Happy Birthday Bruce Springsteen: Born To Run Is Still The Best Album I Ever Heard

The Boss turns 64 today, and 38 years since it's initial release his breakthrough album will always be the greatest thing I ever heard...
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The Boss turns 64 today, and 38 years since it's initial release his breakthrough album will always be the greatest thing I ever heard...
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I was a proper Grammar School kid when I was growing up. Rugby Union and music was my life. Of course being a Grammar School boy music was taken deadly serious. Serious boys in seriously bad clothes listening to serious music.

Led Zep, Sabbath, Gentle Giant, Yes, Tangerine Dream and ELP were some of the artists that made up the regular playlist in the sixth form common room and at the school disco.

Yet away in the corner there was a small gang of us that liked Bowie, Roxy, Cockney Rebel, Mott and all things Glam.

The Bowie Freaks, the Roxy Boys, the ones that liked bands “that couldn’t play”. Pop bands, poseurs, puffs…

Sat in the corner listening to these art school boys from the big city. From there we got into Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, Charles Bukowski and Jack Kerouac. Charles Baudelaire and Jacques Brel. Basically anybody that Messrs Bowie, Ferry, Harley or Hunter name checked.

However those Grand Masters of Glam were all huge Bob Dylan fans and once we knew that and discovered Mr Zimmerman then there was no looking back.

Lyrics were dissected, meanings meandered over and his back catalogue snapped up.

Then somewhere, somewhere out in the ether a buzz developed about a kid from New Jersey. The inkies – the NME, Sounds and Melody Maker - were getting excited about this kid from New Jersey. This kid called Bruce Springsteen. “The Future of Rock and Roll”

Even now when I hear the title track I’m back home. Messing about with my mates playing snooker in our front room. Or with my girlfriend at the time. When we were young and innocent - if not wild.

We simply had to have a piece of this and it was Roy Hurst’s Record Stall in the market that took my £2.28 for the latest album by this kid from New Jersey. I had no idea what I was buying and, in all honestly, there wasn’t the same excitement I’d have on the bus back after buying the latest Bowie album on the day of release but it was a reasonably excited seventeen-year-old that took the vinyl from the amazing stark black and white sleeve and placed it on the family radiogram. A reasonably excited seventeen-year-old that looked at the lyrics, sat back and…

"The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves. Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays, Roy Orbison singing for the lonely."

And so begins the (now) classic Born to Run album by Bruce Springsteen and wow!

I’m blown away - eight songs beginning with the awesome Thunder Road and ending with the epic ten minute Jungleland. The album is credited to Bruce himself but he's just one part of a truly marvelous record. The E Street Band is fantastic with Clarence Clemons' saxophone never sounding better. The album takes you deep into New Jersey. Blue Collar romances, gang warfare and gorgeous love songs. Oh and the brilliant title track itself. Like most people that bought this album I went back, bought his earlier albums and have been with him ever since. And it is those first three albums that now shine. Sure Springsteen continues to deliver the goods but he has never been as relevant or as cool as he was between 1973 and 1976.

The first two albums Greetings from Asbury Park NJ and The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle were both released in 1973 (in January and September respectively) and introduced the world to Bruce Springsteen and to his world of New Jersey. The songs are steeped in the street, the characters that inhibit them and the love, loss and shenanigans that went on (on) the mean streets of NJ.

From the nostalgic Growin’ Up, the glorious Lost in The Flood and story of suicide in For You on Greetings - to the love of the waitress Sandy, the lust of Rosalita and the burlesque of Wild Billy's Circus Story on Wild, Springsteen and the E Street band blow us away.

If he were just another singer-songwriter then his love of Bob Dylan would have meant he was merely another copyist. But he added soul and funk and 50s rock and roll. And whilst Dylan was/is cynical and browbeaten Springsteen is exuberant, passionate and optimistic. There is always a way off the streets and by Born to Run he is moving away. He is on the open road, with his mates in tow on their way to fame and fortune.

Then somewhere, somewhere out in the ether a buzz developed about a kid from New Jersey. The inkies – the NME, Sounds and Melody Maker - were getting excited about this kid from New Jersey. This kid called Bruce Springsteen

But it’s that first introduction that still blows my mind. The introduction to Thunder Road, the album and Bruce. Through the funk of Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, the dangerous beauty of Meeting Across the River, the grandeur of Jungleland and of course the title track.

Even now when I hear the title track I’m back home. Messing about with my mates playing snooker in our front room. Or with my girlfriend at the time. When we were young and innocent - if not wild.

Sat on the sofa singing: "Wendy let me in I wanna be your friend I want to guard your dreams and visions"

Back then when I was seventeen and Growin’ up – no longer a Bowie Freak or a Roxy Boy - and she was sixteen and she looked up to me and I held her hand and talked about literature and music and looked into eyes. Back then, eh. Back in our small village when we talked about going to London and fulfilling our dreams. How I was going to write for the NME and she was going to be a doctor or a dentist or an accountant. But an accountant with soul. When we had so many dreams. When we had so many fucking dreams…

A few years later we were both in London. Just good friends, going our separate ways. Bruce had moved onwards and upwards.

We’d all moved on but such is the power of music that even though I’ve followed Bruce’s career, seen him live a few times and bought pretty much everything he’s released nothing has the power of Born to Run. I’ve been privileged to see hundreds of bands and bought thousands of records. Seen everybody from The Clash to Bob Marley, Tom Waits to Nina Simone yet nothing moves me quite the same as those first lines of Thunder Road when I’m transported back to the small village I grew up in with my mates and my girlfriend. Listening to the greatest record I’ve ever heard. All of us with so many dreams. So many fucking dreams…

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