Some 40 years after he released his first album, Bruce Springsteen showed he was still capable of pulling off something shocking — and expressed solidarity with the working class that created him, even though he himself had become extremely rich — on “Jack of All Trades.” The song is sung from the point of view of a long-suffering everyman who seems to take everything in stride. But then all of a sudden, he expresses a violent fantasy.
“If I had me a gun, I’d find the bastards and shoot ’em on sight,” the everyman sings, presumably thinking about the banker men he had previously sung about, who grow fatter while the working men, like himself, grow thin. He sings the line in the same matter-of-fact monotone with which he delivers the rest of the song.
“I wrote this song about five or six years ago,” Springsteen said when introducing it at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford on Aug. 23, 2016 (see below). “I just got so angry about a handful of people pulling down so much, people losing all their life savings, and losing their house.”
The whole song sounds like a dirge, and features apocalyptic imagery. “When the blue sky breaks, feels like the world’s gonna change,” Springsteen sings. He also sings of “the drought,” “the flood,” and “a new world coming.”
The intro, a bunch of hazy static, is intentionally disorienting, while a repetitive piano figure is calming and comforting. The static reappears as Springsteen gets to the end of his vocal part, and Tom Morello adds a guitar solo — quite restrained, by his standards, but still containing some cathartic, slashing riffs.
Background facts: Springsteen released “Jack of All Trades” on his 2012 album Wrecking Ball.
According to Brucebase, he performed it 75 times between 2012 and 2016.
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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