Musical palate cleanser, one word edition

One reason I love this country is because of our ability, even in trying times like now, to come together and lose our collective shit over trivialities like one word in the first verse of a Bruce Springsteen song.

I mean, this is priceless.

In case anyone is wondering why this became a matter of grave national concern in the summer of ’21, you can thank the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, who knows grave national concerns. She apparently hadn’t previously recognized this one as such, though, when she attended “Springsteen on Broadway” July 3 and innocently tweeted out what turned out to be the correct “sways” line, instantly enraging about half of America, as some Haberman tweets are wont to do.

The firestorm continued on social media for close to two weeks before Los Angeles Times contributor Rob Tannenbaum published one of the most riveting pieces of investigative journalism in the music space since Jim DeRogatis’ R. Kelly reporting. Tannenbaum’s inquiries, though, led to a “Rashomon”-ic dead end. The writer noted that Sotheby’s had two years ago auctioned off Springsteen’s original handwritten lyrics, which read, “The screen door slams Anne dress sways,” which did seem revealing but also raised the question of whether to trust a guy who’d promised both Anne and Mary he would take them away. Artists who’ve covered the song over the years aid they’d always sung “waves,” and Melissa Etheridge, who sang it as a duet with Springsteen on “MTV Unplugged,” told the Times she discussed the lyrics with him then and “he would’ve told me if it wasn’t ‘waves.’ He would’ve said, ‘You’re singing it wrong, honey.’ So it’s definitely ‘waves.’” Declared country star Eric Church, who’s also often covered the tune: “‘Sways’ is sexier.” Assessing the empirical evidence at hand, Tannenbaum firmly concluded: “Springsteen is not one of rock’s great enunciators.”

Meanwhile, Steven Van Zandt, who could have ridden to the rescue, and who expounds on so many subjects on Twitter, had found one he considered beneath him. In response to queries, the E Street Band guitarist wrote: “Oy vey. Get this Bruce lyric shit outta my feed!”

Two weeks of this!

This is healthy.  No, really.  It restores my faith in mankind that we can still lose ourselves in irrelevancies like this.  ‘Murica, you go, girl!

Eh, what’s that?  The song… oh, yeah.  Here you go.


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21 responses to “Musical palate cleanser, one word edition

  1. cowetadawg

    My 5-LP Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Live/1975-85 lyric sheet says “sways”. I’d have fought someone who tried to convince me it was anything other than “waves” until now. Eh, I’m sticking with what I hear.


  2. drunkenmonken

    And all this time I thought the most wrongly sang lyric was in “Blinded by the light” by Manfred Mann.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. SCDawg

    “There’s a bathroom, on the right”. CCR

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night
    You ain’t a beauty but, hey, you’re alright
    Oh, and that’s alright with me”

    How many times did I live out those lyrics back in the day….talk about old Glory Days…thought I’d toss in 1 more Boss reference

    Thanks for this, Bluto!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I never conceived anything but waves, but when I read about this on Monday I had to agree that sways a) is a better rhyme and 2) makes more sense to the description of Mary dancing across the porch.

    Didn’t Nick Hornby do an analysis of this song years ago? I wonder if it came up there.

    Your larger point about this debate being a sort of healthy sign, like a hearkening back to the pointless blue/gold dress argument a few years ago, is spot on.

    Liked by 1 person


    His voice, like a badly running chainsaw.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. beatarmy92

    Bruce is so overrated. Anyone losing their minds over this loses their cool card. This is like two nerds arguing over D&D.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. In the mid-80’s, the Atlanta Rock 96 morning show used to have listeners call in with lyrics they heard incorrectly. One of the funniest radio bits ever.


  9. I love how people are like “Dresses don’t wave” – sir, flags wave. The right kind of dress can certain wave in the GD wind. It doesn’t materially change what happens to the lady’s dress.


  10. Opelikadawg

    “… but I found out what people mean by dinin’ out “


  11. beforeterry

    we were blasting it from hill hall in 75. never forget it. the whole album was life changing


  12. TripleB

    Waves never occurred to me. How does a dress wave? Didn’t realize there was a controversy.
    By the way, I saw Melissa Etheridge do a street concert on the downtown strip in Vegas the year before Corona Virus. She was good, but didn’t sing that song.


  13. leslie22h

    I sang lead vocal on Thunder Road for years in my band, and while I too thought the word was waves, it sounds like “sways” when I sing it. Steve Van Zandt’s response was perfect.