Bruce Springsteen, ‘Glory Days’ – Lyrics Uncovered
Even though today marks his 62nd birthday (Sept. 23, 2011), Bruce Springsteen is still, quite clearly, living in his 'Glory Days.' So let's look at the lyrics to his song of that same name, from his 1984 album 'Born in the U.S.A.'
The video for 'Glory Days' portrays Springsteen as a construction worker deep in thought, his mind clearly elsewhere (and yet, he's sitting behind the wheel of some pretty heavy machinery!).
A scene change finds Bruce on the mound, throwing some pretty good heat, although he's still obviously lamenting times past, emotionally emptying things out with every pitch:
"I had a friend was a big baseball player / Back in high school/ He could throw that speedball by you/
Make you look like a fool boy / Saw him the other night at this roadside bar / I was walking in, he was walking out / We went back inside sat down had a few drinks/ But all he kept talking about..."
Nostalgia was the dominating topic throughout the lyrics of 'Glory Days,' which is energetically propelled by the rhythmic attack of E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg.
We can all identify with the passage of time and the feelings evoked by chance encounters with figures from our past, once important companions who witnessed our every move. For Bruce, the first verse of his wistfully cheerful rock and roll jig is reality based, an account of a real life encounter that Springsteen had with a former Little League teammate named Joe DePugh.
"Glory days well they'll pass you by / Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye / Glory days, glory days"
Springsteen reflects on the lyrics to 'Glory Days' and says that “the first verse actually happened, the second verse mostly happened [and] the third verse, of course, is happening now.” (And an unused additional verse inspired by Springsteen's father reveals an interesting alternate slant to the song.)
The reunion between Springsteen and DePugh happened in a bar in 1973 and much later, a co-worker who knew the story, heard 'Glory Days' and knew that the song was about his friend: "He told me, 'Springsteen has a new album out, and there's a song on there about you. It's exactly the story you told me.'
DePugh remembers that the two both had a mutual interest in baseball, but Springsteen lost interest in playing the sport as he grew up and by high school, the pair had drifted apart.
"Well there's a girl that lives up the block / Back in school she could turn all the boy's heads / Sometimes on a Friday I'll stop by / And have a few drinks after she put her kids to bed / Her and her husband Bobby well they split up/ I guess it's two years gone by now"
Topically, 'Glory Days' has remained a fan favorite through the years, because the subject matter is so universally understood, especially as you get further and further down the road of life. Dreams that went unrealized for some reason come to mind, whether it was the sports career that never went pro, or the girl next door who eventually faded into memory.
"Now I think I'm going down to the well tonight / And I'm going to drink till I get my fill / And I hope when I get old I don't sit around thinking about it / But I probably will."
Seeing Springsteen and the members of the E Street Band on-stage inside the dingy local bar (Maxwell's in Hoboken, N.J. provided the scenery for the video) and the joyful exuberance of the music they're putting forth on that stage really does a lot to flesh out the whole song. It serves to mentally replicate the feeling of being in a similar location with a good friend, grinning and swapping stories of days gone by.
As for Bruce and his former Little League comrade, they would eventually meet up again. They shared lunch in 2005 and again a few years later. Springsteen, who DePugh nicknamed "Saddle" when they were kids, told him "'always remember, I love you,' DePugh says, "not like some corny Budweiser commercial, but a real sentimental thing."