The album's funniest track is "57 Channels," which opens with Bob Glaub's thumping bass line and tells the story of a man who "bought a bourgeois house in the Hollywood Hills," installed cable TV and then a satellite dish ("home entertainment was my baby's wish"), only to find that "there was 57 channels and nothin' on." He finally buys a .44 Magnum, "and in the blessed name of Elvis, well, I let it blast."
In a more serious vein is "With Every Wish," a spare, haunting ballad that features Springsteen on acoustic guitar, Mark Isham on trumpet, Kurt Wortman on drums and Doug Lunn on bass. Musically, it recalls Born to Run's "Meeting Across the River." The lyrics deal with wishes that come true: "Before you choose your wish, son/You better think first/With every wish there comes a curse."
Springsteen finished Human Touch – which includes fourteen songs and contains nearly an hour of music – in early 1991. But almost immediately he had an unexpected burst of creativity and began writing again. One of the first songs he came up with was "Living Proof." For a while, he considered adding it to Human Touch, but the song – obviously inspired by his young son, Evan James – didn't seem to fit. "There was a different voice there," said a source familiar with the project. "It became apparent that something had happened, that he was in a different mode."
Springsteen went on to record the ten songs on Lucky Town, including "Better Days," in about eight weeks, working at his home in Los Angeles. Bittan and Jackson rejoined him, but Porcaro was unavailable, so drummer Gary Mallaber, whose résumé includes stints with Van Morrison and the Steve Miller Band, was recruited.
The album has a loose, stripped-down sound, especially compared to the more polished Human Touch. It includes two beautiful ballads: the love song "If I Should Fall Behind," with Springsteen on bass and acoustic guitar, and "Book of Dreams," a touching wedding-day portrait. There are other overt allusions to Springsteen's family life: In "Souls of the Departed," a rocker, he sings about a seven-year-old boy who was murdered in a Compton, California, schoolyard, then adds: "As I tuck my own son in bed/All I can think is what if it'd been him instead."
One source summed up the difference between the albums by saying that on Human Touch, Springsteen is "struggling for the meaning of happiness: What does it mean to be a man?" On the second album, "he's realized he's happy, and he's trying to find out what that means."
Springsteen is expected to be on the road by the summer, but at press time tour plans were still being worked out.
This story is from the April 16, 1992 issue of Rolling Stone.
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