‘Book of Dreams’ – Springsteen 70 Project, No. 37

Book of Dreams Springsteen

The cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Lucky Town” album.

Bruce Springsteen hasn’t performed his sublime love song “Book of Dreams” in concert many times. But when he has, he’s usually introduced it as a “wedding song.”

I’m not sure if this is intentional, but that phrase has a double meaning. It’s a wedding song in the sense that it’s a song that’s appropriate to play at a wedding. It’s also a wedding song in that it’s about an actual wedding. (More specifically, one has to assume, his wedding, since he got married for the second time in 1991 and released this song in 1992).

It’s not a complicated song, musically. But, just like “I Wanna Marry You” (from The River), it’s much more than a simple declaration of love.

Springsteen starts with the notion of the wedding representing a form of “forgiveness,” and sings that even after marriage, “the scars we carry remain, but the pain slips away.”

Later in the song, the dance floor is “alive with beauty, mystery and danger.” Danger, really? That’s not a word that usually makes it into a wedding song.

There’s even a mention, in the next line, of the “darkening trees” under the stars — a foreboding image, if ever there was one.

Of course, Springsteen’s first marriage broke up just a few years earlier. So maybe he was hedging his bets. “This is a song about second chances,” he said when introducing the song at the taping of his MTV “Plugged” special in 1992.

But the overall tone, of course, is sweet, straightforward and hopeful. Or, at least as sweet, straightforward and hopeful as Springsteen is ever likely to get.

Background facts: Springsteen released “Book of Dreams” on his 1992 Lucky Town album. It features him on all instruments except for the drums, which are played by Gary Mallabar.

According to Brucebase, it has been performed in concert eight times: five times in 1992, and three times in 2005.

In 2000, Dion released a gorgeous doo-wop version of it on his Déjà Nu album. Really, it’s great: Better than the original, in my opinion, and certainly more lushly romantic. You can listen to it below.

On each of the 70 days leading up to Bruce Springsteen’s 70th birthday (on Sept. 23, 2019), NJArts.net will do a post on one of The Boss’ best songs of the last 30 years. We’re starting with No. 70 and working our way up. For more on the project, click here.


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