WHAT DID Bruce Springsteen ever do to deserve this? Even Paul Keating had the decency to choose a composer already dead, Gustav Mahler, with whom to parade his cultural pretensions.
But the unfortunate Springsteen is alive and due to tour Australia next year, his every concert burdened now with the knowledge that his most publicly ardent local fan is … oh, dear … Wayne Swan, federal Treasurer.
Swan, of course, is hardly the first politician to try to steal baby boomer cred from Springsteen, the lyrical, visionary and endlessly high-energy rock performer from New Jersey.
The Boss, as Springsteen is known, is 62, and he tends to cause middle-aged male politicians of all stripes to behave like schoolgirls confronted with Justin Bieber.
The Republican Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, has attended 126 Springsteen concerts and claims to know every word to every Springsteen song, despite the rock star refusing to even meet him.
It was national news in the US when Christie appeared to fall asleep at one of those concerts earlier this year, leading the Governor to angrily deny any such thing. He was enjoying, he said, ”a spiritual moment”.
The Democrat Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, declares that Springsteen ”has been the soundtrack of my life” and is much given to quoting his lyrics in speeches.
Even a former president, Ronald Reagan – possibly unaware that Springsteen could not stand his politics – declared in a 1984 election campaign speech that ”America’s future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts. It rests in the message of hope in songs so many young Americans admire: New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen.”
But Wayne Swan, 58, has very nearly outdone them all.
Not content with merely crafting his John Button Lecture as a form of fanzine (”the Boss was and remains my musical hero. And not just mine. He’s the favourite musician of the Prime Minister.”), Swan released his own YouTube video to prove his devotee status.
There was Wayne in Eric Clapton T-shirt flicking through his Springsteen world tour ’96 souvenir pamphlet, Wayne displaying his Springsteen record collection, a shot of his ”Springsteen Live at the Nassau Coliseum” poster from 1980 (tickets: $12); Wayne flicking through speech notes while nodding to the beat of Born to Run; Wayne in shirt sleeves and tie trawling through Treasury papers with the soundtrack cranked to full blast; Wayne grooving to his son playing guitar and his daughter singing Dancing in the Dark.
And, mercy! A shot of Wayne as a long-haired university student from the early 1970s, complete with moustache. Weirdly, he’s wearing a suit and tie. Born to run … for preselection.
Around the time that photograph was taken, the American music critic Jon Landau was about to create an enduring legend. ”I saw my rock’n’roll past flash before my eyes,” he wrote of a concert he had attended. ”I saw something else: I saw rock’n’roll’s future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”
Wayne Swan, pretty clearly, has seen his future flash before his eyes and, not wishing to give such a hideous vision a name, he is determined hope lies in the past, its name, Bruce Springsteen.
You would just about forgive the Boss if he tried to limit the damage by introducing his Australian concerts with a tune for Wayne – the cutting old Beatles song, Taxman:
”If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street/If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat/If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat/If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.”
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