39. Bruce Springsteen (& The E Street Band)

Bruce Springsteen is a singer/songwriter from Freehold Borough, New Jersey. He also plays guitar and piano. After two critically acclaimed but commercially tepid efforts, Springsteen burst onto the national music scene in 1975 with his third album, Born To Run. His emergence was accompanied by the double-edged sword of media hype, which imposed a burden of impossible expectations. For the most part, he delivered, and produced a high quality body of work throughout his long career, peaking with the blockbuster Born In The U.S.A. in 1984. Elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, he remains a major figure in American popular music.

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen (b. 1949), singer, songwriter, guitar, piano

Official Bruce Springsteen Website

“greasylake.org”, Bruce Springsteen Fan Website
“backstreets.com”, Bruce Springsteen Fan Website

The E Street Band:

Roy Bittan (b. 1949), keyboards
Garry Tallent (b. 1949), bass
Max Weinberg (b. 1951), drums
Steven Van Zandt (b. 1950), guitar, songwriter, disk jockey, actor
Nils Lofgren (b. 1951), guitar, songwriter
Patti Scialfa (b. 1953), singer, guitar

Clarence Clemons (1942-2011), tenor saxophone, percussion
Danny Federici (1950-2011), organ, accordion

A Great Live Performer

More than any rock musician, save perhaps the Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen is beloved for his live performances. Here is an example of the E Street Band in performance:

Springsteen And Regional Bias

Bruce Springsteen is often identified with his home state of New Jersey. Inevitably, his songs reflect an east coast, working class upbringing. Dying factory towns, the desperation of economic insecurity, the importance of love and deep community pride, are recurrent themes in his music. He is the modern day Woody Guthrie, a champion of the working man and his plight.

I became aware of The Boss while in college in the late 1970s. By then I had heard “Born To Run” and a few others. Even in college, my exposure was limited. By graduation, I had two songs recorded on cassettes, “Prove It All Night” and the fine “Spirit In The Night”. I have no anecdotes about Bruce Springsteen, and no close friends with a powerful connection to his music.

When I consider regional bias in music, Bruce Springsteen always comes to mind. I grew up in Palo Alto, California, an educated, idealistic, white collar town on the cusp of great economic expansion and development. New Jersey is physically and culturally distant from Palo Alto. I can relate to California bands like Chris Isaak, Sly & The Family Stone, and Los Lobos on a variety of subtle levels, while the physical and emotional separation from Springsteen is pronounced.

The Primary Themes

Springsteen’s songs can be characterized in distinct categories. There are folk songs about the working man, and loud, bold rockers with the E Street Band’s Spectoresque “wall of sound”. Intermingled among these two styles are songs about love and lust. Many of Springsteen’s best songs are boldly sexual; he can be very direct.

The most seductive performance ever? A nod to James Brown for those uncomfortable pauses. Admit it ladies, you want him to start playing again.

Among his love songs, “Tunnel Of Love” is his best, the carnival ride an analogy for the intimacy of romantic love. The words are simple and evocative, the singing is clear and understandable, and the merry-go-round sound of the E Street Band provides the perfect backing. At the time, his first marriage to Julianne Phillips was disintegrating. They were divorced in 1989, and Springsteen married band member Patty Scialfa in 1991, to whom he is still married with three children. Note that Phillips was from Oregon and eleven years younger, while Scialfa is only four years younger, and a New Jersey native.

On some loud rockers like “Born To Run” and “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”, the lack of singing diction makes the complex lyrics hard to decipher. Reviewing his music, I was reminded a bit of Melissa Etheridge, for whom every story seems to merit maximum emotion. “Give The Girl A Kiss” sounds directly influenced by Van Morrison. “Born To Run” feels like a two star song, but the musical complexity and critical acclaim compelled me to bump it to three. I find “Born In The USA” and “Glory Days” musically tedious and repetitive; I’d usually flip the dial if the song played on the radio. On the other hand, the lesser-known “My Hometown” from the same album strikes me as timeless.

There are no oustanding solists in the band. Roy Bittan is a fine piano player, and Clarence Clemons is a powerful and emotional sax player, with a style that matches Springsteen’s own guitar work, but the E Street Band will be remembered for fine ensemble playing, and less for the individual contributors.

One senses that Bruce Springsteen is a humble and gracious man who understands his good fortune, and appreciates the fans who adore him.

Bruce Springsteen Songs:

Tunnel Of Love, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭✭✭
Spirit Of The Night, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭✭✭

The Fever, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭✭
Prove It All Night, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭✭
My Hometown, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭✭
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭✭
Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭✭

Thunder Road, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭
Mansion On The Hill, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭
Pink Cadillac, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭
Cover Me, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭
I’m On Fire, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭
Badlands, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭
Hungry Heart, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭
Dancing In The Dark, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭
Brilliant Disguise, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭
The Rising, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭
Give My Love To Rose, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭
Fire, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭
Stolen Car, Bruce Springsteen ✭✭

Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Bruce Springsteen
She’s The One, Bruce Springsteen
Candy’s Room, Bruce Springsteen
Trapped (Live), Bruce Springsteen
Give The Girl A Kiss, Bruce Springsteen

Related Songs:

Highway Patrolman, Johnny Cash ✭✭

Fire, The Pointer Sisters ✭✭

3 thoughts on “39. Bruce Springsteen (& The E Street Band)

  1. George Pazin February 24, 2011 / 8:50 PM

    Hi John –

    Pretty solid list. A couple I’d add would be:

    Growin’ Up (on Greetings…)
    New York City Serenade (on The Wild,…)

    Also, a live version of Because The Night, which he wrote for Patti Smith.

    • theperfectipodcollection March 25, 2015 / 2:25 AM

      Thanks George. This has to set some sort of personal record for a late response. Thanks for reading this blog entry. I have added the first two suggested songs for review, and have also added several live songs to the collection, mostly from a newly available concert recording in 1978 (Cleveland, Ohio). I am in the process of now re-ordering and editing all of the entries, trying to make everything look and sound more acceptable.

  2. El Gringo March 12, 2016 / 1:30 PM

    JK

    Bruce is one of those acts which hasn’t survived well in my play list. As a 20 year I was huge fan and was present in Ann Arbor for the opening show of the epic River Tour. I gradually lost touch with his voice…with one serious exception. Greetings would probably be on my top 25 album list if I had one. I can’t help but think that his original “E St Band” was far better than the Born to run version. Losing Vini Lopez was a serious hit on Bruce’s musical creativity. While the later E St Band is good, I never believed they could take the music to the heights of the group on Greetings. Anyway, I am extremely grateful for Greetings so I shouldn’t complain!

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