Happy 40th: Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Greetings From Asbury Park, New Jersey’

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Throughout 2013, we’re celebrating classic albums that are reaching their 50th, 40th and 30th anniversaries.  Over the weekend, Bruce Springsteen‘s classic debut, Greetings From Asbury Park, New Jersey, hit the big four-oh.  Here, we take a look at the album and it’s story. 

The Story: After playing in a number of bands, including Earth, Steel Mill and Dr. Zoom & The Sonic Boom, Springsteen decided to go solo.   He was signed to Columbia Records (the label he’s spent his entire career with) by John Hammond, the man who signed Bob Dylan a decade earlier, but it was Columbia label boss Clive Davis who really changed the course of this album.  At Bruce’s VH1 Storytellers in 2005, he explained that after turning in the entire album, Davis said that there weren’t any hits on the record. So he went and wrote “Blinded By The Light” and “Spirit In The Night.” 

The Hits: “Blinded By The Light” was a hit… but not for Bruce.  Manfred Mann covered the song and that version went to #1 in 1976.  Springsteen said at his Storytellers that he wrote it with a rhyming dictionary in hand, and noted that the lyrics to the song included “Cut loose like a Deuce,” referring to a car (a la The Beach Boys’ “Little Deuce Coupe”). However, it went on to be one of the most misheard lyrics in history, with people thinking that instead of “Deuce,” he was singing about “a feminine hygienic procedure.” 

The Other Tracks: “Growin’ Up” was an early example of a song that Springsteen would stretch out in concert, by telling a story in the middle of the song. You can hear this on the live version included on Live 1975-1985. David Bowie and Eddie Vedder have both covered this song. “For You” and “Spirit In The Night” were also covered by Manfred Mann. “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City” was also covered by Bowie. 

The Players:  Clarence Clemons played saxophone on two songs.  As Springsteen explained on Storytellers, that was because Clemons was “missing in action… I couldn’t find him!” Bassist Gary Tallent – still an E Street Band member – played on the album. David Sancious played keyboards and Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez was the drummer; both left the band a few months later after recording the title track to Born To Run

What Happened Next: Bruce wasted no time, releasing his second album, The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle in September of 1973.  

Fun Fact: Bruce and The E Street Band performed the album in its entirety in November of 2009, on the last date of the Working On A Dream tour. 

Brian Ives, Radio.com 

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