Bruce Springsteen’s 50 greatest songs?

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Asked by Rolling Stone to join its panel of voters charged with creating a Top 100 songs list for their Springsteen special issue (available this week!) I instantly shrugged off my hatred of such things and pounded out a list.

The magazine sent me a ballot with 50 empty slots. My job was to fill them in in ascending order — when they tallied the votes my #1 selection would count for more than my #50.

But how to build a list? Should I go straight to the usual Born-to-promised-thunder-in-the-10th-USA-badlands-night-night-night heart-stoppers? Or try to find a whole other golden thread running from the Left Foot to the land of hope, dreams and 41 shots?

Here are my selections from #41-50. I’ll post the rest in the next four days.

50: Highway Patrolman – Man turns his back on his family, well, he just ain’t no good. No matter what they’ve done.

49: Tunnel of Love: Ablaze in neon and draped in shadow, the midway reveals the secret to keeping love alive: You’ve got to learn to live with what you can’t rise above. Easier said than done, though.

48: Pink Cadillac: The Garden of Eden as viewed through the steamy windows of a big-ass automobile. With an assist from Vince Taylor and the Playboys, the theme to Peter Gunn and, I have to think, the Clash.

47: Santa Claus is Coming to Town: Live from 1975, with joy, sleigh bells, a killer backbeat and the Big Man’s jolly guffaws reducing the singer, momentarily, into helpless giggles.

46: How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?: Recorded just post-Hurricane Katrina with the Seeger Sessions band, a rewritten version of Ry Cooder’s arrangement of Blind Alfred Reed’s Depression-era lament. Elegant, clear-eyed and absolutely seething, with George W Bush as the heedless doofus who pledges his support then leaves the city to drown.

45: Jersey Girl: Live at Giants Stadium at the 1985 height of Bruce-mania, the best Springsteen song he never wrote. Here Tom Waits’ ballad sways gently in the breeze with sha-la-la-la-las as sweet and sad as the end of summer.

44: Breakaway: A meditative Darkness outtake set on the blacktop of busted engines and blown chances.

43: Johnny Bye-Bye: A man on the radio says Elvis Presley’s died.

42: Lonesome Day: Fiddle-led rocker in which a jilted lover stands in for post 9/11 America, with a pain in the heart and an unsettling appetite for revenge.

41: Death to My Hometown: Military drummers, pipers, banjos and chanting hordes bear witness to the devastation borne by for-profit moralists. Mind the muskets, sir, no way of knowing where they’re pointed…

TOMORROW: Does this bus stop at Lucky Town?

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