For those of us who sat in our bedrooms, listening to “Born to Run” obsessively on our record players, lifting the arm to put the needle back at the beginning of the album side the minute the last song’s last note finished, no other album can compare in the impression it left on our minds and hearts.
I remember the hours at a time I spent listening, sitting within those bright pink walls on that white eyelet bedspread or on that shag rug. I still slept in a little girl’s room circa mid-’70s-style. No headphones, volume turned low because my family couldn’t stand to hear it, I’d read the lyrics inside the album cover as the music played. Over and over, ’til I knew them all by heart. The etching that needle, those grooves, spinning infinitely left on my heart, my subconscious, my psyche still remains today.
That was 40 years ago — the long-awaited third studio album from Bruce Springsteen was released Aug. 25, 1975 (at least according to most; some very reliable sources report its release date as Sept. 1 of that year). The differences in days may be chalked up to the fact that the records were put it in the mail in those days and were delivered to DJs at radio stations before they went on sale to the public so that wasn’t as exact a science as the release of albums today.
So many aspects of daily life and of the recording industry have changed so dramatically in the four decades since, but this album really hasn’t. When I hear one of its songs, I can immediately identify with exactly how I felt then, and how much I identified with the songs’ themes, resilience, rebellion, joy, desperation, and characters. I had seen the whole movie in my mind probably by the 12th or 13th time I’d listened to the songs in order.
In order – there’s a concept that’s been virtually lost in today’s music listening. Much of the sheer power of this album is the order in which the songs were placed. From picking Mary up for “a ride that ain’t free” to the “real death waltz” where they “try to take an honest stand,” the story of “one long summer night,” in Springsteen’s description, unfolds. On shuffle, all these songs are wonderful, but they’re not the album that provides almost a theatrical musical when played in order. The sum of its parts is much greater than how the singles add up.
One of the many wonderful things that have come into my life from the passion I discovered listening to “Born To Run” is my participation in the Friends of the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection as a member of the board of directors. The Special Collection is housed on the campus of Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J., and serves the research and informational needs of music scholars, fans, authors and others with a serious interest in Springsteen’s life, career and work.
Using articles and reviews contained in the Special Collection, I’ve been lucky to write articles for the Friends’ website on the milestone anniversaries of Springsteen’s albums. My compilation of what the critics were saying and what Springsteen thought in his own words at the time is available here.
The Special Collection is such a rich resource with more than 20,000 articles, books, songbooks and tour memorabilia to draw upon. It’s wonderful to get a picture of how the album was received in the months following its release, how it did on the charts as well as how it did in our hearts.
The songs of ‘Born To Run’ miraculously never get old. They’re still mainstays in most every concert. A personal highlight of my life was being lucky enough to strum Springsteen’s Fender during that extended moment in the song “Born To Run” to let as many people as possible in the Pit to play the very guitar that made it all happen, a moment that’s become tradition, a ritual performed at every single concert. No, it never gets old.
So take some time to listen to “Born To Run,” in order, in honor of this anniversary, and raise a toast to a monumental album, arguably one of the best we’ll ever experience.