Bruce, Bourbon, and Books: Wild Turkey in the Night

This semi-regular series alternates between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.


Hazy Dave Pezza: “Spirit in the Night” has become one of my favorite Bruce songs and defines, in my opinion, the magical nature of Bruce’s debut album “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.”  “Spirit in the Night” is, has been, or will be every 20-something’s mantra: a few kids living through the spirits in the night, drinking, screwing, and fighting their way to sunrise. How Bruce manages to get your body moving, your eyes tearing, and your libido boiling simultaneously is a mystery that has inspired generations. This early, but legendary, track features some of Bruce's best lines and innuendos and keeps you alive all night, from cocktail hour to nightcap.  My only suggestion: grab your own Crazy Janey and a bottle of Wild Turkey first.

Daniel Ford: I must admit that “Spirit in the Night isn’t one of my favorite Springsteen songs. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a brilliant display of songwriting and musicianship, but not a song I can listen to on endless repeat. A little bit of this tune goes a long way for me. And unlike Dave, I’m partial to the live versions from 1973 and 1975. That being said, I think “and she kissed me just right, like only a lonely angel can,” is one of the best lyrics in the history of songwriting, and any song with a characters named “Wild Billy” and “Hazy Davy” and settings like “Greasy Lake” and “Gypsy Angel Row” is the perfect companion to this Friday’s bourbon.

Also, I have to confess that while Hazy Davey and I were listening to this song repeatedly in order to accurately capture our feelings about it, I was pounding my foot on the floor, dancing manically in my chair, and singing the entire time. 


Hazy Davey: Ah, finally we have made our way to Wild Turkey 81, the definitive working man’s bourbon. Wild Turkey is not smooth, at all. Named 81 after its proof, Turkey 81 will remind you what drinking bourbon is all about. Harsh and warm, it makes it easy to keep tipping that elbow on a cold fall night. Wild Turkey 81 might not be the fanciest or best-tasting bourbon on the market, but it’ll get you where you need to go with some attitude. Perfect as a shot with your night’s first Budweiser, Wild Turkey might be a dangerously good companion to “Spirit in the Night.” Drop the needle, pour a shot or two, crack a few beers, and toast to a weekend well-earned. See where it takes you…

Daniel: One of my favorite journalism professors (the late, great Kalev Pehme) ended every class by telling us how eager he was to be reunited with his bottle of Wild Turkey. It was tough for him to hand out compliments, but I received two during my college tenure. I like to think he was at the bottom of a bottle when he graded both of those papers. In his memory, I bought a bottle of Wild Turkey 81 while stocking up for Hurricane Sandy in 2012 (hurricane preparation in New York City typically involves buying copious amounts of alcohol). Let’s just say, the lights in my apartment weren't the only ones that went out. The events of that evening convinced me that I should opt for Wild Turkey only when I’m in the deepest depths of writing despair and need as many “spirits in the night” as possible. 


Daniel: What goes better with a working man’s bourbon than a book featuring good ole American ass kicking? Rick Atkinson completed his epic Liberation Trilogy last year by expertly depicting the Allied Force’s liberation of Europe in The Guns At Last Light. Much like the first two entries in the series—the Pulitzer Prize-winning An Army At Dawn and critically-acclaimed The Day Of BattleThe Guns At Last Light details plenty of glory, but also military incompetence, poor leadership, and smoking (the amount of cigarettes the armies went through every month is truly staggering). If you need a drinking game in order to plow through the 896-page tome, take a shot of Wild Turkey 81 every time Ernest Hemingway pops up. You’ll be drunk by the time you reach an Allied-occupied brothel in Paris (I’d recommend drinking every time British General Bernard Montgomery acts like a wanker, but I don’t want to kill you).

Hazy Davey: Canny Danny recommended this book to me some time ago, and I only just picked it up and began devouring it. Atkinson has been praised for creating one of the best World War II narratives from the American perspective, and the praise is entirely earned. I started at the end of his Liberation Trilogy, jumping right into the invasion of Normandy. Atkinson paints the war effort in remarkable broad strokes from the highest general to the lowest private. He throws in facts so unprecedented that your head begins to hurt. He even traces the roles famous American and British figures throughout the war, such as Kurt Vonnegut’s capture and imprisonment by German forces in Dresden (surviving the inferno caused by Allied bombing that would inspire Slaughterhouse Five) and Ernest Hemingway, who was reporting on the war for Time magazine and lead a cadre of resistance fighters behind the Allied  troops during the liberation of Paris (he and his irregulars entered into the Ritz and ordered a round of drinks soon after). Atkinson makes it all too easy to be a proud American in this large final volume, while not forgiving the U.S. of it major flaws. Bruce, Wild Turkey, and American World War II badassery? Happy Friday!

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