Crime Song Wednesday: Meeting Across the River by Bruce Springsteen

This is a song of subtleties, because Springsteen is that good. For example look at the shift from where the narrator just needs a ride to linking Eddie’s fortunes with his own. The narrator is totally spitting game and trying to get Eddie to go along with it. I wonder what Eddie’s perspective in all of this is. As good as the line is about carrying a friend it does beg the question of whether the narrator is carrying or not. Is Eddie the dupe here? One can’t seem to shake the feeling that the deal isn’t going to end well and Springsteen underscores this with the songs abrupt ending. We never know if they made it across the river of if the deal went down. Just as the deal itself is a dream that hasn’t happened yet the song ends leaving us wondering.

In the hands of a lesser writer this wouldn’t be a successful crime story because it would just be the middle part of something but Springsteen breathes worlds into each line and that’s where the fullness of the story comes through.

After reading the lyrics and hearing the song what do you think, is it successful as a crime story?

Hey, Eddie, can you lend me a few bucks
And tonight can you get us a ride
Gotta make it through the tunnel
Got a meeting with a man on the other side

Hey Eddie, this guy, he’s the real thing
So if you want to come along
You gotta promise you won’t say anything
‘Cause this guy don’t dance
And the word’s been passed this is our last chance

We gotta stay cool tonight, Eddie
‘Cause man, we got ourselves out on that line
And if we blow this one
They ain’t gonna be looking for just me this time

And all we gotta do is hold up our end
Here stuff this in your pocket
It’ll look like you’re carrying a friend
And remember, just don’t smile
Change your shirt, ’cause tonight we got style

Well Cherry says she’s gonna walk
‘Cause she found out I took her radio and hocked it
But Eddie, man, she don’t understand
That two grand’s practically sitting here in my pocket

And tonight’s gonna be everything that I said
And when I walk through that door
I’m just gonna throw that money on the bed
She’ll see this time I wasn’t just talking
Then I’m gonna go out walking

Hey Eddie, can you catch us a ride ?

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Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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About Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

5 Replies to “Crime Song Wednesday: Meeting Across the River by Bruce Springsteen”

  1. Hell yeah, it’s a great crime story. I think the key is Cherry, that’s really what the story is about, we can see the whole relationship in his feeling that she doesn’t understand. Of course they’ve been through this before, the money “practically” in his hand and it never gets there. This time it’ll be different. What’s he want the money for? To show her he’s not a screw up and then to leave her, to goout walking. But he is a screw-up and Cherry clearly has self-esteem issues staying with someone who’s a screw-up and he won’t go out walking and… ha ha, got carried away, but really, these characters are that good.

    These characters are season two of The Wire.

  2. Awesome crime story, I like how the song doesn’t really give an ending, you know if the deal didn’t work out that night, there would always be another deal down the line until they “get rich, or die trying”.

  3. John – I got so focused on Eddie that I didn’t even touch on Cherry. This song is SO brilliant that you could easily write 1000 words on it, its bench is that deep.

    “These characters are season two of The Wire.” — In many ways that just kind of nails it. But I think you could argue the characters from S2 of The Wire (really the dock characters) haven’t realized that they have bottomed out. Nick really feels like the dealing is just a temp thing until the shipping industry picks back up again. There is a self deluding element to them. That I think is the key difference.

  4. PokerBen – A lot of the great crime songs go for a straight ahead narrative but Springsteen’s game is better. There is a sophistication to his writing that isn’t quite there in other songs. Is this the greatest crime song ever written? I don’t know, let’s wait and see.

  5. Yes, Brian, I think you’re right about the self-delusion of the characters on The Wire. They probably thought being in a union would help them and it probably did keep them going a little longer than they would have without. They do learn that working and fighting your way into the middle-class is only the beginning and staying there is even tougher. You can do everything that’s asked of you and still slide back.

    Again, sounds just like a Springsteen song.