Chris Christie: The Basement Tapes

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To mark the occasion of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's keynote address at the Republican National Convention tonight, I thought I would post a long but edited transcript of one of our several talks about politics, the economy, Republican priorities, and Bruce Springsteen (the story I wrote about Christie's Springsteen obsession can be found here).


I would say that this conversation, below, will be mainly of interest to people who are trying to understand Christie and his role in the party, and especially to people who know the lyrics to most, or all, Springsteen songs. Much of the discussion has to do with how Christie squares his fiscal conservatism with Springsteen's much more expansive view of the role government should play in the economy.

One favorite moment, which I'm lifting out of the transcript: How everything Christie does, or doesn't do -- including deciding not to run for president -- can be related to a Springsteen lyric. This is what he told me about that: "The reason I couldn't pull the trigger was that it didn't feel right. It would have been wrong to leave. I made a commitment to being governor. It felt to me like you asked some woman to marry you, and she did, and then a really great woman walked by and said, 'Come with me.' And if I would have run that have been me saying yes to that woman, and saying to the woman I was married to, 'Sorry, I didn't know she was available when I married you.'"

I responded: "You had a 'Hungry Heart'-type situation there. To which Christie replied, "Yes, but I didn't go down to Kingstown. I didn't make a wrong turn and never come back."

Anyway, here's the conversation. This discussion took place in his office in Trenton, in the presence of Maria Comella, his communications guru, who is not the hugest Springsteen fan:

Christie: Did you know that Maria was born when 'The River' came out?
 
Goldberg: She's probably a big Bon Jovi fan. When 'Slippery When Wet' came out she was probably in kindergarten.

Christie: He's from Sayerville. Bon Jovi's from Sayerville.
 
Goldberg: You a fan?

Christie: I don't like dislike Bon Jovi. He is what he is.

Goldberg: Why does Springsteen resonate with you?

Christie: He makes me understand in a vivid way of how lucky I am. Hearing stories of desperation creates gratitude. He helps create sympathy - it's not empathy, it can't be empathy in the sense that I'm not experiencing it - but sympathy for those people who don't have what I have. And there's the shared experience - when I was at the Stone Pony (in Asbury Park) recently and here's this guy, 62, running through the audience, climbing on top of the bar, singing on the bar, hugging people, kissing people, his concerts have always been this shared experience.

Goldberg: Is there a religious component for you?

Christie: I wouldn't say religious, I would say spiritual. No question about it.  "It ain't no sin to be glad you're alive." That just jumps out at you. You think about the fact that here's a guy who wasn't quite 30 years old, and to have the insight he had, the insight into human nature, to understand what people are going through, it's unbelievable.
 
Goldberg: You've identified 'Thunder Road' as your favorite Bruce song. Why?

Christie: It is the most lyrically descriptive of his songs. I can close my eyes and often do and listen to this song, and I can just see it. I can see the whole thing. I  don't know if I'm right. But what I see is what I see, cute brunette in a sundress coming out through the door and Bruce sitting in that convertible seat, beat-up old convertible she hops and and off they go. I mean, I close my eyes and I see it. The other part is, the stage of life when you're at when these songs come out is important to you. I'm coming of age at this, I'm 14 when this comes out, when you're starting to become aware of yourself, stating to thinking about dating. It's all happening, and you listen to him, and he gets it.

Goldberg: Most politicians don't have a relationship with art, or artists. You haven't shed your fascination with this music, and he is the most interesting writer, along with Dylan -

Christie: -- And the most prolific.

Goldberg: And the most prolific.  When did you first take notice?

Christie: I was 13 years old and I bought Born To Run. The first two had come and gone without my noticing, I was ten or 11 and finally getting an allowance, I had some money and I wanted to buy "Born to Run," I had heard it on the radio, and I said to my mother I want to go buy that album and I went to the record store at the Livingston Mall, and you know what, you walk into the record store and there it was, the big display picture, and that picture, jumping right at you, and for me, I remember the moment of buying it, buying the album, it jumped at me, really. I took it home and I played it until it wore out. And to me it's still my favorite album and the best album as a single piece of work.

