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A final word.

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All of these songs speak to me on some level—some more so than others. Such a subjective question requires subjective responses. Here they are. An exuberant debut, Springsteen displays his musical influences prominently on his sleeve, ranging from Bob Dylan of course, but also Van Morrison and The Band. Greetings received mostly excellent reviews but the record sold poorly—less than 50, copies. But this is where it all started. Titles in boldface refer to songs discussed in the text.

Titles in italics refer to songs discussed in the bonus section. Springsteen was well aware of the Dylan comparisons at the time, and to his credit, took it in stride. Bob Dylan? I like the cat, Springsteen once said, displaying his s patois to full effect. He admitted some similarities somewhere, but he emphasized, [w]e come from two totally different scenes You can hear them all in there if you want. Blinded By The Light is a wild piece of music, a frothy, loosey-goosey concoction of utter abandon.

Bruce Springsteen - Tougher Than The Rest ( Lyrics )

A flood of images come at you with little or no warning and yet the language itself is simple, the characters ordinary people eccentric perhaps but still ordinary. The song itself may not make much sense from a conventional point of view—it will never be confused with anything from Tin Pan Alley or the Brill Building songbooks—but the images are among the most vibrant in the Springsteen canon.

Tougher Than the Rest: Best Bruce Springsteen Songs by June Skinner Sawyers

Fleshpot mascots, a bloodshot forget-me-not, or a rolling stone preacher from the East are not the types of people you meet in most pop songs. And the names Springsteen gives this motley crew of characters—go-cart Mozart, little Early-Pearly—live in a weird alternate universe somewhere along the Jersey Shore. Indeed, most of the songs, notes Springsteen, were twisted autobiographies.

The entire album was cut in three weeks. But after it was finished, Clive Davis, president of the Columbia record label at the time, came back to Springsteen and complained that nothing on the record sounded even remotely commercial. In other words, there was no single material. Springsteen knows where he came from. Most of the songs he has covered over the years are heavy on Chuck Berry, soul, and Sixties classics especially Creedence Clearwater Revival.

The following is a sampling of covers that Springsteen, thus far, has not committed to vinyl:. The songs from Greetings were written during a particular moment in time. Springsteen himself admitted that he never wrote in that spontaneous, stream-of-conscious style again. Springsteen wrote the songs on Greetings from a very unselfconscious place. Mostly, he was writing for himself and for the hard-core fans who found in his music a reflection of themselves.

The critical response was almost visceral. The legendary Rolling Stone critic Lester Bangs called Springsteen a bold new talent with more than a mouthful to say Greetings was the beginning of something big, and Blinded By The Light its apotheosis. There it is—the very essence of the Springsteen persona—summed up in a single line: his yearning for something better, his spirituality, the worship of the automobile, and the promise of mobility, freedom, and independence it can bring.

The most important thing to remember here is to move forward, to not look back or, to borrow a later Springsteen phrase, to go on further down the road. But there is more. Much more. And a little more than ten years later in Dancing In The Dark, Springsteen again looks in the mirror and finds the face looking back at him lacking—in something.

I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face. In Springsteen enrolled as a freshman at Freehold High School in his hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, during a time of racial tensions. A loner at heart—he had no interest in sports or school activities—music was the only thing that kept him going. He joined a rock band, the Castiles, two years later in Despite being in a band or perhaps because of it , he still felt like an outcast among the larger student body. So much so that when he graduated he was barred from commencement exercises because his peers did not appreciate his long hair.

I suffered daily, daily defeat and humiliation in front of my peers in high school, Springsteen admitted in October during a performance at the Oakland Coliseum. In one of his many loquacious introductions before a live audience, Springsteen described what it was like growing up in a household headed by a remote, taciturn, emotionally challenged father who worked too many hours at tedious jobs that he hated:. When I was growing up, there were two things that were unpopular in my house.

One was me, and the other was my guitar. When I used to start playing, my pop used to turn on the gas jet and try to smoke me out of the room. And I had to go hide on the roof or something.

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But he also finds in the most commonplace of things, in the ordinariness of everyday life, something approaching the transcendental. It remains one of his signature songs, as eagerly awaited today in concert as it was more than 30 years ago. But, like the singer itself, it has changed over the years, becoming, in retrospect, a haunting memory of a life as it was once lived. It triggered many emotions: a touch of wisdom, a smattering of whimsy perhaps, and more than its share of regret.

In early May , Bruce Springsteen performed at the Gaslight in Greenwich Village, Although there were no more than a dozen people in the crowd, the audience member that mattered the most, the audience of one for whom Springsteen was playing to , was the legendary Columbia Records producer John Hammond. In fact, with the exception of Hammond, no one gave the scruffy Dylan look-alike much heed.

According to writer Dunstan Prial, the year-old Springsteen, who had something of a folkie reputation at the time, was wearing scuffed motorcycle boots, ragged blue jeans, and an ill-fitting T-shirt It was the beginning of a beautiful, if short-lived, friendship.


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Hammond died on July 10, It was a hit for the Greg Kihn Band but the only version that counts was sung by Springsteen on his first album. And as we soon learn, the story involves a matter of life and death. A woman has attempted suicide with no apparent motive and the narrator is there for her. I came for you, and then repeats as if there was any doubt, for you. But, ultimately, it is the very real emotions that ring true. The grittiness of it seems even more authentic because we can believe that these people actually exist. It is their story and, in this particular case, the fate of a very real life is truly at stake.

Tougher Than the Rest: 100 Best Bruce Springsteen Songs

The relationship is not an easy one but the narrator is committed to saving this lost soul, to seeing this through no matter what. Her pulse is weakening by the moment.


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He is not ready to let her go. If he could, as he makes clear, he would give up his own life for her if only you could ask. And yet he admires her ability to hang on, even as she is fighting for a life that she herself chose to put into jeopardy. Both were looking to get away—who knew where? She is the one who left her own home to find a better life or at least a better reason to live than the one we were living for.

What is most striking about For You is its humanity and the fact that someone can care so much about someone else that he would be willing to put his life on the line for her.

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It is this very vulnerability that appeals to Springsteen fans, especially women. Like many young people who feel isolated from society, Wurtzel turned to music for solace. So many Springsteen fans feel they have a personal connection with the singer, as if he is singing directly to them and singing directly about their experiences. For Wurtzel, Springsteen, more than anyone, seemed to understand her, seemed to empathize with her, even if it was only in his songs. Wurtzel identifies with Springsteen and his Jersey roots so much that she wishes she could be a boy in New Jersey. In vain, of course, she tries to convince her mother that they should move there.

I want so badly to have my life circumstances match the oppressiveness I feel internally. She realizes both the absurdity and the irony of it all. Springsteen is trying to get out of New Jersey while she is trying to get in. Not surprisingly, given its subject matter, Wurtzel is particularly taken by For You. She identifies with the suicidal victim of the song.