Bruce Springsteen – TOP56-songs: 34 – Downbound TrainBruce Springsteen – TOP56-biisit: 34 – Downbound Train

From the album Born in the U.S.A. (1984).

Downbound Train was one of the first Springsteen songs that hit my radar. I came upon it early at my listens, at the end of last decade, and the plaintive story (which somehow reminded me of Eppu Normaali) was stuck in my mind immediately. That’s how it goes, sometimes you feel like going downwards all the time. There’s also some Finnish melancholia in the chord progression as well as the song goes in G-minor. Whole of the song is based on few considered chords and the synthesizers are been played all the time like on all of BitUSA. The sound world meets the haunting feel of the lyrics.

Although the song was released on Born in the U.S.A. in 1984, Bruce had recorded it for 1982’s acoustic Nebraska-album already. The feel of the song is very Nebraska-like indeed in it’s wistfulness and there’s not a lot of positive light on the lyrical content.

Dave Marsh criticized this song in one of his books for the narrator having three different jobs on the three verses of the song. What an observation that is. It’s a detail in a story of a love gone wrong starting a downhill while the jobs work as concrete examples of life throwing the narrator here and there.

At the beginning everything’s fine: you have a job and a girl. “I had something going, mister, in this world” is a line I hear everytime in my head as a desperate retort and longing for the past. But now those times are just a memory because love is gone and hard times followed.

I had a job, I had a girl
I had something going mister in this world
I got laid off down at the lumber yard
Our love went bad, times got hard
Now I work down at the carwash
Where all it ever does is rain
Don’t you feel like you’re a rider on a downbound train

The first half of the second verse describes the moment of parting. The explanation given is pretty weak: the woman said she just had to go and bought a ticket away. Once again the latter half is great poetry: the memories come back at night and one can feel the kiss on a rainy night. But after the memories end one once again remembers that things aren’t so good at the moment.

She just said ”Joe I gotta go
We had it once we ain’t got it any more”
She packed her bags left me behind
She bought a ticket on the Central Line
Nights as I sleep, I hear that whistle whining
I feel her kiss in the misty rain
And I feel like I’m a rider on a downbound train

On the last, a bit longer, verse Bruce’s vocals are long accompanied only by a synthesizer mat. Here we find out for good how hopeless the narrator is on the lonely hours of night while finally finds out hot everything is gone and gives his life for fate to keep.

Last night I heard your voice
You were crying, crying, you were so alone
You said your love had never died
You were waiting for me at home
Put on my jacket, I ran through the woods
I ran till I thought my chest would explode
There in the clearing, beyond the highway
In the moonlight, our wedding house shone
I rushed through the yard, I burst through the front door
My head pounding hard, up the stairs I climbed
The room was dark, our bed was empty
Then I heard that long whistle whine
And I dropped to my knees, hung my head and cried

Now I swing a sledge hammer on a railroad gang
Knocking down them cross ties, working in the rain
Now don’t it feel like you’re a rider on a downbound train

I heard this one live on the gig at Helsinki Olympic Stadium in 2012. There was a certain feel of closing the circle because, like I said earlier, this one was one of the first favorites of mine a few years earlier and this one really isn’t one of those setlist staples. A great live music moment, a great version.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gfZvXj2pswAlbumilta Born in the U.S.A. (1984).

Downbound Train oli ensimmäisiä Springsteenin lauluja, jotka kolahtivat itselle. Se tuli jostain vastaan jo viime vuosikymmenen loppupuolella, ja haikea tarina (joka jostain syystä muistutti Eppu Normaalia) jäi heti mieleen. Näinhän se joskus on, että tuntuu kuin matkaisi koko ajan alaspäin. Myös sointukierrossa on jotain suomalaista, G-mollista mennään. Muutamalla harkitulla soinnulla kuljetetaan koko biisi, jossa BItUSA-levylle ominaisesti myös syntetisaattorit ovat esillä. Äänimaailma kohtaa laulun aavemaisen tunnelman kanssa.

Vaikka biisi julkaistiin Born in the U.S.A.-levyllä vuonna 1984, Bruce äänitti sen jo vuoden 1982 akustiselle Nebraska-levylle. Tunnelma onkin nebraskamaisen alakuloinen ja tekstissä ei hirveästi positiivista valoa ole.

Dave Marsh kritisoi Pomon tarina-kirjassaan tätä biisiä siitä, että laulun kolmen säkeistön aikana kertoja ehtii työskennellä kolmessa eri duunissa. Huomio sekin. Seikka on kuitenkin yksityiskohta tarinaa, jossa rakkauden pieleen meneminen syöksee alamäkeen, duunien ollessa konkreettisia esimerkkejä elämän heittelehtivyydestä.

Alussa kaikki on vielä hyvin: on työ ja tyttö. ”I had something going, mister, in this world” on rivi, jonka kuulen joka kerta mielessäni epätoivoisena tiuskaisuna ja menneen muistelona. Mutta nyt nuo ajat ovat muisto vain, sillä rakkaus on mennyttä ja rankat ajat seurasivat perässä ja töihinkin piti mennä autopesulaan.

I had a job, I had a girl
I had something going mister in this world
I got laid off down at the lumber yard
Our love went bad, times got hard
Now I work down at the carwash
Where all it ever does is rain
Don’t you feel like you’re a rider on a downbound train

Toisen säkeistön avauspuolikas kuvaa tarkemmin eron hetkeä. Selitys, joka tarjotaan, on aika heikko: nainen sanoi, että oli vain mentävä ja osti menolipun pois. Jälleen jälkimmäinen puolikas on hienoa runoutta: öisin mieleen tulvivat muistot ja voi oikein tuntea sen suudelman silloin sadeiltana. Mutta muistelujen jälkeen muistaa taas, että nyt ei mene niin hyvin.

She just said ”Joe I gotta go
We had it once we ain’t got it any more”
She packed her bags left me behind
She bought a ticket on the Central Line
Nights as I sleep, I hear that whistle whining
I feel her kiss in the misty rain
And I feel like I’m a rider on a downbound train

Viimeisessä, hieman pidemmässä säkeistössä laulusuorituksen seurana on pitkään ainoastaan aavemainen syntetisaattorimatto. Tässä paljastuu lopullisesti kertojan sisäinen lohduttomuus yön pimeinä tunteina kun hän tajuaa kyynelten myötä kaiken olevan mennyttä antautuen kohtalon vietäväksi.

Last night I heard your voice
You were crying, crying, you were so alone
You said your love had never died
You were waiting for me at home
Put on my jacket, I ran through the woods
I ran till I thought my chest would explode
There in the clearing, beyond the highway
In the moonlight, our wedding house shone
I rushed through the yard, I burst through the front door
My head pounding hard, up the stairs I climbed
The room was dark, our bed was empty
Then I heard that long whistle whine
And I dropped to my knees, hung my head and cried

Now I swing a sledge hammer on a railroad gang
Knocking down them cross ties, working in the rain
Now don’t it feel like you’re a rider on a downbound train

Omalle kohdalle tämä sattui Helsingin Olympiastadion-keikalla kesällä 2012. Tietyllä tapaa tuossa hetkessä oli hienoa ympyrän sulkeutumisen tuntua, sillä olihan biisi ollut ensimmäisiä todellisia suosikkeja muutamaa vuotta aiemmin eikä ollut ollenkaan selvää, että se tuolla keikalla kuultaisiin. Hieno live-hetki, hieno versio.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gfZvXj2psw