Goldberg: At that age, you weren't growing up in the sort of pinched, economically straitened situation he's writing about, though. It wasn't recognition like that.

Christie: At 13, what spoke to me was simple - I recognized the places that he was writing about. He was writing about the places I knew and lived, I went to vacation to the Jersey Shore, I knew about the places he was talking about in those songs. So to me, that was the first thing that grabbed me about.  Bruce is one of the greatest gifts to New Jersey. You can say what you want about us, we got Bruce. That's why we were so angry when he moved to California. Malibu? Stop being stupid. Get back here. You're ours. As a teenager, he made Jersey cool.

Goldberg: Long Islanders like me have Dee Snider and Billy Joel.
 
Christie: Not in that order. Listen, New Jersey has a lot of image problems, and having Bruce wasn't one of those image problems.

Goldberg: Was 'Thunder Road' your favorite song right away?

Christie: "Jungleland" was my favorite song when I first listened to it, and I remember thinking, how could he have written that, all those feelings contained in that seven-and-a-half, eight minutes? Where does it come from? And so the first thing that fascinated me, how could he write something like that, how does something like that happen? To sit down and actually do it, I loved the song and I loved the sax solo, and then the rest of the album I just played until my entire family  --  I lived in a pretty small house and I like to listen to music loud and so I wore my family out with Bruce. It took my brother years to become a Springsteen fan because I killed him with it.
 
Goldberg: What was your first show?

Christie: First show was in 1975, or 1976, at Seton Hall, in the Walsh gym. I really got into. The way 'Born to Run' made me feel listening to it, and then there was just a geometric increase in my love after I saw Bruce live. I didn't care - Bruce could stand on a soapbox on the corner of Broad and Market streets in Newark and read the phone book and if I had the chance to be there, I would be there. There is something so great about watching someone who loved doing what they do so much. That was so attractive then, and that attracts me now, it  made me go back to the Stone Pony for the 126th time. It's just electric to be around somebody performing who loves what they do as much as he does.

Goldberg: Much of what he write about is work - finding fulfillment in work, not finding fulfillment in work, not finding work at all. I was listening to 'The River' the other day, you know, "I got a job working construction, for the Johnstown Company, but lately there ain't been much work, on account of the economy." When did you notice he was singing about something deeper than cars and the girls and the Jersey Shore?

Christie: It was 'Darkness on the Edge of Town." It took me a while to like "Darkness." I was 16, and when "Darkness" came out I didn't like it at first. I was looking for "Born to Run 2." Where was that upbeat, aspirational feeling? And this just showed, in retrospect, my lack of maturity. All that stuff was there, in "Prove it All Night," and "Badlands," and "Adam Raised a Cain."  It was all there. I just wasn't mature enough to understand it. "Darkness'' was an acquired taste, and that's when he made his first turn. We all know why he turned from "Born to Run" to "Darkness." The whole change in his life, the dispute with his manager. But to me that became a whole different kind of writing. I think that's when he started talking about work, the fulfillment and the frustration. That comes from adult problems, as opposed  to the first three albums, which I saw as escapism from teenage life, and how you're hopeful, you wanted to get the hell out of where you were because you knew that something bigger and better was down the road, you just had to get out there and find it.
 
Goldberg: But "Darkness" is definitely less aspirational, which is the quality of his writing you seem to like.

Christie: There is some work that is dour and down, but what attracted me to his music is just how aspirational it is, aspiration to success, or to fun, to being a better person, to figuring out how to make your life better. And you can't say that about other people's music. They become successful and they become self-consumed and boring and narcissistic.
 
Goldberg: Did you come back to the first two albums?

Christie: Oh yeah, I came back to the first two after "The River," when I was in college and we had a lot of time to kill.
 
