To suggest that it merely was a “transitional” year would be to understate the significance of 1975 in the Bruce Springsteen story. The New Jersey-born musician thus far had been making headway — slowly. His first two records, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. (Jan. ‘73) and The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle (Nov. ‘73) both generated modest sales and the tracks “Blinded by the Light,” “Spirit in the Night” and “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” were oft-played FM album cuts. However, the 25-year-old songwriter had yet to achieve bona fide breakout success.
Springsteen began work on his third record in the spring of ‘74 with longtime producer, Mike Appel. But the creative process soon stalled and Springsteen’s relationship with Appel became splintered. However, based on the buzz generated by early mix copies of the title track being sent to select radio stations, Springsteen became refocused. A year later, the album finally was finished. And 45 years ago this week (August 25, 1975), Born to Run arrived in stores worldwide via Columbia Records.
It was a PR rep’s dream come true — the press Springsteen was enjoying prior to the record’s release. Rolling Stone writer, Jon Landau’s legendary statement — “I saw rock and roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen,” further fanned the flames for what was soon to come. Within two weeks, Born to Run had hit the Billboard Top Ten. And in October, Springsteen would appear on the covers of both Time and Newsweek. In short order, the album went gold, then platinum. The rest is history.
With Born to Run, Springsteen found his “voice.” And what makes the record such a timeless masterpiece is that it represents more than a collection of catchy tunes. It serves as a hub for eight individual mini-movies — captivating film shorts, offering front-row theater seats. Springsteen had his creative thumb placed firmly on the pulse of the Everyman. His honest and pure poetry painted compelling portraits of people with hopes and dreams — transparent tales that spoke to the frequent frustrations of those pursuits.
Musically, Born to Run also is an impeccable showcase. Springsteen’s Americana-style harmonica playing pinned to Roy Bittan’s twinkling keyboard work dances across the grooves of the intro to “Thunder Road” — making for a magical record opener — one that still inspires us to roll down the window and let the wind blow back our hair, just before surrendering freely to Clarence Clemons’ soaring sax.
Punched in the ribs by the mighty Max Weinberg’s meat and potatoes drum work, the Jersey-flavored stankiness of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” colliding with the rock-ribbed authenticity of “Night” clears the deck for the heart-stopping urgency of the iconic title track. Conversely, the decidedly sparse “Meeting Across the River” stands tall as one of the most moving Born to Run moments — a distinction matched by the record-closing epic, “Jungleland.”
After more than four decades, Born to Run remains fresh — relevant and important. In sum, come for the guts, stay for the glory. But while you’re there, you gotta try Danny Federici’s glockenspiel — it’s superb, always in season!
Born to Run Track Listing:
1. Thunder Road (4:49)
2. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out (3:11)
3. Night (3:00)
4. Backstreets (6:30)
1. Born to Run (4:31)
2. She’s the One (4:30)
3. Meeting Across the River (3:18)
4. Jungleland (9:34)
Run Time: 39:23
Release Date: August 25, 1975
Record Label: Columbia