Forty years old tomorrow, Bruce Springsteen’s third album remains a perfect piece of rock, says Hazel Davis.
From the gentle opening ivory-tinkles of Thunder Road to the agonised roar at the end of Jungleland, Born To Run, the Boss’s third studio album, is the result of 20 years of rock and roll. It’s a rejection of peace and love and a record finally back in the hands of the hardworking small-town American man. Apparently, it took an astonishing 14 months to record (in what is now the Blauvelt Auto Spa in New York), with Born To Run – possibly the most perfect song ever written – taking six months alone. Not that Bruce is picky or anything.
Thunder Road and Born To Run are all about escape: “Hey, what else can we do now? / Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair / Well, the night’s busting open / These two lanes will take us anywhere.”
Backstreets and Jungleland are all about loss and defeat: “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.” The songs are intricate and evocative portraits of real New Jersey people. There is no pretence, no faffage, just plain, heartfelt singing and some bloody good brass.
OK, that’s that bit over. For me, it’s mostly about heart-pounding passion and excellent frantic outdoor sex. But more on that later.
“I even own a hooded top with ‘Duke Street Kings’ on it – a very niche reference to the song Backstreets. If you don’t get it, how are we even friends?”
I first encountered Springsteen as a child. I was born one year after Born To Run was released, so Born In The USA, released nearly a decade later, should really have been my album. But it wasn’t. I loved the bombast and the whooping, of course, but the youthful desperation of Born To Run got to me even when I didn’t even understand how desperate I would be to escape my own small-town shackles in a few years.
The album has been a constant in my life ever since. It’s marked crushes, loves, losses, highs and lows. It’s been a test to measure potential suitors (if they didn’t, I wouldn’t) and friends (really? Don’t even bother). It’s been the soundtrack to some excellent, joyful shenanigans (try romping to the opening drums of Night. You’re welcome).
It’s been a comfort when the shenanigans ended in the way such things often do, my companion on long journeys, one of my best Walkman friends during a pre-internet spell living on a Scottish island and the thing I have downloaded the most from iTunes (sometimes it’s just urgent), despite having a couple of CD versions and at least one vinyl copy at my mother’s house.
I love this album so much I don’t just know every word, I know the exact point each word ends, I know every drumbeat and every triangle tinkle and I have recreated Clarence Clemons’ (RIP) sax solo with my mouth more times than anyone who knows me would prefer. I even own a hooded top with ‘Duke Street Kings’ on it – a very niche reference to the song Backstreets. If you don’t get it, how are we even friends? AND I’M NOT EVEN EMBARRASSED.
Happy Birthday you perfect piece of rock.1943 Views
Hazel Davis is a freelance writer from West Yorkshire. She has two tiny children but the majority of her hours are taken up with thinking about Alec Baldwin singing sea shanties and the time someone once called her "moreishly interesting".