The first exposure to Bruce Springsteen that I can remember is from an episode of Growing Pains. Should it embarrass me to admit that I enjoyed watching this show and its reruns back in the day? Eh. I did. Anyway, there is this episode toward the beginning of the series, 1st season maybe, where Mike wants to go see Bruce Springsteen in concert. So, he starts his wheeling and dealing and contacts the contacts of his friends (all by phone!) to score some tickets. I believe it is actually his dad that ends up getting two tickets. So, father and son end up attending the concert together. Now, Mike is so embarrassed to go to the concert with his dad. After the concert, they come out and are both pumped and Jason ends up getting interviewed and let’s just say embarrassment ensues for the son. I remember watching this as a kid and not understanding this episode at all. Who is Bruce Springsteen and why would you be embarrassed to go to a concert with your dad? Really?
Well, I am a bit more familiar with Bruce Springsteen these days but more in recognition of his name and his place in the history of rock. I am not so familiar with his music but a little more familiar after listening and relistening to Born to Run.
My first impressions of this album: nice use of piano, strings, and harmonica. The interplay of the instruments is actually pretty cool; wait, am I supposed to understand a thing he is saying? Well, folks, there you have it – his instrumentation was cool, but I had no idea what the songs were about because I could not understand his words. It’s called diction, Bruce. Anyway, I can understand a little better why he has had such a fantastic career. His music is a bit infectious and I could see myself as a teen in the 80s really rocking to his music.
While I typically associate Bruce Springsteen with the 1980s, Born to Run was actually released in 1975.
This album contains specific references to places in New Jersey. From what I understand, Springsteen was trying to make the songs more identifiable to a larger audience. He spent a lot of time in the studio recording and refining the songs for this album than he had done in the past. He even spent six months just on the track “Born to Run.” He was attempting to create a sound that he could hear in his head but could not create in the studio. It must have been a super frustrating experience for him.
The entirety of this album was composed on the piano and you can hear the influence and importance of the piano in the tracks. The piano goes from providing a melodic framework to helping to support the rhythm section. The function of the piano in this album reminded me of the piano function on a jazz album – super versatile.
The track that stood out the most to me was “Meeting Across the River.” It begins with a trumpet and piano and is very jazz-like. It sets the tone for the piece and is a bit more mellow of a song than the other songs.
I think previous to listening to this album, I would have classified Bruce Springsteen as just a rock musician. Now, I think he is more versatile – he can do rock, jazz, and probably whatever genre he desires.
There are only 8 tracks on this album and it took him over 14 months to record. That says something to me. It says that Bruce Springsteen was a musician trying to create something magical. He was focused on what he could hear and wanted to communicate that to a wide audience – wider than he had reached. His frustration and determination tells me he was (and is) a true musician with foresight and an inner voice that only he could hear and transcribe. I may not have understood a good chunk of his words but I can feel his intent and his musicality.
Musical Personnel: E Street Band
- Bruce Springsteen: lead vocals, lead and rhythm guitars, harmonica, percussion
- Roy Bittan: piano, Fender Rhodes, organ, harpsichord, glockenspiel, background vocals on all tracks except “Born to Run”
- Clarence Clemons: saxophones, tambourine, background vocals
- Danny Federici: organ and glockenspiel on “Born to Run”
- Garry W. Tallent: bass guitar
- Max Weinberg: drums on all tracks except “Born to Run”
- Ernest “Boom” Carter: drums on “Born to Run”
- Suki Lahav: violin on “Jungleland”
- David Sancious: piano, organ on “Born to Run”
- Steven Van Zandt: background vocals on “Thunder Road”, horn arrangements
- Wayne Andre: trombone
- Mike Appel: background vocals
- Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone
- Randy Brecker: trumpet, flugelhorn
- Richard Davis: double bass on “Meeting Across the River”
- David Sanborn: baritone saxophone