Goldberg: That's an excellent advertisement for the college experience.

Christie: Well, this was my college experience. Others may have been working harder than I did. In law school, I had this study partner, Bobby Brenner, he was in our wedding, we were in a fantasy football league. When we were in law school, we used to pull out Springsteen albums and force ourselves to say, okay, let's reconsider "The River." We would put albums on and analyze them song by song. Time to reconsider "Greetings." It was the way we did our study breaks. What are we going to reconsider today? And we would go song by song.

Goldberg: Man, that's...
 
Christie: It was in college that I came back to "Greetings" and "The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle," right after "The River" came out, because "The River" just so opened up my curiosity, because now, I'm like, this guy has combined "Born to Run" and "Darkness." When I heard "The River," I realized he took the aspirational material, the fun stuff, and the dark stuff and put them together on the same album. "The River" is when I became a true addict. That's my line of demarcation. I was a sophomore in the fall of 1981. That's when I realized that the stuff that was crap on his albums, if it was on any other artist's albums, that would be the really good stuff for them.
 
Goldberg: Wasn't there a rule made by your roommates about how much Springsteen you were allowed to play?

Christie: I was the one who bought the stereo. My view was that I could play whatever I wanted.

Goldberg: "Atlantic City." What does this song evoke for you as governor?

Christie: Look, I'm very tied to this state. Whatever appeal I may have as governor is that people know that I'm from here, from this place, and that I'm rooted in that. That was the biggest difference between me and Jon Corzine (who he defeated for the governorship.)  I hear him sing about Atlantic City, and I think about how I'm this kid from New Jersey who has no more business being in this office based upon lineage, based on what my parents did, you know. This state is about hard-charging , hard-edged people who if they want something bad enough go out and get it. There's millions of stories like mine.

Goldberg: What about the desperation in a song like "Atlantic City," economic desperation? I mean, maybe you're misinterpreting something here. I mean, Springsteen thought Ronald Reagan was misinterpreting him in with "Born in the U.S.A."

Christie: Well, I dispute that. I think Bruce wanted it both ways. If you want "Born in The U.S.A." to be interpreted simply as the desperation of a veteran returning home to a country that didn't respect his service, and to a country that was not giving him economic opportunity, you'd play the acoustic version of the song, then there's no mistaking that. But you put a bandanna on your head and the American flag behind you and the baseball cap in your back pocket and you start your concerts with that song, pumping your fist in the air and screaming "Born in the U.SA.," don't tell me you're not trying to be anthemic. What bothered him was that it was Ronald Reagan. I think if Walter Mondale had adopted it, there would have been less trouble.
 
Goldberg: That's why he moved to the acoustic version after a little while, precisely so he couldn't be misinterpreted.

Christie: There are moments not where Bruce surprised me, but where I think he can be a little bit inconsistent. He has every right to say Reagan misinterpreted his work. I take him at his word, but on the other hand, don't try to tell me you're not being anthemic. It's an anthem. This was Jon Landau (Springsteen's manager). Landau knew how to help Bruce with his music so it sold, right? "Greetings" didn't sell. "Wild, Innocent" didn't sell. Landau came in and was involved in "Born to Run," just the song, and one of the things that caused the schism with (Mike) Appel (Springsteen's first manager). So I think that's another line of demarcation, Springsteen being influenced by Landau about how he could get his music more broadly heard.
 
Goldberg: You mean Landau snuck in the political message under the thunder?

Christie: I think Landau would say you can do both at the same time. It's okay. I think Landau's attitude was you could do both. But just don't deny to me that you're trying to do both.

Goldberg: Talk about the politics more. Springsteen sometimes used to say "Nobody wins unless--"

Christie: "Unless everybody wins."

Goldberg: I always had a logic problem with that. If everybody wins, no one wins, I guess I mean. There's no delineation. How do you judge who won?

