Today marks the 35th anniversary of the release of one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll albums of all time, also one of the most important in my own musical history…Bruce Springsteen‘s Born To Run, originally issued on August 25th, 1975. Springsteen has been quoted as saying that he was trying to sing like Roy Orbison and produce the songs to sound like Phil Spector‘s famous “Wall of Sound” records, and that description still holds true today.
The album contains many classics not just of Springsteen’s repertoire, but of rock music in general. The title song “Born To Run”, “Thunder Road,” “Jungleland”, to name a few.
I have a personal connection to the music of Springsteen, in that my parents grew up in his hometown of Freehold, New Jersey and attended the same high school–my aunt and uncle still live in the borough and their sons went not only to Freehold High but also to St. Rose of Lima, the infamous Catholic school Springsteen has told many stories about. It was those cousins who gave me taped copies of all of the Springsteen albums through Darkness On the Edge of Town, the newest one at the time when I was around twelve or thirteen and starting to listen to a lot of music. I bought vinyl copies of all of them soon after that, including a half-speed mastered audiophile-quality heavy vinyl copy of Born To Run. At one point I could have sung you the entire lyrics of that album from beginning to end I’d listened to it so many times, but just memorizing the songs wasn’t the only effect it had on me.
I’ve mentioned before how I love to trace artists’ influences backwards and find the origins of the styles they were inspired by; Springsteen is a veritable flood of potential avenues of exploration. From Born to Run I discovered Roy Orbison, the girl group productions of Phil Spector, the surf rock of Jan & Dean, Bo Diddley and Buddy Holly (via “She’s The One” which uses the famous Bo Diddley beat) and Gary U.S. Bonds’ 1950’s hits. I had missed out on the education in 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll that the film American Graffiti had provided the generation prior to mine, but Springsteen’s interviews and reviewers’ takes on Born to Run filled in admirably.
It’s the original album that sticks with me, however, and not just the big hits and best-known songs. “Meeting Across the River” always struck me as a sad yet poetic narrative, a short story inside an even shorter musical vignette. Of the hits, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” is one of my all-time favorite Springsteen moments, a self-referential tribute to the E Street Band that was such a big part of his music. Clarence Clemons, “The Big Man,” is all over the album, and my favorite Clemons moment comes in the waning moments of “Jungleland,” as his sax solo goes from wailing to waning, and the album as a whole draws to a close, its rock ‘n’ roll mission complete until the next time the needle drops on side one.
As good as the album is, the live shows were even better–here’s a few clips from the legendary 1978 Passaic, NJ run that’s been bootlegged numerous times: