The anchor of The Gaslight Anthem’s excellent album, The ’59 Sound, is its second and title track, wherein our narrator reflects upon the too-young death of a friend and wonders what the experience of dying is like:
Did you hear the ’59 sound coming through on Grandmama’s radio?
Did you hear the rattling chains in the hospital walls?
Did you hear the old gospel choir when they came to carry you over?
Did you hear your favorite song one last time?
It’s rousing, heartfelt, and heartbreaking, and captures in one cutting sentence the cruel injustice of this world we all live in:
Young boys/young girls–ain’t supposed to die on a Saturday night.
If this was a just world, “The ’59 Sound” would already be considered a classic, and I have enough faith in flawed mankind to believe that someday it will be.
Like “The ’59 Sound,” the song, The ’59 Sound, the album, is bathed deeply in nostalgia. The obvious model is Bruce Springsteen, whose sound and songwriting are consciously mimicked and whose songs are referenced–it’s a concept album that takes place within “Spirit in the Night.” Here, Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Bob Seger constantly play on the radio, with an anachronistic visit from August and Everything After-era Counting Crows:
Maria came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hand
I always kinda sorta wished I looked like Elvis.
(No, you don’t. That bitch is crazy.)
Also on the eternally-playing radio are Miles Davis, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding, although those references are less successful because the album doesn’t reflect their sound like it does its classic-rock touchstones.
The ’59 Sound‘s proper listening environment is blaring from the eight-track of the old white Lincoln Continental parked twenty feet away from a late-night beach bonfire, where you listen as you drink a Schlitz. And then again twenty years later, as it plays on the stereo while you and your friends are sitting around the living room reminiscing about that night.
“The ’59 Sound”
(Jason’s review of The ’59 Sound is here. I consciously didn’t read it after he sold me on it so that I could formulate my own thoughts. I hope I haven’t subconsciously plagiarized it.)