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Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Difference in Greatness: Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young?


bruce-springsteen-electric-open.jpg neil_young_oldblack_flannel_hat
Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young
"You know, the difference between the greatness of Bruce Springsteen and that of Neil Young as someone once explained to me back in college: Bruce makes you think you, too, can be as great as he is; Neil makes you think he is really no better than you are to begin with. Remember that."
Dr. Eric Alterman - Altercation

In a 2019 interview with Nils Lofgren in "Nils Lofgren on Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen: ‘They both like ragged rock ‘n’ roll’" | LA Times by Randy Lewis, Nils was asked to compare his years with Neil and Bruce and Crazy Horse and E Street Band:
There are a great many similarities between Neil and Bruce.

The only real differences are the tone in their guitars and their voices. Both want things to be immediate and emotional, not over-rehearsed. They don’t micromanage. They both like ragged, emotional rock ‘n’ roll. I guess when you look at things like “Tonight’s the Night,” Neil might let things get a little more ragged. But in both bands I’m given enormous latitude to play what I feel.
Nils Lofgren w/ Bruce Springsteen & E Street Band and w/ Neil Young & Crazy Horse

And both Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young have films scheduled for release in 2019. Bruce's film is titled "Western Stars" while Neil's film is "Mountaintop" to support the album "Colorado".

Bruce Springsteen's "Western Stars" (Details)

Neil Young's "Mountaintop" (Details)

Back in 2006, we did a rather extensive look at the whole Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young mythologies in the posting Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young: The Difference in Greatness.

Our regular readers know we're always up for a spirited debate on the relative merits of our respective musical heroes. And of course -- as we always predispose -- it's not a competition and there are no winners and losers. Only players.

Now that said, here's a poll with the very simple question: "Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young?" over on Steve Hoffman Music Forums, an audiophile forum where we've found the folks to be highly musically knowledgeable and technically savvy. So FWIW, here's the data:

But it's really about folks thoughts behind the votes that are interesting. In the pro-Neil camp Poll: Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young | Page 5 | Steve Hoffman Music Forums by Heart of Gold:
Well, Bruce is a great artist and a great guy too. Bruce has this attitude of crowd pleaser. Neil has probably more artistry than Bruce. Neil seems less conditioned by the fame and money than Bruce. Neil, at a certain point of his career, chose the ditch. I hardly could think now about a concert of Harvest or After Gold Rush songs. Bruce plays for the stadium masses and can play the entire Darkness, BITUSA albums for the fans. Neil plays for himself according to his actual vision. Bruce plays 150 songs, Neil his preferred 15 for that tour.

I think that recording contracts of 70,000,000 dollars or playing in the stadiums have a price on your artistic freedom. Neil "plays" in a smaller scale.

Finally, Bruce wants to be great. I don't know, but he has 15 people playing with him. Neil plays solo or with 3-4 people. Often the Boss productions are overblown. Bruce "butchered" his old Darkness outtakes with new overdubs for his Promise album, Neil just edited a couple of songs for his Archives.

Both great artists, but I love more Neil. It's challenging to be a Neil fan.
Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young
Vote For Change tour 2004 (with Mike Mills on bass)
Photo by Danny Clinch

In the pro-Bruce camp Poll: Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young | Steve Hoffman Music Forums by chervokas:
Both are brilliant artists. But I much prefer Springsteen's music. I find I rarely listen to Young, but I often listen to Springsteen. Springteen has continued to do great work late in life. I don't think Young's recent work has been anywhere close to the caliber of his earlier work or of Springsteen's later work, so much so that I mostly stopped keeping up with Young after Mirror Ball -- I did hear his last few albums and didn't like them much at all; I though the songwriting on Psychedelic Pill was weak; Americana while it sounded like an interesting idea for an album didn't make for very good listening, Le Noise was just bad and underbaked. By contrast I think some latter day Springsteen, like Magic and Wrecking Ball, were excellent albums. So, I could make the argument that Springsteen's better because he's remained more consistent and more consistently good throughout his career. But of course Young's more prolific and more of an experimenter which is one of the things that's great about him although it's a quality that I think has produced spotty results. It's really just preference. Springsteen's music interests me more and touches me more, but I have profound respect and admiration for Neil Young.
And we'll add this comment by Neil Young FAQ author Glen Boyd on the subject of Bruce & Neil:
Interesting piece Thrasher.

One thing I would disagree with for sure is Caryn's observation that Springsteen worries too much about what his fans think and doesn't take enough chances.

I would actually compare the Springsteen of the nineties to the neil Young of the eighties in many ways.

Think about it. Neil confounded his fans in the eighties by making a string of wildly experimental genre-bending albums...from the electro synth of Trans to the rockabilly of Everybodys Rockin to the country of Old Ways.

Bruce meanwhile confounded his fans in the nineties by firing the beloved E Street Band; releasing two albums simultaneously with a group of non-descript studio musicians and then touring with the same; and then pretty much disapearing off the radar altogether for the rest of the decade save for a decidedly dour and non-commercial record based on a Steinbeck novel (Tom Joad).

