By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Forty years burning down the road

c71b14f7d4853d150ed52e41e9dd889df4c007efI don’t want to let the day end without taking note of the 40th anniversary of “Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen’s third and best album.

I was a 19-year-old Northeastern student in 1975, riding the bus from my hometown of Middleborough to Boston, where I was on co-op working in public relations at the United Way. I’d just about worn out my copy of “The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle,” his second album, and had seen an incredible show of his at the Music Hall in November 1974. I’d been bugging my local record store for months about “Born to Run,” and I bought it the day it finally came out.

And what an album it was. On one level, I was disappointed. I loved the ensemble playing and long jams on “The E Street Shuffle,” and I thought something had been lost with the single-minded focus on Springsteen that defines “Born to Run.” But more had been gained: a mythic quality that he hadn’t even hinted at previously. Some of it was a mirage. The Spectorish shimmer of “Backstreets” gets me every time, but the lyrics are a muddle. Still, it all works together, and “Thunder Road” may be the best song he ever wrote. (It’s also pretty devastating if you think of it as the prelude to “Racing in the Street,” from “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” From boisterous hope to resignation in three short years.)

Springsteen has maintained his integrity, and he’s still a great live performer. On Aug. 25, 1975, he was magic.

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  1. pauljbass

    Agree on Thunder Road. What an amazing song. All these years later I’ve taken a second look at Darkness at the Edge of Town, and find that the songs are stronger than I’d realized — I think deeper and even perhaps more honest than most of Born to Run. Raw. I’m told by someone who knows a lot more about Springsteen that he was influenced by punk/new wave to strip it down and get closer to his real feelings.

    • Dan Kennedy

      By all indications Springsteen thinks “Darkness” is his best album. I love the sound and feel of “Born to Run,” but with the exception of “Thunder Road,” I agree that the lyrics on “Darkness” are stronger.

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