saying that he is getting preferential treatment because he is white. Overnight, a very popular Richard Sherman-Justin Bieber photo has been passed around asking why Sherman is portrayed as a thug while Bieber is just a misguided kid? It’s definitely a good question to ask.

bieber-sherman

 

What Was the Car that Helped Make Jack Nicholson a Star?

Early on, Studio executives said that Nicholson was too ugly to be a leading man.

Early on, Studio executives said that Nicholson was too ugly to be a leading man.

Jack Nicholson is quite possibly the greatest actor in the history of film. He has been nominated for 12 Academy awards (the most all-time), and he has won 3 times (tied for the most). But, what most people don’t realize is that Nicholson bounced around Hollywood for ten years before he ever got his big break. In those early years, executives said he was too ugly to be a star and his Jersey accent was too thick. In fact, during those times, Nicholson had resigned himself to pursuing a path as a writer, director, and bit actor in movies.

Despite the criticism from executives, Nicholson was as cool as cool gets around Hollywood. In the Nicholson biography Five Easy Decades, actor Robert Walker Jr. says, “You just loved to hang out with him. [He was] so charming, and there was such a wonderful edge to his personality.” Living in Hollywood during the early 60s, Nicholson may have written and took bit parts in movies, but his primary job was making connections socially. Everybody wanted him around, and they wanted him at their parties. Because of this, Nicholson became tight friends with actors like Larry Hagman and Bruce Dern, as well as Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda.

During the early 60s, Nicholson had to write and direct to stick around in Hollywood.

During the early 60s, Nicholson had to write and direct to stick around in Hollywood.

As a popular social figure, Nicholson was notorious for cruising around town in his favorite car. Actor Robert Walker recalls, “I remember he drove this little Karmann Ghia convertible with a torn top.” In another interview, actor Harry Gittes says, “He’d pull up at a red light, smile at a bunch of girls and with one smile, he had ‘em. It not only worked; it never not worked.” Jack loved the Karmann Ghia and the car fit his bohemian style perfectly. In fact, Nicholson loved the car so much that he kept it as his primary ride for nearly a decade. It took him from job to job and audition to audition. It was even present when Jack got his big break.

In late 1966, the brakes on Jack’s Karmann Ghia were starting to grind and his movie career was stalling out, as well. According to Five Easy Decades:

As he was struggling, Nicholson held on tight to his Karmann Ghia.

As he was struggling, Nicholson held on tight to his Karmann Ghia.

“The brakes were so bad, he was getting worried for [his wife’s] safety,” said actor John Hackett. I said, “Well, fix them,” and he said, “I don’t have the money to fix them.” I said, “Do it yourself” and he said, “I don’t know how to do-it-yourself.” So, Hackett agreed to help. While he was under the car, the phone rang and Jack went inside. He came out chortling

Jack had received a call from higher ups green lighting his movie, The Trip (the film that is considered to be Nicholson’s major breakthrough in Hollywood). In the midst of the counter culture revolution, The Trip– written by Nicholson and starring Peter Fonda- went on to be a box office smash. In a review from Jeffrey Anderson, “Of course, Nicholson, Fonda and Hopper went on to make Easy Rider and blow the movie industry apart, but The Trip came first and is much better.”

As Anderson says, this film directly led to Nicholson being cast by Fonda in Easy Rider, which would garner him his first Academy Award nomination and catapult him as

Nicholson has earned the most Academy Award nominations in the history of film.

Nicholson has earned the most Academy Award nominations in the history of film.

a star. Throughout it all, Nicholson always had one good luck charm by his side: his Karmann Ghia convertible.

Ford Was Involved in the Space Race, Too (Kind of)

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The ’54 Ford FX got a little spacey

In the early 50s, the world was overtaken by a fascination with space and the moon and the solar system. It was all uncharted territory, and everyone wanted to be a part of the history. By the mid-50s, there was even a space race between the Soviet Union and the United States to see who could launch the first artificial satellite. In 1957, this race led to the introduction of Sputnik- the world’s first artificial satellite.

Back on earth, auto manufacturers sensed the fascination and started to craft concept vehicles that mirrored the space mentality. One of the first companies to hop on the bandwagon was Ford, who released the Ford FX-Atmos in 1954.

This vehicle- originally launched at the 1954 Chicago Auto Show- was designed to have two joy sticks that would sit on both sides of the driver and was envisioned to run from nuclear power!! Even stranger, though, was the vehicle’s body: it featured a glass dome roof, tail fins, and a rocket like exhaust. Basically, it was a car that would be seen on the Jetsons.

This car never made it to the road or serious production, but it did influence a slew of upcoming cars like the ’56 Mystere and the ’58 La Galaxie. But, none would become as popular as the car Ford put out in 1955.

The La Galaxie was one of the more popular concept vehicles that were showcased at the Chicago Auto Show.

The La Galaxie was one of the more popular concept vehicles that were showcased at the Chicago Auto Show.

Enter Stage Right- The Lincoln Futura

One year after the release of the Ford FX-Atmos, Ford’s Lincoln division was at it again, releasing the Lincoln Futura in 1955. Unlike the ’54 FX-Atmos, the Lincoln Futura was pushed into commercial production and even made it onto the road. The vehicle featured an opened variation of the previous year’s glass dome roof, making it more like a convertible. It also kept the tail fins and rocket style exhausts.

The Lincoln Futura became the most popular of the spacey 50s cars.

The Lincoln Futura became the most popular of the spacey 50s cars.

But the Lincoln Futura will forever be known for one thing: being the Batmobile on the Batman television series that starred mayor of Quahog Adam West. After a series of modifications that increased speed and gave the car more of a “bat like” look, the car stayed with the show for 3 seasons and one incredibly wacky movie (side note I loooooved this movie as a kid; I even had the movie’s pillowcase and sippy cup and poster). The Futuras run on the popular show cemented the legacy of the “spacey 50s car” in the American consciousness for all-time and helped Ford demonstrate how great and innovative they could be.

The infamous Batmobile.

The infamous Batmobile.