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Saturday, 25 August 2012

Born To Run - What You Mean to Me

Between January 1974 and July 1975 Bruce Springsteen was in the studio with The E Street Band trying to create his third album. His first album ('Greetings From Asbury Park , N.J.') did not sell so well - only 25,000 copies in the first year alone! Neither for that matter did the follow up ('The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle'), which hit the streets 8 months later and was dogged by slow sales. 

There are two things that stand out to me about Springsteen at this time. Firstly, his record company signed him with an awful lot of hype that he was the "New Dylan", but Bruce has never been the "New Anyone", he's always been himself no matter what the expectations of his label or the music press were. Secondly, the first two albums, whilst good, fail to actually capture the true nature of Springsteen's music, for that you would have to rely on his live shows to get a real feel for how these first 16 studio creations should sound. I've heard quite a number of bootlegs from these days and they are phenomenal (for 1973 shows click here. For 1974 shows click here. And for 1975 shows click here.). 

The songs that made up the first two albums became another lifeforce when played live and maybe as he entered the studio in January 1974 to begin work on the new album that was in the back of his mind because he was about to create an album that was a sonic assault on the senses after the fashion of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound!

With a bigger budget to "play with" and the added pressure of his record company expecting to claw some money back after the first two failures (in their eyes, though both albums garnered critical praise) he began crafting the songs and finely tuning them to become the 8 songs that make up the release, surely one of the best 39 minutes and 26 seconds ever carved out on Vinyl! The process probably took a lot longer than he wanted (14 months) and it didn't help that he got stuck for six months working on the title track alone! 

On it's release it finally broke the top ten in the USA peaking at #3 (it had entered the Billboard Charts at #84 on September 13th 1975 and the following week had a massive jump to #8) whilst in the UK it reached #17. All of this success elevated Bruce Springsteen to such dizzy heights - appearing on the cover of both Time and Newsweek in the same week and his record company almost went into overdrive to see the album gain international success (most of this type of hype though was quite despised by Springsteen himself).

I was 10 years old when Springsteen's first two albums came out (ok, technically for the first one I was still 9 years old) and although I really didn't have much of a clue what he was singing about half the time, I mean did you know what a "month long vaction in the stratosphere" (from 'Growin' Up') was when you were 9? Neither did I but I remember hearing songs like 'Blinded by the Light' and being totally amazed at the amount of words he was using in a song and I was hooked. And when the second album came around I probably still hadn't matured enough to even begin to know what he was talking about in 'Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)' when he sang, "The only lover I'm ever gonna need's your soft sweet little girl's tongue Rosie you're the one," but it sounded a little exciting! I remember seeing the video for Rosie on the Old Grey Whistle Test filmed in Arizona in 1978 and I think I knew then that music would always have a place in my life in one way or another.

On August 25th 1975 I was 12 years, 3 months and 19 days old (or young), I was heading for my teenage years fast and on that day Bruce released the album by which set the standard he would be judged by the rest of his career. Eight songs about going places, cars, and girls (I had pretty much discovered them at such a tender age and they weren't smelly like we thought and they were actually really nice to kiss without running away!). I think I even knew at that age that the place I lived would not confine me the rest of my days and so when the final line of 'Thunder Road' kicks in - "It's a town full of losers/And I'm pulling out of here to win," - I know exactly what Bruce is saying and he's telling me that there's a road to be travelled that you'll never discover it if you stay! 

I wanted friends like Bruce had in 'Tenth Avenue Freeze-out' like "Scooter and the Big Man" and I had a feeling that I'd know by experience quite soon that "Somewhere tonight you run sad and free/Until all you can see is the night" (from 'Night'), and that desire in 'Born to Run' - "I want to know if love is wild/girl I want to know if love is real" - I didn't realise then that it would take many, many years to have that one answered! I was still on the journey of discovery and there was a word of hope that seemed to stick with me like a friend throughout all of those days, months and years:

"Someday girl I don't know when
we're gonna get to that place
Where we really want to go
and we'll walk in the sun
But till then tramps like us
baby we were born to run"

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