Happy 40th Anniversary to Born To Run

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Happy 40th Anniversary to one of the greatest rock albums ever, Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run. Released on August 25th, 1975, the Boss’s third studio album was his effort to make a record that would break him into the mainstream. He more than accomplished that and created a body of work that captured the essence of the rock and roll dream, and the mood of the 70s collective American psyche.

In an excellent article in The Atlantic, Born to Run and the Decline of the American Dream, writer Joshua Zeitz sets the scene:

Forty years ago, on the eve of its official release, “Born to Run”—the song that propelled Bruce Springsteen into the rock-and-roll stratosphere—had already attracted a small cult following in the American rust belt.

At the time, Springsteen desperately needed a break. Despite vigorous promotion by Columbia Records, his first two albums, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle, had been commercial flops. Though his band spent virtually every waking hour either in the recording studio or on tour, their road earnings were barely enough to live on.

Sensing the need for a smash, in late 1974 Mike Appel, Bruce’s manager, distributed a rough cut of “Born to Run” to select disc jockeys. Within weeks, it became an underground hit. Young people flooded record stores seeking copies of the new single, which didn’t yet exist, and radio stations that hadn’t been on Appel’s small distribution list bombarded him with requests for the new album, which also didn’t exist. In Philadelphia, demand for the title track was so strong that WFIL, the city’s top-40 AM station, aired it multiple times each day. In working-class Cleveland, the DJ Kid Leo played the song religiously at 5:55 p.m. each Friday afternoon on WMMS, to “officially launch the weekend.” Set against the E Street Band’s energetic blend of horns, keyboards, guitars, and percussion, “Born to Run” was a rollicking ballad of escape, packed full of cultural references that working-class listeners recognized immediately.

From the first track, “Thunder Road,” to the last, the epic song – “Jungleland” – Springsteen’s masterpiece continues to have a lasting impact. In his review for Rolling Stone, music critic Greil Marcus wrote:

Born To Run is a magnificent album that pays off on every bet ever placed on him — a ’57 Chevy running on melted down Crystals records that shuts down every claim that has been made. And it should crack his future wide open.

The song titles by themselves — “Thunder Road,” “Night,” “Backstreets,” “Born to Run,” “Jungleland” — suggest the extraordinary dramatic authority that is at the heart of Springsteen’s new music. It is the drama that counts; the stories Springsteen is telling are nothing new, though no one has ever told them better or made them matter more. Their familiar romance is half their power: The promise and the threat of the night; the lure of the road; the quest for a chance worth taking and the lust to pay its price; girls glimpsed once at 80 miles an hour and never forgotten; the city streets as the last, permanent American frontier. We know the story: one thousand and one American nights, one long night of fear and love.

Below, watch and listen to a track by track playlist of Born To Run, featuring performances all recorded in Philly, one of the few cities that embraced Springsteen early in his career.

Side One

Thunder Road

Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out



Side Two

Born To Run

She’s The One

Meeting Across The River


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