Christie: Yeah, he wants everybody onboard the train. That's a theme. But America is also a place that will reward you for hard work. Some people have more natural talents than other people. Like Bruce Springsteen. I don't square it. It's one of those things that doesn't make sense to me. What the hell is he talking about? It's one of those things he says that doesn't make sense. I think the quote should be, "Nobody wins unless everybody has the opportunity to win." That's what America is. It's the opportunity to win, the chance to win. If he had just added that word, "opportunity," I'd be 100 percent on board.

Goldberg: When was the moment in your political development when you said to yourself, "Oh, man, I think I disagree with Bruce Springsteen about something."

Christie: It was in the mid-80s. It was during "Born in The U.S.A." I remember he sort of talked a lot more about the political stuff. I saw him at Giants Stadium at that one, and at the Meadowlands Arena. Maria wasn't in kindergarten yet. That's when I noticed him talking about politics more. "The River" shows were rollicking fun, and crazy, four hours. That's the last time I remember him doing an intermission. He would stop the show after two hours, take 25 minutes off, do another two hours. a some more.  And that's when all of the "nobody wins" stuff started coming in.

This is when I realized, you know, people should have an equal shot, but not all people are in fact equal in talent, in drive, in ambition. The thing that's bad is when people don't get an entry ticket into the race at all. That's where Democrats and Republicans differ. Democrats believe that someone should be guaranteed success. Republicans believe that everyone should have the opportunity to achieve their success and when they do, they shouldn't be penalized for it.

Goldberg: If Bruce were governor, how do you think he would spend the money you have to allocate in your budget?
 
Christie: I don't know. I think he would find it much more difficult than he apparently thinks. I'd say I made a lot of cuts and every one of them hurt me. Oprah asked me what was the most difficult thing I had to do professionally and I said, it was the budget cuts. The first four or five months in the administration where I would have these meetings in the treasurer's office, where we would go literally line by line, 'What does this program do, what does that program do?' Man.

Goldberg: What was the hardest thing to cut?

Christie: God, I can't remember, there were so many hard ones to cut. I can't remember what the hardest one was. I used to come those nights and my wife knew when I worked in the door if I had had a budget meeting. She'd say I looked awful.
 
Goldberg: If you had an endless pot of money, would you spend it like Bruce Springsteen might spend it?

Christie: No, because I believe government should provide only for those who are the neediest, and allow people to create circumstances where people can achieve greatness. I don't want it to be entitlements. People don't want to be dependent on government. They have dreams like everyone does. If they think they're too old to reach their dreams, then they dream for their kids. Their dream is not a check from the government every month. You don't hear people say that. People don't say, 'I hope my son grows up and gets a good mid-paying government job with great benefits when he retires. People don't say that. You hear anyone say that? They want something better for their kids. They want an opportunity for their kids to be Mark Zuckerberg.
 
Goldberg:  But there are Republicans, in my experience, don't have a tremendous amount of sympathy for the guy who isn't as lucky as they are.

Christie: I think both parties have members who have their shortcomings in that regard. And I think that sometimes the media plays up those people and those shortcomings. The brighter and more vivid extremes are more fascinating, right? I have no problem saying that some Republicans are people I don't have a great deal of admiration for, the same way I feel about certain Democrats. I make the judgment on what they do.
 
Goldberg: There are a lot of people out there who have been cut out of the very possibility of having opportunities. They would say that it's government's job to open up some opportunities. You say to government, 'Get out of the way,' but what about leveling the playing field so people can play? Is there some sort of middle ground?

Christie: What I don't understand about the argument about income disparity is the people who say we should raise taxes on the wealthy. I say to myself, "How does raising taxes on the wealthy do anything to improve income disparity for the middle class. Someone has to make the case to me. It doesn't do anything to improve the guy's life who's in the lower-middle class. Does he say, "Oh, shit, I can't buy a new car now, but I feel better because that guy can't buy two boats now?" That's not going to put anything in that guy's pocket. It's not going to do anything to help make that guy's life better. What are we doing? Building a jealousy society, an envy society?
 