Right now, Neil is basically back on track doing one of the two things his fans love (there's that duality again) with the Prairie Wind/Heart of Gold accoustic thing. From what I read of his speech at SXSW, his next move is going to be a "loud one", which should please those other fans who dig the cranked to eleven thing.

Meanwhile, Bruce is doing an album of cover tunes by a folk music icon...complete with the fiddles and banjos...less than a year after a solo accoustic tour. Personally, I'd be lying if I said "The Seeger Sessions" has me exactly quivering with anticipation. To be honest, the song snippets I have heard from that record thus far haven't thrilled me much either.

And much as diehard fans like myself will tell you they liked Nebraska and Devils and Dust (both of which I did very much), I would also maintain that the quiet accoustic sound just sounds a lot more natural (at least to me) when Neil Young does it.

So you tell me who is the artist most pleasing his fans right now?

The E Street Band aren't getting any younger and with every minute Bruce spends exploring his "inner folkie", the clock ticks down on the possibility of one last E Street album and tour.

Quite the contrary. Bruce seems to have no problem exploring his muse and basically saying "Folk You" to those of us fans who don't like it right now.
Thanks Glen and all for your Bruce & Neil thoughts.

Add your comments below.

Over the years, Neil Young has intersected with a wide variety of artists like Bob Dylan and Pearl Jam. Another interesting musical intersection is that of Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young.

So how does the Canadian Young become labeled an American treasure? From On Milwaukee by Bill Zaferos on Neil Young's place in American music:
"Other than, say, Bruce Springsteen, who else has better expressed the late 20th and early 21st century American experience? Whether it was "Ohio" or "Rockin' in the Free World," or "Southern Man" or "Unknown Legend" or even "Old King," Young has always given voice to the meaning of life among the amber waves of grain, the crack-laden neighborhoods or the romantic longing of an American heart."


For many, Springsteen brings a rare combination of complex singer-songwriting and entertaining showman together in ways that Bob Dylan or Neil Young failed to achieve. From the U.K.'s Telegraph
by Neil McCormick on arguably the greatest solo performer of all time:
"Springsteen is both the most populist and (in terms of sales and live audience) the most popular. His songs spring out of the American maverick tradition with echoes of Steinbeck, Kerouac, Ginsberg and (in his new collection) Cormac McCarthy. His music has the blood of tradition in its veins and high art in its sights.

Yet unlike many of his singer-songwriting peers, Springsteen does not neglect his role as an entertainer. With the E Street Band, he comes from the American school of road-tested rock and roll that has, in lesser hands, given us so many efficient but essentially soulless showbands.

Springsteen combines the best of two very different worlds, the highly personal songwriter and the crowd-pleasing entertainer. He is, in effect, Bob Dylan and Elton John rolled into one. It is an unusual but compelling combination that makes him arguably the greatest solo performer of all time."

photo by Buzz Person

From The History of Rock Music - The Sixties by Piero Scaruffi:
"Neil Young constitutes with Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen the great triad of 'moral' voices of American popular music.

As is the case with the other two, Young's art is, first and foremost, a fusion of music and words that identifies with his era's zeitgeist. Unlike the others, though, Young is unique in targeting the inner chaos of the individual that followed the outer chaos of society. While Dylan 'transfers' his era's events into a metaphysical universe, and Springsteen relates the epic sense of ordinary life, Young carries out a more complex psychological operation that, basically, bridges the idealism of the hippy communes and the neuroses of the urban population. His voice, his lyrics, his melodies and his guitar style compose a message of suffering and redemption that, at its best, transcends in hallucination, mystical vision, philosophical enlightenment, while still grounded in a context that is fundamentally a hell on earth."

Bruce and Neil fans tend to agree over their hero's merits, although there are occasional flare-ups. As Glen blogs regarding Springsteen's upcoming Seeger Sessions:
"I actually found one comment interesting...and that was the one about comparing Bruce fans who miss the E Street Band to the way Neil fans miss Crazy Horse.

Not the same at all.

Neil has carved out a very effective "duality" in my view.

The quiet, accoustic Neil resonates every bit as effectively as the cranked up to eleven Neil does.

When Neil is doing his full on, cranked up to eleven electric thing, it's more about Neil's guitar playing than it is about the band (Crazy Horse)."

And the always brilliantly vivid Caryn on the Jukebox Graduate blog responds to the Bruce versus Neil debate:
"Bruce, regrettably, cares a little too much about letting his fans down. He needs to take more chances, not less. Neil doesn't care whether or not the fans get cranky, as evidenced on the Greendale tour and what happened with the audience reaction there. Neil just GOES. They are wildly divergent personality types and you might as well compare Springsteen to Sinatra."

