Born To Run’s eight songs run to less than 40 minutes in length, but comprise a whole as satisfying as a portion of exquisitely rich chocolate cake. It seems Springsteen truly went for broke in 1975 after his first two albums had been critically well-received but less so commercially. Music critic Jon Landau became his producer and joined Bruce with his E-Street band in the studio to make what remains a classic, honest musical expression of hope, dreams and survival.
The colossal wall of sound production would make Phil Spector proud. Clarence Clemons’ triumphant yet bittersweet saxophone wailing and Roy Bittan’s nagging piano riffs augment the tough Telecaster guitar sound, while chiming glockenspiel and Max Weinberg’s drumming cement the heady mix.
Lyrically, it’s a dramatic collection of blue-collar tales of love and making ends meet that could only come from New Jersey’s favourite son. He clearly took a few ideas from storytellers like Van Morrison and Bob Dylan but also forged his own uplifting style. In ''Meeting Across The River'', a street tale Lou Reed would be proud of, listeners can ponder on a great deluded hustler’s line: 'That two grand’s practically sitting here in my pocket.' ''Thunder Road'' meanwhile, is almost effortlessly cinematic. In two lines there’s imagery more striking than most songwriters can manage on a whole album: 'In the skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets… Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet.' On the excellent title track familiar BS motifs are returned to, particularly running away and the allure of fast cars, 'Chrome-wheeled, fuel-injected and stepping out over the line…We gotta get out while we’re young.' Few tunesmiths can make a bad situation sound so good.
Like Ry Cooder, over a lengthy career the working-class NJ hero has proved himself to be a remarkably versatile operator. He’s taken on rootsy American folk material, written about 9/11 and, of course, had gargantuan commercial success with Born In The USA. Contemporary bands are never slow in praising him and his influence is still keenly felt. In songwriting terms alone Arcade Fire, REM and Mercury Rev have all clearly borrowed his ideas down the years and it’s unlikely they’ll be the last. --Lou Thomas
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