I'm happy to talk about ways in which the government can assist the market in creating better-paying jobs. But my disconnect with the argument right now is, I listen to people talk about this subject, and I haven't seen anyone draw a straight line between the two and until they do, I'm not for raising taxes.

Look, the stuff he writes about is really consistent with who I am inside. Politically, and how I express myself politically. He would differ, I'm sure. But I think I can convince him, if we just had the chance to talk about it.
 
Goldberg: What do you think of the song "The Ties That Bind."
 
Christie: As far as I'm concerned, the message of "The Ties That Bind" is exactly right. We're going to sink or swim together. Don't try to deny it. You're going to try to deny it but we're bound together. Whether you're talking about personal relationships or the country, we have these ties and we're going to sink or swim together."
 
Goldberg: There's this consistent concern in Springsteen's writing that the jobs aren't there, that the way life is structured in a capitalist society basically means that some people will get ground down and thrown away.
 
Christie: As with most of us, most of our experiences and our thoughts and feelings come from our parents, and when I hear say all those things, I think he's reliving watching his father's life and frustrations over and over. Everyone one of these songs is a variation on his father's life. His father who got beaten down and ground down by the boring nature of life, the way he was treated in his work, and that this is a good guy, why can't he get something better? Everybody thinks their father is a good guy, at least initially, and I think despite his disputes with his father, he writes about his father's experience over and over and over again. Despite his own success he can't get away from it.
 
It's like the lyrics in "The Wish," he says something to his mother, you let me look into Dad's eyes but you never let me crawl in. His father showed this dark, awful, difficult side and his mother saved him from that. She's the one who got him the guitar. His father was an example of hopes and dreams extinguished.
 
Goldberg: And he's kept that up, singing about blue-collar workers and migrant workers -
 
Christie: I think he writes about it as he experiences it. He moved to California and he saw the immigrant worker subculture that he never saw in New Jersey. So I think he made new discoveries.
Goldberg: What do you think of "The Ghost of Tom Joad?"

Christie: It's not on my favorite list. I went to the Tom Joad show, at the State Theater in New Brunswick. It's the only time I ever got man-in-blacked. Mary Pat and I were sitting way at the top row, the balcony, I got tickets through Ticketmaster, and she was eight months pregnant with our daughter Sarah, so we climbed the stairs up to the top balcony and we're not moving. And I see this guy comes walking out all in black. Bruce sends a roadie out and he goes to people in the worst sets and he moves them down. I don't know if he still does it. I saw some people it happened to at the Garden.  And this guy says, "These your seats?" And I say, "You really think I would fake it and sit up here?" and he said, do you want to sit in the second row?  And down we went. So we got man-in-blacked for the Tom Joad show. That's the worst.

People weren't ready for that show. Up there by himself, acoustic harmonica, slicked back long hair. People weren't ready. He was all in black and it was dark. And you had idiots in the audience - he's playing acoustic guitar, dark stuff - and they're, like, screaming "Rosalita"! He gets pissed. They're like, "Candy's Room"! Get over it. It's not happening. And so he was really angry at that those shows. I appreciate the artistry and the work on that album. But I almost never listen to it.  I like the live version of "Youngstown." It's very powerful. But it reminds me of the negative concert experiences of that tour. If you talk to any Bruce fan, what they'll tell you is, one of the magic parts of going to a show is to walk out feeling exhilarated, feeling as high as you can possibly feel. Can you believe he played this? Can you believe he played that?  I walked out of the Tom Joad concert and wanted to put a gun to my head.
 
Goldberg: Well, isn't this one of those moments he would say, "Governor, that's the reality of America and I'm going to communicate that."
 
Christie: And I would say back, "I don't need to pay 100 bucks to see it." It's not that I don't recognize the artistry. Everybody goes to Bruce shows for different things, but I think one of the universal feelings of going to a Bruce show is you're going to walk out feeling better than when you walked in. He's going to take you on a ride for three hours. I tried to love Tom Joad, I really did, I love the guy, but I just didn't feel it.