So with the setup of compare, contrast and discuss provided by Dr. Eric Alterman's "greatness" quote above, The Jukebox Graduate and blogger Glen's response to Thrasher's strawman argument, here's a look at the fascinating intersections of Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young.

bruce springsteen and neil
"Even Bruce dropped in..."
Bruce Springsteen & Neil Young - Sydney, Australia
March 22, 1985

Photo from Thrasher's Archives

On March 22, 1985 in Sydney, Australia, Bruce Springsteen joined Neil onstage for an encore performance of "Down By The River". Bruce had performed the night before at Sydney's Entertainment Centre (3/21) and performed again the next night (3/23). In between Bruce's two concerts, Neil Young was scheduled to headline the Benefit for the Australian Cerebral Palsy Association concert. As noted in poster above, Neil's entire 1985 Australia tour was "ALL SOLD OUT".

Nils Lofgren, touring with Springsteen, joined Young onstage for several songs, including "Comes A Time" and "Helpless". At the conclusion of the 28 song setlist, Young invited Springsteen on stage. Bruce sang vocals on an amazing 20 minute version of "Down By The River".

Neil & Bruce
Bridge School Benefit Concert - October 13, 1986

"Helpless" - Neil Young with Bruce Springsteen

Neil Young invited Bruce Springsteen at the first annual Bridge School Benefit Concert in California in 1986. They performed Young's "Helpless" together. (Thanks Mike for reminder!)

bruce springsteen -young-jones-beach-06141989.jpg
Bruce & Neil
Jones Beach, New York on June 14, 1989

Springsteen joined Neil for an encore of "Down By The River" at Jones Beach, New York on June 14, 1989. Bruce is virtually inaudible on the tapes of the show. If Thrasher had not seen the video of the performance, it would have been hard to believe both Neil and Bruce sang at the mic.

Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young's music and careers have as many similarities as dissimilarities. Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World", has been compared with Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA," due to "the anthemic use of this song was based on largely ignoring the verses, which evoke social problems and implicitly criticize American government policies." (1) Neither artist has sold their songs for use as commercials, leaving them among a small handful not to do so.

Another Bruce and Neil connection occurred at the Academy Awards on March 21, 1994. Coincidentally, both Springsteen and Young were both nominated for Best Song in a Movie -- and in the same film -- Jonathan Demme's "Philadelphia". Bruce's nominated song was the film opening "Streets of Philadelphia" and Neil's was the closing title track "Philadelphia".

Bruce Springsteen won the Oscar award for his song "Streets of Philadelphia". In his acceptance speech, Springsteen acknowledged Young and said that the award really deserved to be shared by the other nominee's song.

In 1994, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Neil Young joined on stage at the Roseland in New York City to perform 'Rainy Day Woman' and 'Highway 61 Revisited'.

At the 1995 Bridge School Benefit Concert, Springsteen joined Young for an encore of 'Down by the River'. Young remarked: "Bruce says he doesn't have any more songs, so we'll do one of mine".

St. Paul, MN - October 5, 2004
photo by Muriël Kleisterlee and Jos Westenberg

At the 2004 Vote For Change concert in St. Paul, MN, Neil and Bruce jammed together on "All Along the Watchtower" and "Souls of the Departed".

bruce-springsteen-devils-dust-cover.jpg prairie-wind-cover.jpg

But not all are totally impressed with this juncture in Springsteen's and Young's careers. From Nude as the News: review of both Springsteen's Devils and Dust and Young's Prairie Wind by Ben French:
"Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young have both been playing this sort of acoustic, singer/songwriter-type music for more than 30 years, so it’s not a crime if they repeat themselves from time to time. On the other hand, it surprises me when other writers blatantly ignore the fact that none of this is worth listening to more than a couple times – especially if you already own the artists’ older albums. UK writers always have a flare for the dramatic, but I think Guardian pushes the limits by calling Prairie Wind, “one of Shakey’s best.” Outrageous. Rolling Stone gave Devils & Dust 4 ½ stars, which seems incredibly polite."

As for reviewer Ben French's comments above, we're looking forward to Springsteen's upcoming Seeger Sessions and the crimes of artists repeating themselves from time to time.

In a review of the book Mansion on the Hill:Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen, and the Head-On Collision of Rock and Commerce by Fred Goodman the reviewer feels that author Goodman has it backwards that Neil Young is the great musical hero and not Bruce:
    "Springsteen, because he has maintained a consistently high level of commercial success over the years, is a sell-out, and a manufactured creation of his manager. Whereas someone like Neil Young, because he hasn't been ashamed to release some real crap, is an artist of integrity, who won't give in to crass commercialism, by always giving his fans music that they will actually enjoy."

More Bruce and Neil mashups from the land of wheat fields and blog-ville [search].

Also, read more on other Neil Young collaborations, influences and mashups.

Add your comments below.

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At 11/10/2013 02:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Attending concerts you can see the difference Bruce is more corporate and his fans have stayed loyal as he's kept his quality control reined in for his songs whereas Neil doesn't really care if his fans don't like his music he does it for himself. Neil Young has retained a loyal fan base but smaller in number due to some of the stinkers he recorded in the last 20 years and I put Greendale in that. Having attended the Pill shows I'm afraid Bruce wins hands down and I don't think Bruce would cancel a tour because Nils Lofgren sprained his wrist!

