Sunday, November 18, 2012

Song #304 of 9999 - Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Song #304 of 9999 

Title: Born to Run
Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Year: 1975
Album: Born to Run

I've never owned a copy of Born to Run and honestly, I didn't really understand all the fuss until much later in my life. I was in elementary school when the record came out so I didn't even know about it until Springsteen was in his Born in the USA period and I wasn't a fan so I never investigated his back catalog. Even when I became familiar with the song "Born to Run," I never stopped to pay it much attention as I was so entrenched in progressive rock at the time.

Today, it's like finding a treasure buried in the back yard. I'm continually amazed by the performance, arrangement and recording of this song. It seems timeless to me and with good reason. Springsteen borrows the teen dramas of the 1950s (especially those involving love and cars, which usually end tragically), combines it with the production of Phil Spector in the 1960s and wraps it all up nice and neat with universal themes of nostalgia and escapism. Lyrically, he manages to capture feelings of longing, desperation, lust—all set against the backdrop of the freeway, the universal American metaphor for liberation, maybe even transcendence. It's you and me against the world but we're not fighting—we're gonna run like hell and never look back.

Musically, the arrangement is so dramatic that, in lesser hands, it may devolve into overkill. But the E Street Band knows that, to make big moments, you have to stay small most of the time and they use dynamics very effectively. In fact, this is one of the most symphonic pop songs I've ever heard. Glockenspiels and saxophones, spaghetti-western guitars, swelling organs—there are so many different colors and in just the right doses. At 2:53, the descending unison chromatic line that sets up the return to the verse is riveting in its cinematic scope. And when Springsteen inexplicably counts the band in right before the recap at 3:05 (remember, this is the studio version—why would the band need to be counted in?), he makes everyone listening a part of the experience by simulating the feeling of being at a live performance. It's a clever way of drawing you even further into the song, which is part of Springsteen's genius: he sings about things and places that are familiar to him but makes you feel like the song is about you.

1 comment:

  1. Surprised you didn't pick the song At Seventeen by Janis Ian. It was overplayed as much as Born To Run in 1975...(Along with Magic & Jackie Blue. Yet so many other overplayed songs to choose from: Alice Cooper's Only Women Bleed. Third Rate Romance. Dance With Me -Orleans....etc). But you are right in describing it as "the universal American metaphor for liberation". Post-Steppenwolf's Born To Be Wild Easy Rider times, and pre-or Bob Seger's Roll Me Away or Bon Jovi's Dead Or Alive ...this was theme song for Biker's. Related to the culture of speed, freedom, patriotism, rebelliousness.