Today, I felt a little like Tony Soprano while driving to work, but instead of Journey or BTO, I was rocking out to one of the greatest albums ever released, Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen.
A strange and wonderful sensation came over me by the time the title track came on (which will always signal the beginning of Side Two to me even when hearing it on an iPod).
“Born To Run” is still such a powerful song, and I got the chills this morning as if I was hearing it for the first time all over again. Except, something was dramatically different…all of the years that have passed by, the friends that have come and gone and the life events that have taken place began to run through my mind as the song played, bringing tears to my eyes as I realized just how many years have slipped away and how much I’ve changed since I first experienced the power of “Born To Run.”
It was a coming of age album, and I just happened to be coming of age in 1975 when the album came out. This song vocalized the feelings most of us in my age group shared of needing an escape, and being on the precipice of something unknown that cannot be found in your own home town – “Baby this town rips the bones from your back / It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap / We gotta get out while were young / `cause tramps like us, baby we were Born To Run…Together we could break this trap / Well run till we drop, / baby we’ll never go back…” – and it all came drifting back to me this morning during its four and a half minute duration.
While listening, I experienced the same feeling of nirvana I’ve gotten many times over the years watching The E Street Band kick into this song in lit up arenas and stadiums (especially in NJ) with thirty to fifty thousand fans singing along in unison as if their lives depended on it. And it felt great…it’s too bad that all of that greatness culminated in going to work, but that’s what happens when you don’t hit the Powerball…
Back in the ‘70s, I usually found out about new record releases either from magazines like Rolling Stone and Creem, or most importantly, from reviews in the Sunday New York Times Arts & Leisure section which were usually written by Jon Pareles or John Rockwell. Not only would I find out about artists and records I’d never heard about before, but I could also see what the album covers were going to look like in Sam Goody’s ads, hoping that I’d be able to score one of the precious platters on display during the coming week.
I distinctly remember reading the article that introduced me to Patti Smith’s Horses back in 1975, and I also remember opening the August 29th 1975 edition of the NY Times and reading Rockwell’s headline about Bruce Springsteen’s new album: “Springsteen’s Rock, Poetry At Its Best.” I probably first heard tracks from the album, including today’s Song Of The Day, introduced by Scott Muni on 102.7 WNEW, our local FM rock station in New York City.
I can also remember seeing the album cover for the first time with a smiling, leather-clad Bruce leaning on the Big Man’s shoulder. They were comrades in arms hoping to take the world by storm with their latest opus. What we didn’t know at the time was that it was the last chance for Bruce and Columbia Records. After two failed releases for the label, it was either produce or be dropped. It’s a good thing that Jon Landau saw the future of rock ‘n’ roll…and thankfully, we did too.
Before the release of Born To Run, I had never heard of Bruce Springsteen, which might seem strange to some since I grew up in New Jersey. But after the album’s release, I went back and picked up his first two albums (as did most of my friends), and from then to now, I’ve never missed one of Springsteen’s new releases. I can’t say I’ve liked them all, especially the recent ones, but I don’t think I will ever get to the place where a new Springsteen release will instill indifference within me.
These days I don’t reach for Born To Run as often as I used to, but this morning I got both the renewed sense of youth and that feeling of the passage of time all at once, while driving on the highways of Chicago.