Forty years ago today one of the greatest rock albums of all time was released. It was the difficult second album for a 23 year old Bruce Springsteen who went on to become a household name.
People seem to love him or hate him. The greatest rock artist of all time or a boring formulaic oldie? This post isn’t about that debate.
How did this young man, who had not exactly been a success at school, manage to conceive, write and put together this masterpiece? Although he probably answered this question himself later in life – “For me, I was somebody who was a smart young guy who didn’t do very well in school. The basic system of education, I didn’t fit in; my intelligence was elsewhere.”
It’s a massive cinematographic style album of the characters and places of where he grew up; stories from the board walk and the beach. Springsteen is observing life from the street corner, rather than driving down the highway.
For me Bruce has never surpassed this album and whilst this was an early (and some argue weaker) incarnation of the E Street Band I love the production and feel of the recording. The music has vast open spaces and room to breath whilst at the same time you can almost feel the heat of a Jersey night. I much prefer the production to the later ‘wall of sound’ production.
As Bruce grew older he seemed to restrict himself into tighter and tighter song structures, that were much more formulaic (albeit a formula that most would be more than happy with). I guess we shouldn’t be angry that he never wrote down this way again, we should just be grateful that, at one time, he did.
So if you detest the thought of listening to Springsteen give this a listen and marvel at the creativity of a 23 year old; you may be pleasantly surprised and if you’re one of the ‘converted’ (like me) have another listen to probably the most underrated album of all time. The last three tracks, especially ‘Incident on 57th Street’ and ‘New York City Serenade’ are some of the best tracks ever written in the ‘rock’ genre (although it defies categorisation); lyrical and vivid story telling at its best. Probably my ‘Desert Island Disc’ if I had to just choose one.