At 11/10/2013 04:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

first off, anon @ 2:36, poncho didn't "sprain" anything. he FRACTURED his playing hand.
Second off (and I really dig both Bruce & Nils) you are probably right.
Bruce wouldn't cancel if Nils sprained his wrist, BUT HE SHOULD. Nils' guitar work carries the Estreet, IMHO.

Now for my .02 on Bruce Vs. Neil:
a couple of years back the wife and I caught Neil Diamond during an almost 2wk run he had going @ MSG.
GREAT show! but what I remember coming away with was this; I now know where Bruce buys his cheese.
from the Neil Diamond cheese eaters r us store.
I have seen Neil play many different times in many different venues with many different band mates as well as solo and never once have I thought he's just like (insert ANY name here).
Neil Young is an original, one of a kind.
Bruce is a (talented) monkey see, monkey do act.
Every musical act has taken something from somewhere.
but Bruce s/b paying Neil Diamond a royalty every time he appears anywhere with anyone.
Neil Young. Sponsored by No One.

At 11/10/2013 04:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think in terms of writing great songs over the whole span of their careers both Bruce and Neil are equals.
I love both, but for me Neil is the complete package because the style of his playing/recording mesh with my musical philosophy (less is more/live is more). I also relate this difference in their recordings to weed smoking. Neil's music has that ragged stoner quality, where Bruce is much more likely to appeal to the sober listener. (Personally though, I'm a major stoner and I'll go thru months at a time where I'll listen only to Bruce, or only to Neil.)
This drug thing(or maybe just personal philosophies) could also be seen in the difference between their writing. Neil's songs are generally emotion based, straight from the subconscious, unedited. Bruce, I think, is more conscious in his writing, where he can take a preconceived idea and write it and rewrite, maybe change the melody or slip in a verse from some other song, and very much follow a line of thought thru his songs.
Like Bruce can write about anything thing, and he is better at whipping off a good pop tune.

Really 2 of the greatest songwriters we'll ever see. In my opinion only Bob Dylan and Ray Davies can be placed alongside Bruce and Neil.


At 11/10/2013 05:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

More proof of cheese:

I seriously doubt Neil would ever try stand-up!

At 11/10/2013 05:45:00 PM, Blogger Glen Boyd said...

I still go back and forth on this. I think 90s Neil beats 90s Bruce hands down. But I also think Springsteen's post 2000 work has for the most part been a lot stronger than Neil's (although I liked Psychedelic Pill more than I did Wrecking Ball).

Live, I have to give Bruce a slight edge. I saw both artists 2012 shows weeks apart from each other, and both of them killed it. NY with Crazy Horse is about as good as it gets, but could be even better if they mixed up the setlists the way that ESB does. Knowing the exact order of a setlist before a single note is played is something that just doesn't happen at Springsteen shows, at least not outside of the open and close (and on the last tour, even that got mixed up quite a bit, especially in Europe).

That said, the NY/CH show I saw in Seattle was just crazy intense - probably the best Horse show I've seen (and that includes Ragged Glory/Weld).

It's kind of a tomato/tomatoe thing really. Bottom line is I love both of them.

I guess what it really comes to is that with a Springsteen show, I know there is at least a chance of getting some really off the wall personal favorite like "The Price You Pay," "The Promise" or "NYC Serenade." For me, it was "Drive All Night" in Portland on the last tour.

With NY, I knew - KNEW - going in, there was zero chance I'd hear some equally cool rarity like "Southern Pacific" (ReAcTor style) or "Danger Bird." On the other hand, it was sure cool hearing "Ambulance Blues" on the Chrome Dreams II tour. But even there, by the time that tour played Seattle twice, I knew I'd be hearing it again a second time. What would've been cool would be if he'd swapped out that slot for "On The Beach".

But yeah I know, tomato, tomatoe...

Thanx for the shout, Thrasher!


At 11/10/2013 06:35:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

I know I'm seriously biased ("take my advice don't listen to me) and would vote for Neil (vs. Bruce) on virtually any metric I have to concede that switching up set lists is better than not and not expecting Neil to change that but if he did it would be incredible ... that said I respect the desire to basically choreograph a show and then let it roll ... perhaps allows the variation to come within the songs themselves ... also would point out Neil did show some set list flexibility before the Horse had to go to pasture (w/ Dangerbird, ect, ect..) but like the old days of the Greatful Dead, you could see three or four shows in a week and each was totally different ... I think if Neil were like that you'd have the hard core fans seeing every single show on tour ....

At 11/11/2013 12:10:00 AM, Blogger trevlom said...