Goldberg: Stay on this idea that you two disagree on the formula for making America better. He probably sits there thinking that if Chris Christie likes what I'm doing he would not go up against the unions, he wouldn't cut funding for the homeless. Have you played this out in your mind?
 
Christie: I think part of the reason why I don't think there's a problem between us is that he had a real problem he would have come out for Corzine in the race, and he didn't. Corzine, from a policy perspective, is much closer to Bruce than I am. I know that the Corzine campaign tried to get Bruce involved, if for no other reason than to get in my head, and Bruce is certainly a powerful figure in the state who could move some people to get involved in the race, and he affirmatively refused. It's not like no one asked him. We didn't try to get him involved. Anything that has happened since then I just kind of feel like, that's him, I've got accept that. I've said that if Bruce and I sat down and talked he would reluctantly come to the conclusion that we disagree on a lot less than he thinks. But I don't think I'm a priority for him right now.

Goldberg: You know, sometimes it's overrated, meeting your idols.

Christie: I don't think I'd get that feeling with him. I met him backstage at The New Jersey Hall of Fame when Danny DeVito was being inducted, and he gave the induction speech.  And here's Springsteen backstage and he made a clear differentiation between the way he treated me, very proper, and the way he treated my children. They are by necessity huge Bruce fans, each one has been to a Bruce show in utero. And he was very formal with me. He said congratulations on becoming governor and we shook hands but it was very clear to me the conversation wasn't going further.
 
But my children said to me, "Can we go say hello?" and I said yes, and he started chatting with them and he couldn't have been nicer, Sarah went up to say hello, and he said "You are a beautiful young lady." Just engaged them in a very nice fatherly conversation. And so I took some solace from this, too. He may not be ready to break the ice with me, but he was really nice to my children. They would have been crushed if he hadn't been nice. Instead they walked away feeling really great.

Goldberg: Do you think Bruce is still a regular Jersey guy?

Christie: "I don't think that fact that he's successful and that he uses his wealth as he sees fit are a proof point of the fact that he's lost touch with who he is. I think the exact opposite. I think his success is proof that what he writes about in "Born to Run" is absolutely achievable. He did it. He got out. I disagree with the people who say, 'Look at Bruce now, he doesn't drive a beat-up car.' Good for him that his goods go to fancy schools and ride horses.  I think he's the personification of the American dream. This kid from Freehold whose father had nothing but a bunch of very difficult and seemingly unsatisfying jobs, and a mother who was a working-class office worker, and now he's one of the wealthiest people in music. He should enjoy it. What's funny is that his progression is what Republicans believe can happen. That's what Republicans believe - hard work, talent, ambition. We all know he's the hardest working man in show business. It's a meritocracy.

Goldberg: He doesn't seem to understand this the way you do, though.

Christie: This is where he's inconsistent. I'd love to have that conversation with him. How does he square this? Maybe he'll have a way to square it that makes sense to me, but from the outside, it doesn't makes sense to me.
 
Goldberg: I'm trying to imagine the conversation between the two of you.

Christie: I'd love to have the conversation with him, to ask him how squares this. Maybe he'll have a way to square it that makes some sense to me, but on the outside it doesn't make sense to me. But that my desire to have a serious conversation... I don't think I would be disappointed. If I had a conversation with him, the chance to have that conversation with him, earlier in my life, it would have been the idol conversation, like, 'Oh, my God, what were you thinking when you wrote 'Prove it All Night,' it would have been one of those conversations that he would have been incredibly bored with, you know, "How did you think to write 'Does This Bus stop at 82nd Street,' and the answer would be, "I was on a bus and I wondered if it would stop on 82nd St."
 
The conversation I would have now, I think it would be much more deep and nuanced, about his experience as a New Jerseyan and mine, and a lot of other things. I would love to delve into where we agree and where we disagree.

