Dental clinic, Balaclava, Victoria
June 2019

It’s not every day that you get to introduce a major artist to a fellow human. Like the film Yesterday in which a struggling musician becomes the only person on earth to remember The Beatles, I found a guy who had never heard of Bruce.

Ever since the dental practice I frequent switched from an AM/FM radio on the wall to a SONOS system, of which I am familiar, my level of distraction has declined. And I need distraction.

On previous visits Dr G would have my preference logged on my file and would switch the radio straight to 102.7FM (RRR, the much-loved Melbourne community broadcaster, the radio station of choice in my household).

But the practice had gone high-tech, no doubt influenced by tax write-offs for small business, and installed a SONOS system which boasts thousands of songs, but which can be tricky to navigate when you’ve got your fingers in someone’s mouth. (Dentally, speaking.)

On this visit I put up with the random pop until I could take no more.

“Dr G, I’m sure they must have something better than this. Some blues, perhaps?”

I almost suggested jazz.

He did the equivalent of twiddling the dial, I couldn’t see as I was faced the other way and at an odd angle. Everything he touched sounded like manufactured pop schmaltz, the sort of stuff that Lady Gaga is forced to sing near the end of last year’s version of A Star Is Born.

It didn’t mean anything.

Eventually, Dr G said he could switch to YouTube and try an artist there if I suggested one.

He asked me who my favourite artist was.

Then I remembered how I coped with a trying period last summer. I would put the headphones on as I worked and play YouTube clips from the Boss’s back catalogue. All the way back. To Racing In The Street. To Jungleland. When the Boss still had Clarence with him, owning the stage.

So, I say to Dr G. “Type in Bruce”.

And he types: “bruise”

And I say: “No, b-r-u-c-e.”

And it pops up. The first bruce is, and always will be, Springsteen.

He plays the first one that pops up. Hitch Hikin’.

Dr G listens as Bruce purrs the first track of Western Stars, the album that came out just a few weeks ago.

And he listens.

The next track is The Wayfarer.

And he listens.

Then Tucson Train.

By this point I’m thinking we should get on with the cleaning. The album goes for 50 minutes.

And his reaction? “This guy actually says something. I can understand him. He’s not like all those other songs.”

I agree and tell him that, in my eyes, he is a master storyteller.

And then Dr G remarks: “This would be perfect for someone learning English!”

Yes, my Bangladeshi-born Dr G can be excused for having never been exposed to Bruce.

But now he has. And his slightly out-of-date car even has a CD player.

And I have a lot of CDs. By Bruce.

Louise Maskell has been surrounded by other people's words for some 30 years. Occasionally she strings together a few of her own. Otherwise it's all about the music and tall skinny dogs. She misses The Continental.