The Boss releases his autobiography; I release my favorites
Reading time: 2 1/2 minutes —
With the release of Born To Run, Springsteen’s memoir, it’s fitting that we come out with my top 9 songs from the Boss. I haven’t read the autobiography yet, but I adore the fact that he spent seven years writing it. Writing’s tough, man. There’s a companion musical release, Chapter and Verse, that parallels the book. I’m not going to look at the songs until I make my list. Then we’ll see how many, if any, of my nine made it. Five of the 18 songs on the release are previously unreleased tracks. So, here are my Top 9 Bruce Springsteen songs from a field of about 315.
- Born to Run – Because you simply can’t leave it off the list. Even though it means I can’t include The Ghost of Tom Joad or Born in the USA or a dozen other worthy titles that would probably rank in the top 9 next week.
- Streets of Philadelphia – Springsteen won an Oscar for Best Original Song. The sparse melody and solemn backbeat are spot on with the lyrics and make you wonder why he doesn’t write songs for more movies.
- Racing in the Street – Possibly the most depressing and angst-ridden tune in his entire repertoire. “She sits on the porch of her daddy’s house / But all her pretty dreams are torn.” Professor Roy Bittan opens and closes this tune with his mournful piano. In between, Bruce sings with regret oozing out of every line.
- Land of Hope and Dreams – This was my favorite song in the world for about three years running, and it’ll probably move back up. This is gospel crashing into rock ‘n’ roll, and you’re gonna want a dose of Curtis Mayfield’s People Get Ready as an appetizer or dessert after riding with The Boss on this train packed with saints and sinners.
- Darkness on the Edge of Town – I love a good angry song, and you’ll get your fill of it here. As I type this, I starting singing from the opening and I’m wondering to myself: How does this not rank higher? Then I remember the competition!
- 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) – Critics deride this song for all sorts of crazy reasons, but it is pure Springsteen. Summer arrives, put the top down and belt out your favorite lines. For example: “Chasin’ the factory girls underneath the boardwalk / Where they all promise to unsnap their jeans.”
- Thunder Road – I know, I know, how can this not be #1 right? Probably woulda been last Tuesday and will be next Tuesday. But right now it feels fine to slide it in behind two powerhouses. I love when Bruce tells the story of where this song came from. He saw a poster of Robert Mitchum in the theater lobby. He never saw the movie, only the poster. From the piano chords that open this classic to the harmonica that fires it up to Clarence’s sax solo that sends it to heaven, this is vintage Springsteen. And of course, there’s the finale, his call to action – “Mary climb in / It’s a town full of losers / I’m pulling outta here to win.” We’re left only to wonder … did Mary go along for the ride? I vote YES.
- Backstreets – In 1997, returning from Russia with two baby boys, their introduction to America included me singing Backstreets to them every time I’d change a diaper and rock them in the rocking chair in their shared room. I probably never made it much further than “One soft infested summer / Me and Terry became friends / Trying in vain to breathe the fire / We was born in.” Oh, of course I did because everyone loves the rhythm of “sleeping in that old abandoned beach house.” The song has everything: longing, lust, betrayal and abandonment. It’s that single moment where you leave your safe childhood behind and venture into the frightening world.
- Jungleland – No other song gives the range of Springsteen’s vocals. Or lyrics. He pulled everything together for this one: the storytelling, the characters, the scenes. C’mon, the Magic Rat, the barefoot girl, the Maximum Lawmen. There are too many classic lines here to name them all. (“Man, there’s an opera out on the turnpike / There’s a ballet being fought out in the alley”). It all comes crashing down in the end, of course. But not before the Big Man gets his incredible sax solo in. After Clemons passed away, Bruce didn’t perform this live for a year in homage to Clarence. When you hear it live, the E Street Band gives you the best fifteen minutes you’ll spend for the next month or so.