Friday, February 8, 2008


So I was going to post a few cuts off Born To Run to wrap up Jersey Giants week on the shelf, rounding out (what I consider) the Boss's big three, but there aren't really any hidden gems on it. It's such a monstrous album that all the good songs are well-known. By contrast, his 1995 Greatest Hits contains no songs from the first two albums and three of Born To Run's eight tracks.

Born To Run is also something of an artistic as well as commercial turning point in Springsteen's career. It's the first album produced by Jon Landau, and the first with Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg in the band. And, more than any other, it's the point at which Bruce became BROOOCE!!! The lyrics are simpler, the convoluted wordplay of his early years replaced by the heart-tugging tales of workin' folk for which Springsteen remains best known. And the songs themselves became more anthemic, pushing pretty basic buttons for the listener. It's still a terrific album, every bit the all-time classic its reputation holds it to be, but in a way it's also a break with the past. The transformation from troubadour to superstar begins and ends on Born To Run.

So I figured I'd represent the BROOOCE!!! era with a couple of tracks from the 1986 live box set. Released at the peak of Springsteen's post-Born in the USA fame, Live/1975-85 was the first major box set I was aware of, and started a trend that would peak about ten years later. It's a bloated, excessive, exhaustive marathon of monster hits and sweaty, balls-out performances, just like one of his legendary shows. More than that of any other performer of the rock era, the live Springsteen experience is just too massive to be contained by a simple double album. BROOOCE!!! earned himself a five LP set one three-hour show at a time. It's also, incidentally, the first (only? not sure) Springsteen album to share a credit with the band, and Lord knows they earn it.

For even the casual fan, the set is a treat start to finish, and never feels too long. It sold a whole mess of copies, but I think a lot of people didn't listen to it much; it's quite a commitment. My copy ran me all of ten bucks, and it's in perfect shape. You can find it anywhere.

The set packs in all the elements of a Springsteen show, right down to his famous rambling-bullshit stories about growin' up in Jersey. My favourite of these comes just before "The River", when he yammers away about fightin' with his pop about his long hair and gettin' drafted. The way he starts out sounding somewhat aimless before knocking you out with one touching line at the conclusion shows what a canny performer Springsteen is. The story may not even be true, but he knows just how the blindside the audience with a grab at the heartstrings and here he pulls it off to perfection. Call me a sucker, but I still get goosebumps every time I hear it, even though I always know what's coming.

The box draws from a number of shows through the years, but most of the first three sides all come from the same date, a 1978 performance in a theater (as opposed to a stadium) that must have been a doozy. Even then, "Spirit in the Night" was already an oldie, and the band tears it up here.

Finally, I'm posting "Born To Run" because I didn't post the album version. It's "Born To Run", dude! What more do you want? Listen to how hard the band kicks in after the break! BROOOOOOOCE!!!!!

Buy it... on vinyl.

From my deck to you: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – "The River", "Spirit in the Night" and "Born To Run"

NOTE: One of the benefits of upgrading my file storage account is that I can now post bigger files, meaning no more lower bit rate on songs over ten minutes. Lucky you!

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