On This Day In Music History: Bruce Springsteen

Today is Bruce Springsteen’s birthday.

He was born on September 23, 1949 in Freehold, NJ, the first child and only son of Douglas and Adele Springsteen. At the age of 13, he bought his first guitar at a pawnshop for $18.00. Years later he told author Dave Marsh: “The first day I can remember looking in a mirror and being able to stand what I was seeing was the day I had a guitar in my hand.”

When Bruce released his first album, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. in 1973, he was hailed as the next “New Dylan.” So, I thought that I’d pattern this post a bit after my post from May 24, 2010, celebrating Bob Dylan’s birthday.

In the vast ocean of all that has been said and written about Bruce Springsteen, including all that he has said about himself, it seems to me that the most important thing is his music: his songs, his records and his performances. But where at this point in the Dylan post, I ask you, the reader, to name your favorite Dylan song, I am instead going to ask you: what is your favorite Bruce Springsteen record? (This can be a recording of a single song or an entire album.)

Why the difference?

To me, Bruce writes great songs, but what he does best is make timeless, amazing records and give incredible live performances of the songs from those records.

In the recording studio, Bruce is famous for laboring over instrumentation, arrangements and the sound of his records. He has spent countless hours over days and weeks and months, getting his recordings to sound the way he hears them in his head. Dylan is famous for going into the studio with a group of musicians, quickly showing them the chord changes and outline of a new song and then launching into it, leaving the session players to catch up, follow along and hopefully, in the immediacy and inspiration of the moment, create something magical. Maybe he’ll try a second or third take, but if nothing seems to be working, he’ll often just move on to another song. So it seems that for Bruce, it’s the records (as well as his live performances) that matter the most.

Now, my answer to my question is: the album The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle. To narrow it down even further: on side 2, “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).”

I love this record. Every time, every single time in all the hundreds of times I’ve put the vinyl on the turntable or the cassette tape in the car tape deck or the CD in the CD player, this record makes me sing along at the top of my lungs, dance around the room (or in that car seat) and smile my biggest smiles. It never fails, never lets me down. It always rock and rolls me right down to the core.

“Spread out now, Rosie, doctor come cut loose her Mama’s reins…”

And off it goes. Whew! What a ride it is.

So now it’s your turn: what is your favorite Bruce Springsteen record?

Click on “leave a comment” below and share you answer

P.S.: In my post of May 18, 2010, I ask the question: “How do you calculate the influence of a song in your life?” In it, I write about the influence Bruce Springsteen and his music have had on my life.

Check it out.

Happy 61st Birthday, Bruce Springsteen. Thank you for everything.

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3 Responses to On This Day In Music History: Bruce Springsteen

  1. TPS says:

    Rosalita has to be it for me. It captures the excitement of this bold new artist, telling his stories of love and loss and life, like no other in his vast catalogue. That concert you and I went to will forever go down as one of the best I’ve ever been to. While I don’t share the unbridled passion for Bruce as you do, I do enjoy his songs immensely and fully recognize his important contribution to American music.

    I remember you telling me once that you were using his records teaching at the Lincoln Street school, during your brief tenure there. You said that while listening, some of the kids made gestures like they were slicking back their hair, implying that this was greaser music…? I wonder how many of them, now some 30 years or more later, share the passion you have…? I’ll bet, quite a few….


  2. Got this link from Gordon Quimby…I wooed my wife with “Rosalita” during the summer of 1980. She’d been unfamiliar with Springsteen, and as always, it was a joy introducing someone new to my favorite rocker. It’s still one of just a handful of songs that mark important milestones for me.

    Springsteen’s stories wrapped around his lyrics are the stories that echo my experiences as well…in an Irish working-class neighborhood in Boston circa 1965. As a new teacher in 1985, circumstances compelled me to write a high school play for an all-girl cast — my first. The title: “South Side Sisters (It’s So Hard to be a Saint in the City).”