I grew up with both Neil and Bruce, but Neil has always been in my favor. I am a firm believer in the Greendale album, but I was always opposed to call it an "actual" Crazy Horse LP. It has a simple sound to it and there is nothing complicated about Neil's message. People don't like it because it is different, but not so radically different than the Time Fades Away tour. Greendale will become a classic someday, in the same way I feel Americana will as well.

For Bruce, I think The Rising is a remarkably better album than Devils and Dust (although I do enjoy the acoustic element when Bruce brings it present), and I hold Nebraska up there as Springsteen's version of On The Beach because it is stripped down enough where his characteristics are present but not entirely lost. Overall, just a remarkably different, yet powerful album.

Wrecking Ball is the first Springsteen album that I have listened to where I instantly fell in love with the songs the first time I heard it entirely (the last time this happened was with Darkness On The Edge Of Town). I think it's because the E Street band wasn't so much in my face like in The River or even Born In The USA. I know that the horn section and the strings present in the E Street band give Springsteen his "sound" (and an element that Dave Matthews would also adapt), but overall Springsteen still has a strong vibe considering the loss of Springsteen's own Longgrain, Clarence Clemons.

And Neil, without Ben Keith and some of his other close counterparts, can still produce some great rock and roll. Le Noise is an album that grows on you (Because it is much more abstract than albums like Trans), and I love Americana because everyone else didn't and because it is the first real Crazy Horse LP since Broken Arrow (And with the way things seem now, these folk songs could go much further, but only the Carnegie Hall appearances will spell out whether another folk album is in the mix).

Psychedelic Pill blew me away after I was first exposed to the majority of the songs after seeing the Horse at Red Rocks last August. It was my first Neil show and, hell, it was a great one, only if I had waited for Alchemy to see the other deep cuts. But Pill has a powerhouse within it and proved that Neil could capture those extended live jams onto a 3 LP/2 CD set. Psychedelic Pill is the perfect soundtrack to Waging Heavy Peace and without reading it or listening to it, Neil's overall sound quality rant would not make sense (Which could be why people didn't like the book or the album).

It is nice to see these two powerhouses create remarkable LP's after both of their greatest counterparts had passed away, and it shows a longevity that is everlasting. Although I feel that Springsteen's decisions are based off the greater good idea (like replacing Clemons with Clemons' son) and Young's are based off of personal, end-of-an-era-like ideals (retiring all songs that featured Keith when it comes to band performances, his cancelation of the remainder Crazy Horse dates) where he feels that the music can't go on without the people that make the music stand out.

As far as the rest of the debates goes, I feel that Live At The Cellar Door will be much more rawer, new and overall more successful than Live At Massey Hall (Although it is a stellar LP) and this whole Archives debacle is one that will blow over. Almost everyone could wait 20 or more years for the first set, but cannot wait more than 3 or 4 for the second one. I am still waiting for the early Crazy Horse recordings Neil was talking about in Waging Heavy Peace. But it due time, they will come.

I will always like Neil better than Bruce, but I respect them both equally.

But Hell what do I know, I am only 19. Probably the youngest Neilphyte I know.


At 11/11/2013 03:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the correction anon 4:29 with regard to the injury. A good debate. In fact, in the last 5 years I've seen Bruce, Neil and Nils Lofgren live - and to throw a spanner in the works here NILS was the best show! Ok so he's not made the classic records but as a live show takes some beating.

At 11/11/2013 09:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have seen Neil 10 times and Bruce near 30... More chances from NJ. Neil changed my life in my teens, with his vinyl I'm 49. Bruce changed the way you go to a concert. Best 2 artist alive. No single artist had a decade like Neil in the 70's, comparable to the Beatles in the 60's. Nobody ever is as good as Bruce live period. Neil is the superior solo, just mesmerizing. Later recordings loved Greendale and devils and dust. Not so much Magic or Americana. Flat out dead tied. Bruce has the ability to put tough words on cheery music. Neil has the ability to put good uplifting words on down's great.

At 11/11/2013 10:00:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks to all for comments.

@Glen - yes, Neil setlist variation (or lack thereof) is something that comes up continuously.

From what we sense, it seems many folks only see one show per tour. And for many, it's one of their few chances since Neil tours so infrequently relative to Bruce.

@ trevlom - lots of good thoughts on Bruce & Neil. Thanks.

Interesting on thinking that Live At The Cellar Door will be more successful than Live At Massey Hall.

Massey Hall is very fine and has those songs with wide appeal -- HoG, AMNAM, OM, etc Just from the preview trailer, it sounds like the recording quality may be higher for Cellar Door. It will certainly sound more intimate than the very intimate Massey.

At 11/11/2013 10:23:00 AM, Anonymous Andy said...

Such a subjective question, but all the fun ones are, right? Chervokas says that Springsteen's recent albums are on par with his best work, but Young's recent albums are no wear near his peak. Meanwhile, I think the opposite is true!

At 11/11/2013 10:37:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They both were honered Musicare Person of the Year!
So there's no difference between the greatness of Bruce Springsteen and that of Neil Young.

