Ask and you shall receive. If only all life was this easy. Jamming! Staffer Alan McLaughlin idolized former NME staffer/boy wonder/punk pioneer/novelist Tony Parsons. He wasn't the only one, but with a zeal typical of those who've only recently moved to a capital city, Alan decided to act on it. He tracked Parsons down by phone and invited the great writer down to the local Jamming! boozer. Parsons accepted; he was in a state of personal transition and seemed genuinely happy for the company. Having generated good will by getting the rounds in, we asked Tony if he'd write something for Jamming! Naturally, he accepted: people always say 'yes' when they've had a few drinks.
So when we called him a few days later and asked him to act on his 'promise,' we assumed he'd put up a fight. Nothing of the sort, not as I remember. Tony asked if he could write about Bruce Springsteen's new album Born in the USA, and we said Go right ahead. Take as much space as you want.
In 1984, Springsteen was an international superstar. But he wasn't yet an international mega superstar, the greatest rock icon on the planet. That transition would come about the following year as Born In The USA went from mere Bruce Album to Everyman Album one of those records it seems like the whole world falls in love with. In fact, at the time that Parsons asked to write about Born In The USA, Bruce was somewhat ageing and unhip to us precious Jamming! Editors and by extension, to our readers. Moreover, the album had come and gone already; it only enjoyed a second, extended life because of
well, lots of things really, but people like Parsons certainly played their part. They insistend that Born In The USA was too great a rock album to be confined to Bruce Springsteen fans.
Fittingly then, Tony Parsons' overview of this album - printed in Jamming! 22, with Britain's own one-man Billy Bragg's whappens to be one of the greatest pieces of rock journalism I've ever read. Surely the greatest piece it was ever my privilege to print. At a time when it was not fashionable to write whole articles about individual albums, Parsons let rip over almost two pages. And almost every sentence is a jewel: "An Internationale of the underclass, an anthem for lives that are not controlled by the people who are living them
" "Springsteen understands that true love invariably does two things conquers all and wear off." And a line that would resonate when Parsons later become the best-selling author of Man and Boy: "Anyone who has been both a son and a father must find ['My Hometown'] almost unlistenable, it comes that close to home."
We paid Tony our usual meager rate for this piece, which was printed in Jamming! 22, with Britain's own politically conscious poet Billy Bragg on the cover. We paid him peanut again for a similarly enthusiastic (though not nearly so magical) tribute to Prince. Then, understandably, Parsons cried off future contributions on the understandable premise that he had a son to feed and could earn proper money elsewhere. We stayed in touch for a while until he shifted stratospheres. I'd like to think we each gained from the brief relationship: obviously we got to publish the great Tony Parsons, but he got the chance to sing the Boss' praises in the most eloquent of fashions just before it became fashionable to do so.
Almost twenty years on, I'm happy to share the piece. I'm trusting Tony Parsons won't mind either. Though he's gone on to pen best-selling novels, many memorable magazine articles and no shortage of newspaper columns notable for their common sense, I'm not sure he's ever written anything better.
Click on the images for full-size, standalone reproductions from the magazine.