    But to your question — without hesitation, the live version of “Thunder Road” from _Bruce Springsteen Live: 1975-85_


  3. Jim says:

    Great blog! I too got this link from GQ and have now bookmarked it.

    I would agree with Kevin that for single songs, you really can’t beat the acoustic version of Thunder Road. For entire albums, I have worn out multiple copies of Greetings from Asbury Park. It is far and away my favorite Bruce album. Born to Run is second, Nebraska a close third.

    Interestingly, on the way to work this morning, the BLM morning person played “The Rising” and mentioned that on this date in 1989, Bruce was in Arizona on a cross country motorcycle trip. He gave an impromptu concert at a bar he stopped in, and gave the waitress $100,000 (yes, a hundred thou) because he had heard she’d had some expensive medical bills caring for her mother. He is, as a musician and a person, one of my all time idols.

    Live, however, I think he’s vastly overrated. He built a “You have to see him live” reputation back in the days when he was in his twenties and thirties and playing for, literally, five hours. The problem is that he’s never changed his shtick, even though most of the songs he’s written since Born in the USA are not rockers.

    When he was a flat-out young rocker, his energy and enthusiasm and the sheer length of the concert made his live sound mix and song selection irrelevant, but now, I find them insufferable. I’ve seen him live with the E-Street Band probably a dozen times and will not see him again. (I specify the E-Street Band, because I’ve also seen him live on a solo acoustic tour and at an Amnesty International show where I believe he had a different backing band, with only part of the E-street band there. He was superb in both of those settings).

    I find his sound mix to be muddy, the drums are mixed too heavy at every show, and all those FOUR guitars basically playing the same parts makes for a crowded middle. For example, if you take the Live 75-85 album Kevin mentioned, there really aren’t many (any?) songs on there with the exception of the acoustic Thunder Road that I want to listen to- I’d rather listen to the studio album than the sludgy mess of his live sound. Somewhere I also have a live acoustic version of “Born to Run,” again, it’s phenomenal. I would love to see him with a stripped down band and a less heavy hand on the sound board. He is a brilliant and inspired performer.

    The other thing I mentioned is his setlist. Here’s a show I went to in Cincinnati in 2000:
    The Ties That Bind/The Promised Land/Two Hearts/Darkness on the Edge of Town/Darlington County/Rendezvous/Mansion on the Hill/The River/Youngstown/Murder Inc./Badlands/Out in the Street/Tenth Avenue Freeze-out/Working on the Highway/Dancing in the Dark/The Ghost of Tom Joad/Born in the U.S.A./Backstreets/Light of Day

    Mansion->River->Youngstown->Murder? The band should have provided the audience with depression meds after that! I believe that the Born in the USA was a very slow pedal steel version at this show, and while I love “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” it was pretty much a downer of a show. I have seen a few of these types of shows from him, some of them (like this one) saved by a great encore, some not. I can deal with a muddy sound mix if the energy at the show is intense. The energy at shows with setlists like this is not intense.

    Back in the days of “We’re playing for five hours, we’ll play every song we’ve ever recorded as well as a bunch of covers,” it doesn’t much matter what order the songs come in. If he had presented this setlist with the gravitas and sonic quality it deserves, it would have been one thing, but show after show he comes out like a rocker with that same old drum heavy mix, ready to do his old-tyme rock-n-roll revival show, regardless of the setlist. It’s like he dressed up for a kids party and played funeral music.

    Sorry to rant on your blog, Bruce really is a favorite of mine, obviously I have some issues with his live show, and no one ever addresses them.

    Finally, having compared Dylan and Springsteen in your post, I felt I should mention “Tweeter and the Monkeyman,” the lyrical swipe that Bob and his fellow Wilburys took at Bruce on the Traveling Wilburys album. It’s a throwaway song, but interesting to see Bob writing in Bruce’s narrative style. They are both brilliant, and both have made my life a better place by providing me with a great soundtrack. Thanks!

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