Posted by: Andy | December 26, 2008

The River(s)

I mentioned The River & various modern updates recently  in my review of the last Gaslight Anthem album, and I thought I’d return to that briefly, just to post the 3 songs in question and see if anyone out there knows of any other direct modern takes/updates/covers/etc.

Click on images to play from my Vox blog.

The original:

11. The River

Lyrics (from here):

“The River”

I come from down in the valley
where mister when you’re young
They bring you up to do like your daddy done
Me and Mary we met in high school
when she was just seventeen
We’d ride out of that valley down to where the fields were green

We’d go down to the river
And into the river we’d dive
Oh down to the river we’d ride

Then I got Mary pregnant
and man that was all she wrote
And for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat
We went down to the courthouse
and the judge put it all to rest
No wedding day smiles no walk down the aisle
No flowers no wedding dress

That night we went down to the river
And into the river we’d dive
Oh down to the river we did ride

I got a job working construction for the Johnstown Company
But lately there ain’t been much work on account of the economy
Now all them things that seemed so important
Well mister they vanished right into the air
Now I just act like I don’t remember
Mary acts like she don’t care

But I remember us riding in my brother’s car
Her body tan and wet down at the reservoir
At night on them banks I’d lie awake
And pull her close just to feel each breath she’d take
Now those memories come back to haunt me
they haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse
that sends me down to the river
though I know the river is dry
That sends me down to the river tonight
Down to the river
my baby and I
Oh down to the river we ride.


The Killers thematic twist/update/take from 2006:


Lyrics:

“This River Is Wild”

Leaves are falling down
On the beautiful ground
I heard a story from the man in red
He said the leaves are falling down
Such a beautiful sound
Son, I think you better go ahead

But you always hold your head up high
Cause it’s a long, long, long way down
This town was meant for passing through
But it ain’t nothing new
Now go and show them
That the world stayed round
But it’s a long, long, long way down

You better run for the hills before they burn
Listen to the sound of the world
And watch it turn
I just want to show you what I know
And catch you when the current lets you go
Or should I just get along with myself

I never did get along with everybody else
I’ve been trying hard to do what’s right
But you know I could stay here all night
And watch the clouds fall from the sky

This river is wild
This river is wild

Run for the hills before they burn
Listen to the sound of the world
Watch it turn
But shake a little
Sometimes I’m nervous when I talk
I shake a little
Sometimes i hate the line I walk
I just want to show you what I know
And catch you when the current lets you go

Or should I just get along with myself
I never did get along with everybody else
Ive been trying hard to do whats right
But you know I could stay here all night
And watch the clouds fall
From the sky

Because this river is wild
God speed you boy
This river is wild

Now Adam’s taking bombs
And he’s stuck on his mom
Because that bitch
Keeps trying to make him pray

He’s with the hippie in the park
Coming over the dark
Just trying to get some of that little girl play

You better run for the hills before they burn
Listen to the sound of the world
But watch it turn
I just want to show you what I know
And catch you when the current lets you go

Or should I get along with myself
I never did get along with everybody else
I’ve been trying hard to do whats right
But you know I could stay here all night
And watch the clouds fall from the sky

And pay this hell in me tonight
Because this river is wild
God speed you boy
This river is wild
God speed you boy
This river is wild

Now the cards are everywhere face in dust
The fairground
I don’t think I ever seen so many headlights
But there’s something pulling me
The circus and the crew
Well they’re just passing through
Making sure the merry still goes round
But it’s a long, long, long way down

And now Gaslight Anthem’s take/update/etc. from this year:

Lyrics:

“Meet me by the River’s Edge”

See I’ve been here for 28 years.
Pounding sweat beneath these wheels.
We tattooed lines beneath our skin.
No surrender, my Bobby Jean.

We’ve been burned by all our fears.
Just from growing up around here.
Our father’s factories marked our cars.
While Eden burned against the stars.

And Sally said, Sally said.
I can’t take no more regret.
It cut us deep, into our souls.
Came and climbed into our bed.
And Sally said, Sally said.
Meet me by the River’s edge.
We’re going to wash these sins away.
Or else we won’t come back again.

You know I had these ballroom dreams.
That, as a child, came to me.
I was a boy in Grandma’s arms.
A mother’s pride and a wounded heart.
And I was full with fiery wonder.
You wore Audrey Hepburn pearls.
You were the only one who understood me then and the only one who will.

And Sally said, Sally said.
I can’t take no more regret.
It cut us deep, into our souls.
Came and climbed into our bed.
And Sally said, Sally said.
Meet me by the River’s edge.
We’re going to wash these sins away.
Or else we won’t come back again.

And now I drive the 101 on the California night.
And I’m amazed at all the stars beneath that old Hollywood sign.
And they waltz the ballet of the boulevard to a place we never kept.
And I’m not sure if we belong here, if I ever really left, or If I can go home.

And Sally said, Sally said.
I can’t take no more regret.
It cut us deep, into our souls.
Came and climbed into our bed.
And Sally said, Sally said.
Meet me by the River’s edge.
We’re going to wash these sins away.
Or else we won’t come back again.

No retreat. No regrets.
Meet me by the river’s edge.

You can see the Gaslight version takes a much more direct angle on Springsteen with some direct quotes in there – just in case you wouldn’t pick up otherwise – but I think they manage to do it in a respectful way (although I do think the Bobbie Jean bit may be going a bit far, but it still floats).  The Gaslight version also manages, to me, to come off as more personal and invested than the Killers version.  Neither is bad, but I think Gaslight does it better.  Also, there is some serious cheese in the Killers track, lyrically (the ‘bitch’ verse) and sonically (the overdone vocals on the chorus).

Of course, I don’t think either can touch the emotion, drama, lyrical or musical content of the original.  It’s just a classic that I think has & will stand the test of time.

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