Goldberg: What do you think your voters think of his politics?

Christie: I think they think what I think, which is, 'That's Bruce." Look, I'm not that he would be unhappy with certain programs cut that are not fully funded. If you talk to folks who have associated with him, he is, from a business perspective, a no-nonsense capitalist. He runs his business like a capitalist, he's the boss, he's in charge, he's the one who makes the most money, he determines how much money everybody else makes. He knows about budgets."

Goldberg: Has his music, his political music, influenced you in any way about the world?
 
Christie: I think that some of his music opens up to me a different world. I'm not a very desperate person. He opens up for me the fact that desperation exists in other people's lives. He gives great voice to that. Not just economic desperation. I've been fortunate in my life not to experience a lot of desperation so I think to have someone able to give voice to that is important.

Goldberg: If you have a job you like, and a job you like, that makes you a fundamentally different person than many Springsteen characters.
 
Christie: Besides my children the biggest blessing in my life is that I've got a job I love. That's a great gift. So knowing and understanding that, it diminishes your ability to put desperation into words. So he had to watch a father who at least from his characterization seemed like he was desperate at times. So I think that's where that gift comes from. You give voice to it because your emotional experience with your parents is a bottomless well. I don't think it ever dries up.
 
My mother is gone now for eight years there is not a moment if I want to, if I take the time, where I can draw emotional inspiration from my life with my mother. So here's Bruce, who has this relationship with his parents, and I think every time he sits down to write, if he wants to he can draw from the well of his father's disappointment, his father's desperation, his father's work ethic, his father's hope and dreams dashed, right? I always knew that there was desperation out there. His words help me understand it better.

Goldberg: Give me an example.

Christie: "Darkness." The whole album is desperate. Ask me the old question, you're on a desert island with only one album, I still go with "Born to Run" because I think it has it all, and with "Darkness" I think I'd kill myself. But you know, all those songs, "Factory," "Adam Raised a Cain," fantastic. There's a lot of stuff on "Born in the U.S.A." that's desperate. It's all packaged, but "Darlington County," getting arrested at the end of it, "Working on a Highway," "Glory Days" is fun, but it's an ex-high school baseball player drinking himself to death, a lonely woman whose husband left her. You listen to "Glory Days," you're dancing, but it's desperate. "Dancing in the Dark," same thing.

You know, this brings me back to that Reagan stuff. Bruce and Landau aren't being completely honest. They're not being dishonest, but they're not being straight. This is the genius of Landau, he knew that this guy was in his moment, he knew the moment, and he said we're going to put 12 songs down that are going to make you jump out of your seat, with the exception of "My Hometown." I mean there's only one song you can't dance to on that album, and yell and scream to. You know, "Cover Me," another depressing song. Completely depressing, but it's completely upbeat, up-tempo. They wanted it both ways, and I can't blame them.

Goldberg: You haven't even brought up "Nebraska" as songs of desperation. "Nebraska" is the best album Springsteen ever made.

Christie: I have a friend, Charles McKenna, huge Bruce fan, who says anything he's done after "The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle" sucks -
 
Goldberg: That's ridiculous.
 
Christie: But that's Charlie, he's a complete absolutist. He says everything that came after that, is the same chords, same beat, who gives a crap, I completely disagree with him.
Goldberg: What's your favorite moment, favorite show?

Christie: Favorite show would be when he played "Born to Run" and "Darkness" back to back on the order they were presented on the albums.  The most fun moment - it's impossible to pick because I've had so many incredible moments. If you remember those Giants Stadium shows, people wanted him to play "Rosalita" and he wouldn't. I was there in the front row when he finally decided to play it and it was the last show. I thought the stadium was going to come down. You could feel it shaking under your feet. And the exhilaration of that song. That stand at the stadium sold half-a-million tickets. For nine nights people were holding "Rosalita" signs up and he would say, "Put those fucking signs down."  And on the 10th night he played it.  He did this whole riff, I think it was during "Light of Day, where he would talk about the differences between New York and New Jersey, you know, the Giants play in New Jersey, the guy who sings "New York, New York" is from Jersey. For a person from Jersey, that never gets old.
 