At 11/11/2013 12:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really don't like Bruce Springsteen and in my humble opinion I think Neil Young is the greatest rock artist ever.

Bruce Springsteen is, as a European, way to American for me. I don't like his themes and his kind of macho attitude. The way he strikes his guitar like a lumberjack, I'm sorry, but I just can't watch it. And that dreadful voice, please no. I just can't stand him, I can't help it.

Too much show, little real human emotion, something in which Neil Young excels. Neil seems more honest and more emotional to me.

At 11/11/2013 01:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on man, Bruce is touring all the time with a Horse and Neil doesn't... He should do it, but he doesn't. Bruce is the man!

At 11/11/2013 02:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fork In The Road ...emotional? Springsteen gets the nod for me but ahead of both them is the GREAT ..Dave Alvin puts them both in the shade in the last 20 years.

At 11/11/2013 03:17:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Bruce has never caused me to tear up just by hearing the sound of his acoustic guitar & harmonica.

Neil has...many times.

One chord from Neil can pierce my heart - I just can't explain it.

At 11/11/2013 09:33:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

My concert introductions to each were Rust Never Sleeps and Born in the USA, and BOTH blew me across the room. I have seen both several times since, alone and with Crazy Horse and E Street Band. It's an event no matter which one is playing. Great vibes, crazy fans, excellent musicianship. Old faves and new tunes, some obscurities usually thrown in as well.

Never saw a theatrical show like RNS before that, and BIT-USA tour was 3 1/2 hours non-stop with the crowd doing the "wave" for at least a 1/2 hour straight - F'in nuts.

Bruce is a crowd pleaser for sure. Plays right to it, orchestrates to it. But its a "pop" show for the most part to me. Great songs, but too scripted in its presentation and follow- thru. Too much pandering, but the casual fans eat that sh%t up. Maybe even his diehards. The solo show I saw put my brother to sleep. Not me, but not far from it.

Neil, though scripted in the songs played each night for the most part, delivers a whole lot more instinctive soul and feel, and you never know what's totally in store inside each song, especially with Crazy Horse along. Could be 5 minutes, could be 20. It can almost be a séance. But that's the deal. And the draw.

I wouldn't decorate the Christmas tree with just one ornament, so these two are certainly deserving for their role in the American music landscape. Rabid fans are just the reward for sticking with their own game, and muse, and integrity. Just different flavored candy, but both so sweet.

At 11/11/2013 10:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

vs may be relevant in a sports contest but not in comparing music of this standard.I am just grateful that I appreciate an art form which produces 2 such stupendously talented and enduring artists.

At 11/12/2013 08:46:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I couldn't agree more!

At 11/12/2013 08:57:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Neil

At 11/13/2013 09:26:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It should have been a three way
thing with Dylan part of the mix

At 11/13/2013 10:25:00 AM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

Actually in music right now it's Bob, Paul and Neil, then everyone else.

At 11/13/2013 12:36:00 PM, Blogger asg said...

more pointless discussion of something which is 100% purely SUBJECTIVE--Music...

At 11/13/2013 02:22:00 PM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

Objective art is meditative art, subjective art is mind art.


Charlie Brown: Lucy, how would you like to play second base?


Charlie Brown: Well, what in the world is wrong with second base?

Lucy: Second base? Oh, pardon me...I thought you said "Second Fiddle"!


"Kick is seeing things from a special angle. Kick is momentary freedom from the claims of the aging, cautious, nagging, frightened flesh."
--William Burroughs


Loyalty rests
In the heart of a dog
Don't set all your eggs
On the back of a frog
--Patti Smith

At 10/20/2019 02:55:00 PM, Blogger sab1024 said...

You too! I tell people about the power of Neil's song and how l often swim in tears. They don't get it. The harmonica intro on OOTW, Cowgirl acoustic, fly, OTB, you get the idea! He's the greatest...for me.

At 10/20/2019 03:27:00 PM, Blogger KnowItAllFred said...

Bruce has a really weird affected accent for a guy from New Jersey. Nobody sounds like him in the Garden State. Bruce is a zero as a solo crypto folkie singer song man. Neil can sing with an acoustic guitar or blast away with fuzzy distortion. Bruce does great shows but without the E Street I'd rather watch the paint dry. I like them both and have even seen Bruce in Steelmill, a great band. Neil is more cantankerous and moody. Who knows.

At 10/20/2019 07:29:00 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Was fully in the Neil camp until I went to see if I could get a set list the opening night of "The River" tour in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My thought was to go after work at 4:00 PM to the venue to get the set list so I could just leave after the show that I knew was going to be long. Sort of knocked on the backstage door and I showed my notarized press pass asking if I could get a set list? They take me in and show me to the locker room for the basketball team.

In the span of like five minutes from when I got out of the car I'm standing shaking Bruce Springsteen's hand. It was unreal to me then and now. We chatted for a good long while and he said they would get me a set list right after the show which did happen.

