Good Times and the Common Good

After the great revival of conscience-laden rock events in 1985, it might seem today that the search for good times and the common good must again be carried out at the margins. The perception is not entirely accurate. Another star-studded Amnesty International tour is in the works, and a rockers' birthday tribute to Nelson Mandela took place in London's Wembley Stadium about the time this magazine hit the P.O. boxes. But the man-bites-dog novelty of such events has dissipated, and social consciousness has been integrated into the other concerns of pop music--i.e., love, dancing, commerce, and myth-making.

After the "Born in the U.S.A." tour's grand invocation of rock and roll as egalitarian community, Bruce Springsteen has pulled back to focus on the no-less-important business of building a marriage. On the Tunnel of Love album and in his current concert tour, Springsteen calls upon the same values of honesty, mutuality, and equality that fueled the sweeping populist gestures of his '84-'85 work. They are just worked out on the smaller scale of daily life.

It's a good career move. Springsteen doesn't want to be anyone's spokesperson or guru. To continue in a "political" vein, especially in another election year, might have irreparably limited his artistic scope. Besides, "The Boss" seems as humbled as any mere mortal by the promises and obligations of marriage. And humility is certainly a welcome and overdue addition to the rock vocabulary. The more danceable R & B-oriented rhythms on some of the Tunnel of Love tracks are also equally welcome additions to The Boss's '60s-fixated musical arsenal.

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