The word “hometown” conjures up a lot of feelings for me. I was born and raised in Wigan, a town less than 20 miles west of Manchester. I lived there for the first 18 years of my life. I then moved to Manchester for 3 years, where I studied for my degree, before returning home. In 2011 I took the plunge and decided to fulfil my dream of living in London. I have been in London ever since and have no immediate plans to leave.
This song concludes one of my favourite albums – and Bruce’s most successful – “Born in the U.S.A.”. This was the record that rocketed Bruce to superstardom when it was released in June 1984. The song is soft, slow, and quiet. Its content, like much of BITUSA, reflects upon the hardships many American towns faced during the economic twist and turns of the Reagan years, particularly those of Bruce’s home state of New Jersey. The narrator details the history of his hometown, from his memories as a child collecting his Dad’s newspaper, to the racial tensions of the 60s, through to the current time, where “jobs are going, boys / and they ain’t coming back”.
My hometown of Wigan has a similar history. Historically a working class town, Wigan has seen widespread regeneration in the last decade or so, but the memories of our industrial past are never forgotten. Wigan was a major town for coal mining and cotton mills. Industrial northern towns faced severe economic troubles during the Thatcher years and have also had their share of tensions brought about by immigration policies. Despite that 3000 mile gap, “My Hometown” reminds me that some of the differences between Bruce’s experiences and those of my town aren’t so dissimilar. Bruce is the blue collar hero. His message in this song draws distinct parallels with the experiences of Wigan. I feel both a sense of pride and sadness for this. I am proud of my roots, but I’m also sad that my town is often a forgotten town on the map of Britain. What happens in the halls of power in London affects what then transpires in my hometown.
Speaking of London, I was fortunate to hear Bruce play the BITUSA album in full at his Hard Rock Calling gig in June 2013. Glorious summer weather, a great venue, and with excellent supporting acts, that was a day I won’t forget. “My Hometown” was a particularly moving experience for me. Bruce extended the final bars this song, using call-and-response to tell the crowd, “this is your hometown”, and I proudly sung it right back to him. I have lived here in London for almost 3 years. I will never be a born-and-bred Londoner, but home is where the heart is, and my heart is still here in the Big Smoke. Yes, Bruce, this is my hometown now. Well, one of two. Thank you for reminding me.