That night everyone was yelling "Bruce," that sounded like "boo," but he did a long show with a huge break. At about one in the morning Bob Seger came out and the foundation of the arena honestly bounced to the music.

Have to say I've only met Bruce once and Neil many times but they are both real compared to many others in the music business. They are both a little different behind the scenes then they are onstage but glad I met them both. Love Van Morrison but from what I've heard wouldn't want to meet him but have a lot of respect for his music.

Just my two cents on a great thread...I get cantankerous and moody after a couple of weeks on the road. Can't imagine months going town to town that these days looks like the same town over and over again. Miss those regional differences in cities, music and life.

At 10/20/2019 11:41:00 PM, Blogger Sancho said...

I think they are both musical forces. Masters of multiple musical areas. Equally at home with a six string or a full backing rock band. While I have the greatest respect for Springsteen, for me it seems like his songs tell a story from his prespective. I'm listening to something that happened to him or his friend or relative. I'm not saying all his songs are about him, but rather that they are like watching a movie. It's great, but doesn't always relate to me personally. Neil's genius has always been his almost unique ability to make his songs sound like the are about YOU. Like you someqsomeqqhow wrote them in your mind and didn't know it and now they are coming out of his mouth. I think that's why Bruce seems more commercial than Neil. His work seems more polished because it's like a fine painting behind glass. Young's art you can touch, feel, it's made for you. That's, perhaps, not true but it feels that way. Dylan can split the two, sometimes writing a song you can slip into other times sounding more like Bruce in that a song is more distant or cinematic. I'm not saying that's a bad thing...just that, for me, the intimate touch to Young's songs is what puts him on top.

At 10/20/2019 11:46:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Bruce puts on a show. You get more than you pay for in a Springsteen concert.

At 10/21/2019 01:59:00 AM, Blogger Deaner said...

That’s very true anddamn funny! Neil is the greatest artist of any genre of all my humble opinion! Long live the master!

At 10/21/2019 09:57:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

I recently gave a friend my own copy of the Boss’s Tracks 4CD set, and a bunch of his other albums. Why? I don’t listen to them. I kept 6 albums including Nebraska.

Neil Young to me is a far more interesting and compelling artist. For me, I had a waning interest in the Boss and his Super Bowl performance ended it all. He runs and slides into the camera, accidentally colliding his crotch into the TV viewers face, so to speak. Cheesy! Such a sellout orgy. And the bands never play live at the Super Bowl. Sometimes they sing. Neil Young would never play the Super Bowl, and for that, I love him. That and hundreds of other reasons.

Neil’s albums nourished me and helped me relate to the loneliness I felt, and the other ideas I had swirling in my head. Neil has a KILLER guitar tone with
old Black. He can cause a Hurricane with his axe. The Boss does not have a distinctive lead guitar tone to my ears.

The trouble with Bruce is that he is kind of boring. A bit too polished. His huge band results in a cacaphony of sound. A literal over saturation, one jingle jangle too many. I like the guy. I personally prefer his solo acoustic tour!

Meanwhile, Neil is killing it at every show, through the decades. Neil feels he must play solo and deliver the goods, carry the show, quite a bit more than Bruce.

Would Bruce have done the Monsanto Years or LWW?! No, not on a million years. He is too mainstream to pay attention to the horrible facts of Roundup pervading our food supply. Would Bruce have done Farm Aid all these years? Probably not. Neil is the champion of Earth and the animals, the people, and Nature. He calls out Big Oil. Would Bruce do that?

Alan in Seattle

Sent from my iPhone

At 10/21/2019 11:06:00 AM, Blogger rolandthompsongunner said...

I must say, the whole "vs." aspect of this makes me uneasy.

I don't like the idea of pinning Bruce & Neil against one another, forcing folks to pick which artist they prefer, or which is better.

I love Tracks, I understand it's probably not for the casual fan, but there are a ton of gems on that archival release. Yes, Bruce is a showman, and not everyone can tolerate that, and can perceive that as a bit cheesey, but I don't think there's a bit of insincerity in his performance.

Bruce also has volunteers collecting money for local food banks at all of his shows, and has made that a huge part of his message. So, I don't think it's fair to call him out for lack of charitable work as well. He's absolutely lost fans due to his political views, and typically isn't too tight-lipped about injustice.

The original title- The Difference in Greatness, is far more apt. They can both be great, and thankfully in different ways.

We've got a new Crazy Horse album out this week. I couldn't be happier.
There are also rumors of a new E Street album in the works, and I again, couldn't be happier.

If all goes well, I'll be able to see Bruce and Neil live next year. And that is amazing. They're both now in their 70s. And both still have it.

I know we're just on a Journey Through the Past... from 2013, but we're 6 years later, and they're both releasing albums and films.

Love and Only Love. Born to Run. Long May They Run.... Rock and Roll can never die...

