Meditation outtakes

One of the strangest Springsteen bootlegs out there is the Lost Masters series. The collection runs dozens of discs and is packed with outtakes from studio sessions in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Fan legend holds a disgruntled engineer leaked them after leaving the family. Whatever the real story, the set is truly for aficionados. A few of the outtakes are good enough to have made it, eventually, to the Tracks box set in the late ’90s, or other archival releases since. Other songs are unchosen cuts of released recordings, many often good ones, all offering alternative universes of the catalogue. Others still — maybe the majority — are lost gems or simply lost, never finding their final form or never becoming more than musical fragments. Try listening to a half-dozen takes in a row of a song that never came together. Like I said, for the aficionados. The students, the curious.

But, occasionally, the fragments stick. After more harried days, a half-song from Lost Masters that comes to mind as I try to wind down is Your Love Is All Around Me. There are two takes of the song, with just ’83 Bruce in the Hollywood Hills in likely a too-big house, and only a semblance of lyrics.

On the first take, the tape is skipping all over the place, and the goal is to get words on tape, to strum and hope for magic. None comes. Directly.  No great phrases fall out of the sky, but a mood emerges around the guitar. A single phrase sticks and repeats, wrapping around the neck and then the body. “You love is all around me now, a round me now, around me now….”

The second take of the song seems to realize a meditation is in hand. Rare falsetto almost throughout, a setup verse sits at the beginning, and then we go wondering, with a single thought in focus and other images drifting — pushed? — away. The song winds down at one point only to revive. No, we’re not done here. No, peace is still elusive. The song ends in name only.

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