Fiona Sturges: Does gender explain my immunity to Bruce Springsteen's songs of cars, bars and women called Mary?

He is the working-class hero, the champion of the underdog, the everyman in search of the American Dream. His place in the pop canon is irrefutable, his name mentioned in the same breath as Tom Waits, Neil Young, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. He's a born showman, a consummate storyteller, a principled poet. So why is it that Bruce Springsteen leaves me cold?

I'm pretty sure that the Boss will sleep soundly at night with the knowledge that I remain unconverted. I, on the other hand, find my resistance puzzling. Good friends with whom I share musical tastes view him with an almost religious devotion. On paper, he seems to embody everything the discerning rock fan (ie, me) would want from a musician. There are times when I like nothing more than stadium-busting, fist-punching, fuel-injected rock'n'roll, from the Stones to AC/DC. Bruce and I should be made for each other.

And yet... Try as I might to engage with him, I cannot. His raspy vocals do nothing for me. His way with a rhyming couplet is evident but his words leave me unmoved. As for that sax, don't get me started. When I hear it, it's like someone is drilling a hole into my brain.

There can, I think, be only one explanation for this Bruce intolerance. It is because I have a fundamental flaw, a defect that cannot be rectified and that sets me at a hopeless disadvantage: I'm not a man.

When he emerged in the Seventies, Springsteen offered a vivid picture of manhood. His songs depicted a testosterone-filled world of car-racing, brawling and partying. He spoke exclusively of brotherhood and the male experience. You can smell the sweat and hear the revving engines on tracks such as "Racing in the Street" or "It's Hard to be a Saint in the City" or "Thunder Road". Sure, there were women. There was Mary, Wendy, Kitty, Janey, Sandy and Rosalita. But while they were appreciated, they were largely viewed from a distance. Both literally and metaphorically, Bruce was always in the driving seat.

Springsteen is, to my mind, the musical equivalent to John Wayne. When I was growing up, Wayne's films were viewed in a spirit of slack-jawed wonder by the men in our house. To my father he was magnificent, dependable and heroic. To me, he was a mumbling, pot-bellied bore who walked like he'd just peed his pants. Now, Springsteen is no mumbler, and I am certainly not casting aspersions on his girth. But, like Wayne, he is a man's man. He's an aspirational figure, a macho symbol of what men think they should be.

Of course, two distinct Springsteens have emerged over the years. The first is rock's alpha male, known affectionately as the Boss, who dresses in denim and leather, whose blood runs red, white and blue, and who sells out stadiums in the clink of a cash register. Then there's the troubled soul behind 1982's Nebraska album or The Ghost of Tom Joad, a troubadour with a direct line to the disenfranchised. I am immune to both. It's not just being a woman that's the problem. I'm a middle-class English woman who, give or take the odd summer job, has always been happy in her work. I don't even drive.

Naturally I'm not saying that you have to be a white, working-class, car-crazy American male to appreciate Springsteen, no more than you have to be a black kid from the LA ghetto to listen to NWA or a nutty Icelander to admire Björk. Social and cultural distance from one's musical heroes frequently leads to greater potency.

To the outsider, the notion of a blue-collar worker struggling to make ends meet in the American hinterlands might seem like the most romantic of situations, conjuring the same atmospheric scenes as Steinbeck and Twain. But for me, Springsteen's visions of burned-out Chevrolets, stagnating small towns and dusty highways don't strike a chord. They don't make me feel wistful or uplifted, or make me want to book a holiday to the mid-west. They seem bombastic, sentimental and clichéd, symbolic of the eternal adolescent who dreams of cars and guitars.

It's notable that among Springsteen's better-known fans, who include Tony Blair, Barack Obama, Nick Hornby, Jeremy Vine, Badly Drawn Boy and Greil Marcus, all of them are men. My friends who adore him are all men. I'm not suggesting that female Springsteen fans don't exist but I've yet to meet one.

There are, one imagines, as many women who love Bruce as there are men that don't. A music-writer friend confessed recently that he has never liked Springsteen, a fact that makes him, to use his phrase, "a big Jessie". Received wisdom has it that, like football and beer, men should love Springsteen. If they don't, it seems their very manhood is called into question.

To me and, I suspect, to many of his detractors, Bruce will forever be the smirking pillock from the video of 1984's "Dancing in the Dark," complete with tight jeans and rolled-up sleeves (check those biceps, girls!), extending his hand to a fan and dancing with her on stage. As gender-bending upstarts invaded the charts and Madonna cavorted in her underwear, Springsteen remained, in his jeans and bandana, an unambiguous, humourless island of masculinity. He may not have worn the headband in 25 years but he remains as synonymous with it as Morrissey is with gladioli, Angus Young with short trousers, or John Wayne with a cowboy hat.

I'm reliably informed that Bruce is now making the best albums of his career. This year, he played the Super Bowl, a gig that was surely destined to be his (watching it, my preconceptions were confirmed. There he was, legs astride, sleeves rolled up, playing his guitar like he was setting to work on a pile of logs). Tomorrow, he plays Glastonbury. Given what I hear about Bruce concerts, it will go on for hours, an extended meditation on the male psyche that will send several-thousand males rushing into a mid-life crisis.

But perhaps I'm being unfair. While gender may exert a degree of influence on our musical tastes, it doesn't dictate it. Any reasonably intelligent woman exposed to the cod-feminist babble of Alanis Morissette knows that. As with physical attraction, great music requires that unique connection with its listener, an indefinable chemistry that can lead to a life-long love affair.

Over the last week I have been listening to the new Eels LP, Hombre Lobo. It is composed and sung by Mark E Everett, a white, American, gravel-voiced soul-rocker who dresses like a Sixties factory worker and who specialises in curiously uplifting songs of love and death. There are songs on all his albums that bring a tear to my eye in a way that Bruce's never have.

Why is that? Perhaps it's just a chemical thing, and that Everett is my musical soul mate. Maybe me and Bruce are just not meant to be.

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Creep show: Tim Cockerill in ‘Spider House’

TVEnough to make ardent arachnophobes think twice

Arts and Entertainment
Steven, Ella Jade and Sarah in the boardroom
tvThe Apprentice contestants take a battering from the business mogul
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Jewel in the crown: drawings from ‘The Letter for the King’, an adventure about a boy and his mission to save a medieval realm
Arts and Entertainment
Juergen Wolf won the Young Masters Art Prize 2014 with his mixed media painting on wood, 'Untitled'
Arts and Entertainment
Iron Man and Captain America in a scene from
filmThe upcoming 'Black Panther' film will feature a solo black male lead, while a female superhero will take centre stage in 'Captain Marvel'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Imperial War Museum, pictured, has campaigned to display copyrighted works during the First World War centenary
Arts and Entertainment
American Horror Story veteran Sarah Paulson plays conjoined twins Dot and Bette Tattler
tvReview: Yes, it’s depraved for the most part but strangely enough it has heart to it
Arts and Entertainment
The mind behind Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin

Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Dorothy in Return to Oz

film Unintentionally terrifying children's movies to get you howling (in fear, tears or laughter)
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Robert James-Collier as under-butler Thomas

TVLady Edith and Thomas show sad signs of the time
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
The Dad's Army cast hit the big screen

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning?
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
    Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

    11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

    Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
    Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

    Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

    The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
    Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

    The school that means business

    Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
    10 best tablets

    The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

    They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
    Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

    Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

    The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
    Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

    Pete Jenson's a Different League

    Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
    John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
    The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

    The killer instinct

    Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
    Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

    Clothing the gap

    A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

    The Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain