Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen was born on September 23, 1949 in Long Branch, New Jersey. His debut album was 1973’s GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK, N.J. Bruce’s third studio album, BORN TO RUN (1975, Columbia), took over fourteen months to record, with the title track alone taking six months. The album, produced by Bruce, Jon Landau, and Mike Appel, peaked at #3 on the U.S. Billboard 200. According to Wikipedia.org, Springsteen wanted the album “to sound like Roy Orbison singing Bob Dylan, produced by Spector”. In ’75 Bruce was on the covers of ‘Time’ and ‘Newsweek’, and many of this album’s songs got lots of airplay on rock stations.
An earlier version of the album’s first song had been called ‘Wings for Wheels’. ‘Thunder Road’ takes its title from a 1958 Robert Mitchum movie of the same name. This memorable rock song makes use of harmonica, glockenspiel, saxophones, and Fender Rhodes. These lyrics find Bruce being persuasive: “You can hide ‘neath your covers and study your pain/Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain/Waste your summer praying in vain/For a saviour to rise from these streets/Well now, I’m no hero, that’s understood/All the redemption I can offer, girl is beneath this dirty hood/With a chance to make it good somehow/Hey, what else can we do now?/Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair.../It’s a town full of losers/And I’m pulling out of here to win”. As a single, the next song, ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze Out’, reached only #83 on the Billboard Hot 100. Bruce doesn’t even know what the title refers to! This rock song features horns arranged by Steve Van Zandt and Springsteen. The song is said to talk of how the E Street Band formed: “Tear drops on the city/Bad Scooter searching for his groove/Seem like the whole world walking pretty/And you can’t find the room to move/Well, everybody better move over, that’s all/Cause I’m running on the bad side/And I got my back to the wall.../When the change was made uptown and the Big Man joined the band/From the coastline to the city/All the little pretties raise their hands/I’m gonna sit back right easy and laugh/When Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half”. In the song, Scooter is Bruce, and the Big Man is saxophonist Clarence Clemons.
‘Night’ is a fast paced rock song with Max M. Weinberg on drums and Roy Bittan playing piano, harpsichord, and glockenspiel. These lyrics will appeal to the working man looking for relief from the stresses of the workplace: “You get up every morning at the sound of the bell/You get to work late and the boss man’s giving you hell/Till you’re out on a midnight run/Losing your heart to a beautiful one.../You work nine to five and somehow you survive till the night/Hell, all day they’re busting you up on the outside/But tonight you’re gonna break on through to the inside/And it’ll be right, it’ll be right/And it’ll be tonight/And you know she will be waiting there and you’ll find her somehow you swear/Somewhere tonight”. ‘Backstreets’ is a terrific rock story song that runs six and a half minutes long and begins with a beautiful piano and organ intro. Here are some of the lyrics: “Laying here in the dark/You’re like an angel on my chest/Just another tramp of hearts/Crying tears of faithlessness/Remember all the movies, Terry/We’d go see/Trying to learn how to walk like heroes/We thought we had to be/And after all this time/To find we’re just like all the rest/Stranded in the park/And forced to confess to hiding on the backstreets/Hiding on the backstreets/Where we swore forever friends/On the backstreets until the end/Hiding on the backstreets”.
Next up is the album’s title track, ‘Born to Run’. Danny Federici plays organ, while Clarence Clemons plays saxophone. Unfortunately, both of these talented men are no longer with us. At any rate, the song hit #23 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, and #17 on the U.S. Cash Box Top 100 Singles chart. Roger Daltrey and Melissa Etheridge are among those who have performed live covers of it. It is an energetic rock song told from the perspective of a dreamer: “The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive/Everybody’s out on the run tonight/But there’s no place left to hide/Together, Wendy, we can live with the sadness/I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul/Someday girl, I don’t know when/We’re gonna get to that place where we really want to go/And we’ll walk in the sun/But till then, tramps like us/Baby, we were born to run”. Garry Tallent plays bass on ‘She’s the One’, which reflects on a gal: “With her killer graces and her secret places that no boy can fill/With her hands on her hips/Oh, and that smile on her lips/Because she knows that it kills me/With her soft French cream/Standing in that doorway like a dream/I wish she’d just leave me alone/Because French cream won’t soften them boots/And French kisses will not break that heart of stone/With her long hair falling and her eyes that shine like a midnight sun/Oh-o, she’s the one, she’s the one”.
‘Meeting Across the River’ was the B-side of the title track. Early on it was known as ‘The Heist’. Randy Brecker plays trumpet and Richard Davis the double bass on this curious ballad about making an escape: “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”. Closing things off is an epic nine and a half minute story song that uses strings and includes an extended sax solo. ‘Jungleland’ includes the following words: “Barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge/Drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain/The Rat pulls into town, rolls up his pants/Together they take a stab at romance/And disappear down Flamingo Lane.../Beneath the city two hearts beat/Soul engines running through a night so tender/In a bedroom locked/In whispers of soft refusal/And then surrender/In the tunnels uptown/The Rat’s own dream guns him down/As shots echo down them hallways in the night/No one watches when the ambulance pulls away/Or as the girl shuts out the bedroom light”.
BORN TO RUN is a beautiful rock album. Bruce’s vocals are gritty and passionate and the musicianship is second to none. The eight songs on the album flow well together. As a whole, the album is a great work of art. However, if you are looking for mainly verse and chorus sing-a-long songs, there aren’t many to be found here. The lyrics on this album are autobiographical and it is not easy to decipher the meanings of the songs and the references in them. I’m rating BORN TO RUN 85% and recommending it to fans of Tom Cochrane and Tom Petty. Springsteen’s next studio album wouldn’t emerge until 1978. For more info visit: www.brucespringsteen.net.