My wife saw her first show with me at Giants Stadium. I courted her at Bruce shows. It was a requirement for our relationship that she had to learn the music, become part of this thing.

Goldberg: I disagree with you on "Thunder Road," but what's your second-favorite?

Christie: "Because The Night."  The third is "Growin' Up.  Just loved it. I really didn't get into it until college. I just thought that this was a great way to talk about that experience. The experience we've had of awkwardness and the mystery and the nervousness of being a teenager.
 
Goldberg: You told me once that you think Bruce has done much of his best work in the last ten years. I'm not so sure, but why do you think that? Is it "The Rising" that did it for you?

Christie: I was overjoyed at "The Rising." Overjoyed and I went to see the Today Show performance in Asbury Park. I was U.S. Attorney at the time time and it had special meaning for me because I was dealing with those 9/11 issues, with families that lost loved ones. It was vivid. And I thought as I listened to it, "Wow, he's rediscovered his voice."
 
Goldberg: You know, when I was listening to 'The Rising," I thought he could have a little more of a nod toward the fact that 9/11 wasn't a natural disaster, that it was something done to us -
 
Christie: But Bruce's dominant emotion that he express in his music is never anger, it's always desperation. To me, to express that feeling you just talked about, would require a song filled with anger, and no American could feel anything but anger after that. It was murder. But what the album is filled with is desperation, sadness and longing. It's what he expresses best, what he does best. "You're Missing," I mean, I defy anybody who had a connection to 9/11 to listen to that song and not weep, it's so vivid.  Your shirts in the closet, shoes by the bed, letters in the mailbox, I mean, come on.  Amazing. Look, the past 10 years were greatest years in the band's life, they were more sure, they were better with each other, they were tighter as a band, his songs were great, and you just found a way to love every minute of it.
 
Goldberg: You've mentioned "Lonesome Day" from "The Rising" before.
 
Christie: I will listen to that a lot.

Goldberg: Are you very sentimental?

Christie: Yes, with kids, friends, I'm very sentimental. You can kind of wallow it. And my sentimentality comes from realizing how incredibly lucky I am. We're incredibly lucky to have four great, smart, healthy kids, incredibly fortunate. I have a great group of friends that go back all the way to high school. I have an incredible group of professional I've been surrounded with who have taken me to heights I wouldn't have achieved by myself.  When I think of the fortunate things in my life, I get very sentimental.
 
Goldberg: You really go in for the melancholic songs sometimes.  So it's the fragility of life in "Lonesome Day" that gets you?

Christie: Exactly. How you've got to pay good care to everything. That it doesn't just happen. Whether it's your marriage, your relationship with your kids, your relationship with the people you work with. It all needs attention. Left unattended, it can just evaporate. Once it's gone it's hard to get back.

Goldberg: Is there one song that teaches you how to lead your life?

Christie: I tell you, "A Long Walk Home," that one, it's seven or eight deep on a later album, "Magic," it's not one that got pushed out or that people got right away. But I think, you know, 'What we'll do and what won't.' We have certain things we stand on, certain things we won't, and that connection to home. For him, once again, it's a long walk home but it's all familiar to him. Main street in Freehold, and it's all back to that. To me, it's all about what we'll do and what we won't. If you have an understanding of your ore, everything else becomes much easier. If you don't you're much more likely to drift.

Maria, you want to talk about a song, you want to jump in?

Comella: I'm just, what is that about driving all night to bring you a pair of shoes, in "Drive All Night."

Goldberg: That's your question?

Christie: This isn't hard. He wants to buy some shoes in order to taste her tender tongue.  He wants to kiss her so he bought her some shoes. Sometimes a Springsteen song is just what it says it's about.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

His book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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