Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) is an iconic song by Bruce Springsteen. The reason? One of the peculiar characteristics of the so-called Jersey Devil is the superhuman energy that he has always released in his live performances. Over time, his concerts have become rock marathons between celebration and collective sharing. Looking for a song that more than any other symbolizes Springsteen‘s ability to put body and soul, music and sweat on stage for his fans, well… that song is Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), the sixth track of Bruce‘s second album, The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), already a long and enthralling song in its studio version, became a real rock explosion in concert, with durations that could exceed ten minutes, while audiences in arenas and stadiums around the world experienced the pinnacle of the collective ritual.
THE PROMISE OF ROCK’N’ROLL
Rosalita‘s lyrics certainly has an autobiographical inspiration, not only for the nocturnal forays that the protagonist and his friends make “somewhere in the swamps of New Jersey“, but above all because that boy promises his beloved Rosalita rock as a future of life. He can do it because he plays in a rock band and “for a record company just gave me a big advance“. Just what happened to Bruce Springsteen in that overflowing 1973. In the midst of generational conflict, Rosalita is locked up in her house by her parents. The kid offers himself to her as the one who is coming to set her free. It’s a tough battle, though: her mother holds onto the girl and doesn’t want to throw her into the arms of a rocker, her father knows that he’s broke and has no chance of giving his daughter a future. But there is a promise, and this promise is called rock’n’roll.
WINNERS USE THE DOOR
The verses of that interlude before the last part enter by right as a pillar in Bruce Springsteen‘s discography. Too great to consider that the guy who sang those words really maintained the promise. But Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) has other lyrically important moments. The closing lines of the second verse, for example, express the importance of trying to achieve something. They have become a sort of aphorism that Bruce Springsteen‘s supporters consider law: “Windows are for cheaters, chimneys for the poor, closets are for the hangers, winners use the door.” One meaning, to win, who will make a comeback soon in Thunder Road, another milestone for Bruce. It would be really simplistic to consider Rosalita only as a stage rock party, but it is also fair to give her the space she deserves in Springsteen‘s lyrical production.
GIRLS AND THE ESCAPE
Rosalita is part of a group of girls, all with a name well known to Springsteen’s fans: in addition to her, there are Sandy, Mary and Wendy. In fact, in that two-year period Bruce wrote four songs (4th Of July, Asbury Park, Rosalita herself, Thunder Road and Born To Run) which, in their differences, have a message in common: a boy, who speaks/sings in the first person, invites a girl to change her life (and quit the scene too). Sandy is the girl with whom the young man spends repetitive evenings in Asbury Park. Rosie is the Hispanic girl with her wings clipped by her parents’ closed-mindedness who he invites to emancipate herself through the promise of rock. Mary is the disenchanted girl he invites to fight back to escape from a town full of losers towards victory. Wendy is the young woman to whom the boy proposes to take risks (“walk with me out on the wire”) to one day walk in the sun. As in Rosalita, also in Thunder Road the promise is linked to music (“I got this guitar and learned how to make it talk“), but in Rosalita everything seems more complicated (“my machine, she’s a dud, out stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of Jersey”) and less solemn, considering that the finish line is not a resounding victory but simply a California coffee bar “where they play guitars all night and all day“.
THE IMAGINATIVE CHARACTERS OF BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) is also one of the songs, together with Spirit In The Night, in which the characters generated by Bruce Springsteen‘s wild imagination appear more numerous. Fancy names like Little Dynamite, Little Gun, Jack The Rabbit, Weak Knee Willie, Sloppy Sue and Big Bones Billy) are some of the legendary characters who came out of the pen of that “future of rock’n’roll“. Considering some specific references (such as the fact that they will skip school to stay out all night), Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) represents, together with other songs such as Growin’ Up, one of Bruce Springsteen‘s youth songs more related to his adolescence in Freehold, New Jersey and his desire to rebel against the monotonous provincial life.
THE HISPANIC MUSICAL INFLUENCE
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) is an intense rock, fast tempo, with references to Hispanic music in connection with the origin of the protagonist. Moreover, New Jersey is one of the American states with the greatest Hispanic presence, especially Cubans and Puerto Ricans. The rhythm often changes intensity, has numerous breaks and rolls, with Vini Lopez (later Max Weinberg live) and Garry Tallent working overtime. The rhythm remains at very high levels, except for the break before the final verse, which then coincides with the essential moment of the whole song. Clarence Clemons emerges in all his exuberance with his saxophone. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) is one of the first songs, together with Kitty’s Back, in which the saxophone assumes a dominant role. It is no coincidence that Clemons formed, especially in this song, an indestructible pair with Springsteen himself. There is no doubt that the famous Big Man owes a considerable part of his legendary figure to this song.
LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, THE E STREET BAND
During several tours, until the 80s, Rosalita represented the moment for Bruce to introduce the E Street Band. It is also from those snappy introductions that we learned particular anecdotes about the band. Roy Bittan became The Professor, Max Weinberg the superhero Mighty Max, Danny Federici The Phantom (due to his habit of disappearing during the first concerts in small clubs, when the police appeared on stage). The presentations of Clarence Clemons became hilarious: given his physical size, he was often depicted as a boxer in the corner of the ring, ready to start a fight.
Read Also: The E Street Shuffle, 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
Next Review: 9 October 2023 – New York City Serenade
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