It would not be easy to identify, among the Bruce Springsteen songs, the one with the greatest rock impact in his live performances. But She’s The One, intense rock’n’roll with the so-called Bo Diddley Beat, included in the legendary album Born To Run (1975), would surely be among the songs to contend for that supremacy. With She’s The One Bruce Springsteen honored those late Fifties (from Elvis Presley to Bo Diddley and Buddy Holly) that so influenced him mostly in the first part of his discography. Even its lyrics, which stands out among the most passionate composed by Springsteen, recall the charge of sensuality that the first great American rockers wrote in reaction to the puritanical culture that had often limited Americans before those revolutionary years. If we add that She’s The One is among the songs most played live by Springsteen and the E Street Band, the picture of a song with a remarkable profile is completed.
THE DARK LADY
The Springsteen universe was already densely populated with female figures after the first two albums. There were teenage girlfriends like Crazy Janey from Spirit In The Night, Sandy from 4th Of July, Asbury Park and Rosalita from the homonymous song. Bruce also sang of glamorous inner city heroines (the protagonists of Kitty’s Back, Incident On 57th Street and New York City Serenade). And there was no lack of more mysterious figures, imbued with fascinating weakness, such as the female protagonists of Mary Queen Of Arkansas and For You. In the Born To Run album, while in the title track and in Thunder Road, we find girls with whom the narrator would like to run away, in She’s The One we meet for the first time a dark lady, a provoking and seductive woman who drives her suitors crazy.
BETWEEN SWEETNESS AND SEDUCTION
So, for the first time Springsteen sings about an extremely attractive woman, who handles the weapons of seduction and sensuality with ease, but who at the same time knows how to hurt, with the ruthlessness of the femme fatale. Up to that point Bruce had not expressed any aesthetic or outward appearance elements about the women he had sung about. Now comes the woman with killer graces, a smile that thrills and eyes so beautiful that they shine like a midnight sun. A woman, whose load of sensuality affects the protagonist, who desires her so bad that he wishes he had the strength to leave her. There is actually a contrast in Bruce‘s verses: in the early days of dating the woman bestowed tender kisses on the protagonist that saved him from bitterness. Now she, with her heart of stone, only wants to seduce him and then throw him to the ground.
TWO WOMEN, TWO DIFFERENT SEDUCTIVE FIGURES
The comparison between two relevant female figures present in Born To Run is striking. If Wendy, from the title track, is a girl and a travel companion of which there is no trace of description, it is instead significant to note the differences between Mary from Thunder Road and the woman from She’s The One. Mary recalls the female figures of some American neo-realist films of the Seventies. A woman not particularly attractive on the aesthetic side (“You ain’t a beauty…”), but whose side of seduction comes from her naturalness (“like a vision she dances across the porch”) and from her sorrows (there are a pain to hide and roses thrown in the rain). The lady from She’s The One, on the other hand, owes her attractiveness to the way she dresses and moves. A more sophisticated girl who knows how to manipulate men and bend them at her feet.
FIVE RIFLES POINTED
She’s The One, especially live but also in its original studio version, is a bullet loaded with rock’n’roll by five rifles pointed (Springsteen, Weinberg, Gallent, Bittan, Clemons). Characterized by a rhythmic upbeat, known as Bo Dyddley Beat (referring to songs like Mona), the harmony is based largely on Roy Bittan‘s impressive ability to build a piano motif that on the harmonic part sustain the rhythm and on the melodic part embroider music with his pure talent. For his part, Springsteen divides himself into four differenti roles. In fact, he reserves for himself two different guitar scores (one worked on the high strings to reinforce the rhythm, the other to provide rock riffs along the guitar fretboard) and two vocal performances. The first is, obviously, the main vocals, on lower notes and with a strong load of reverberation. The second intervenes from the end of the first verse and, from that moment on, doesn’t leave the song anymore. For the instrumental end comes a powerful solo by Clarence Clemons on the saxophone, which is interspersed with Springsteen‘s vocals. A solo not characterized by any particular technical difficulty, but by a power of sound that has rarely been heard and that has shaken stadiums and arenas all over the world.
Among the top songs in live performances
The great live performances of She’s The One are well known by the many fans who have seen Springsteen concerts several times in their life. This is because, sooner or later (and maybe more than one time), She’s The One has been part of a setlist of one of his concerts that each fan attended. In fact, despite being absent from live setlists for a long time (especially in the Nineties), the song was performed quite 700 times, now 16th in the chart of the most played songs by Springsteen live. Bruce has often revived it in tandem with other songs, sometimes to pay homage to Bo Diddley, his great inspirer, other times to present some of his revisited songs (for example with Ain’t Got You during the Tunnel Of Love Express Tour).
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