At 10/21/2019 11:26:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ rolandthompsongunner - good to hear your balance on Bruce & Neil.

agree this wasn't supposed to be a "versus" post but that wasn't the intended original setup. maybe we'll and to be "and" instead of "or"?

your closing statement is apt:
Love and Only Love. Born to Run. Long May They Run.... Rock and Roll can never die...

At 10/21/2019 01:43:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

There is no substitute for having been there all along to know how to feel about these two bands. East coast, west coast all around the country have their opinions about a certain style of music. Bottom line is how their songs make you feel. One musician does it for me and the other does too much hollering to be enjoyable.

At 10/21/2019 04:51:00 PM, Blogger MikeCR said...

Agreed! I love them both. Apples and Oranges!

At 10/21/2019 05:45:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

First of all the longevity of both kinda says it all. You will never convince either fan one artist is better than the other. Both exceptionally controversial at times. Never afraid to speak up or out. For me Bruce has always been there,not just for me personally but also for the country and even the world.I didn't get the comment about the songs being about himself or herself and not be able to inject ones self into the narrative,I believe Bruce does this better than any artist in history. Also the thing I think most people miss is the God role in most of his songs,it's there all you have to do is liston. Basically a giant religious revival. The best part for me is I really think he believes also that I've never seen any artist small or the biggest as bruce springsteen is that is as able to simply go out and make a complete fool and poke as muck fun at himself as he does,kinda like this pole,don't take it to seriously. Love you bruce

At 10/22/2019 12:14:00 PM, Blogger wsanjose01 said...

Bridge School Benefit 1995 was great. Bruce solo is my favorite. When he combines it with what may be my favorite author, John Steinbeck , and The Ghost of Tom Joad, its wonderful. This was also Beck's first BSB. I seemed to be the only one on the lawn who knew who he was. Chrissie Hydne was in a long satin Chinese dress. She looked great. Off topic but I enjoy sharing the memory.

At 10/22/2019 08:57:00 PM, Blogger Chuck said...

Both are masters. I am truly fortunate that my time coincided with their time. The Holy Trinity; Neil, Bob & Bruce.

At 10/23/2019 05:25:00 PM, Blogger Syscrusher said...

Part of something I was writing recently. It applies here so I will post.
Of the 4 greatest songwriters I listen to:

Bruce is the most cerebral of them. He writes very often with an idea in mind, perhaps a story where he can develop a moral, and then maybe work on a melody that represents the emotions of the song. Or sometimes he's just writing clever lyrics around a title idea, but usually taking the lyric in multiple directions and always with a payoff at the end. He is able to interchange lyrics and melodies almost at will, sometimes working on several melodic ideas with a single lyric. But he also has the most spillage between songs, overlap if you will, where two songs might share the exact same idea or share a lyric or even a verse.

Neil is the most instinctual writer, working almost solely off of the initial inspiration. He rarely if ever edits his songs, preferring to work and finish his songs during that moment when whatever inspired the song is still fresh and intense. Writing from more of an emotional starting point than Bruce. Neil might have the greatest gift for melody of all songwriters. And he may also have the most songs written in a single flash of creativity, the 5 minute song, like how Mr. Soul was written. Writing is a single flash is mentioned by numerous songwriters who often talk about them being the best kinds of songs, songs that come easy... Neil's best songs, while they are often 'about' something or inspired by something, remain abstract in many ways, breaking the plot up into images that aren't always easy to connect and leave a lot of mystery.

At 10/23/2019 05:40:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

(I just tried to post directly onto your blog and was stymied again).
Thank you for posting my comments. ✌️

Part 2: I appreciate the food bank stuff Bruce has done. He has refused to let Republicans use his Born in in the USA song always. Just as Neil would not let Trump use Rockin in the Free World. I think the problem I have with the big sound of Bruce is that it’s kind of candy assed. I never liked the E Street band but I bought a bunch of his albums anyway. I liked Tom Joad. The Rising was the best album post 9-11. A fantastic album. Even better when Johnny Cash covered “Further on up the Road.” Devils and Dust was good. In concert, MTV Plugged, is a great album. Red Headed Woman is my all time favorite Bruce track.

Neil Young is the one for me. Dylan checked out doing Sinatra catalogue covers. I wish he would meet up with Daniel Lanois again, both Dylan and Neil. I love Le Noise!

Kudos to the one who mentioned Dave Alvin. I have seen him a bunch of times. He is fantastic.

Steve Earle is more interesting than the Boss.

Alan in Seattle

Sent from my iPhone

At 12/27/2019 04:41:00 PM, Blogger tillywilly said...

Thank God I was alive to witness both of their careers!

At 2/05/2020 11:23:00 AM, Blogger Gary A. Lucero said...

I've never been a Springsteen fan and can't think of a single song of his that I care for. I grew up mostly listening to Country & Western (this is late 60's/early 70's, so no, not today's country music), West Coast rock'n'roll, and British rock, so outside of Patti Smith, I can't think of a single East Coast musician I care for.

As far as "Bruce" goes, I think he's overrated, but that's just my opinion. I have a lot of 'em.


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