Bruce Springsteen had one last chance to make it real and spent months searching for his groove on the backstreets of a runaway American dream to come out on the other side with this visionary tour de force. After the commercial disappointment of his first two albums Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, CBS Records execs told him that they would allow him to produce one more single, the strength of which would determine whether or not he would get to do another album.
He spent six months producing the single that would make or break his career: "One day I was… working on some song ideas, and the words ‘born to run’ came into my head. At first I thought it was the name of a movie or something I’d seen on a car spinning round the Circuit, but I couldn’t be certain.[I was determined to] deliver its message in less time and with a shorter burst of energy...Born To Run… proved to be the key to my songwriting for the rest of the record. Lyrically, I was entrenched in classic rock and roll images, and I wanted to find a way to use those images without their feeling anachronistic."
An advance copy of the single was given out to select radio stations to build the buzz and the strategy worked. Listeners and other radio stations were clamoring for the song before it had even been put into production. The green light was given for Springsteen to record his third album. By this point, however, two members of the band David Sancious and Ernest "Boom" Carter had moved on to pursue jazz. Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg were brought in to replace them as sessions began in upstate New York at the lackluster 914 Sound Studios in Blauvelt. Springsteen's manager Mike Appel was able to secure better recording equipment at the Record Plant in New York City; and, by this point, journalist Jon Landau was brought into the fold as a co-producer.
Springsteen considers: "Everyone was finding their way. I was not interested in a strictly professional setup. I did not want to contain my talents in that box, because I didn't know where they were going to lead me at that time. At that time, my concern was this: I have these abilities. I don't know what they are, but I know that they are there. I don't know where they are going to lead me, but wherever that is, I have to go, even if it is down a bunch of blind alleys, until I find one that I do want to go down. Give me room to do this particular thing. In my own fashion. The primary questions that I would be writing about for the rest of my work life first took form in the songs on 'Born To Run'. What do you do when your dreams come true? What do you do when they don't? Is love real? 'Born To Run' was the album where I left behind my adolescent definitions of love and freedom. It was the real dividing line. "
All in all, 'Born To Run' took over fourteen months to record with Bruce Springsteen on lead vocals, lead and rhythm guitars, harmonica, and percussion; Clarence Clemons on saxophones, tambourine, and background vocals; Garry W. Tallent on bass guitar; Roy Bittan on piano, Fender Rhodes, organ, harpsichord, glockenspiel, and background vocals on all tracks except "Born to Run"; Max Weinberg on drums on all tracks except "Born to Run"; David Sancious on piano and organ for "Born to Run"; Danny Federici on organ and glockenspiel for "Born to Run"; Ernest "Boom" Carter on drums for "Born to Run"; Suki Lahav on violin for "Jungleland"; Steven Van Zandt on background vocals for "Thunder Road" and horn arrangements; with Wayne Andre on trombone, Mike Appel on background vocals, Michael Brecker on tenor saxophone, Randy Brecker on trumpet and flugelhorn, David Sanborn on baritone saxophone. Richard Davis on double bass for "Meeting Across The River", and conductor Charles Calello did the string arrangements. The sessions were produced by Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau, and Mike Appel (except on "Born To Run" which was produced by Springsteen and Appel) with engineers Andy Abrams, Angie Arcuri, Ricky Delena, Jimmy Iovine, Louis Lahav, Thom Panunzio, Corky Stasiak, and David Thoener.
Springsteen says he was seeking a sound reminiscent of "Roy Orbison singing Bob Dylan, produced by Spector ... I know what it’s like not to be able to do what you want to do, because when I go home, that’s what I see. It’s not fun, it’s no joke. I see my sister and her husband. They’re living the lives of my parents in a certain kind of way. They got kids; they’re working hard. These are people, you can see something in their eyes ... I asked my sister, ‘What do you do for fun?’ ‘I don’t have any fun,’ she says. She wasn’t kidding...I don’t think the American Dream was that everyone was going to make it or that everyone was going to make a billion dollars, but it was that everyone was going to have an opportunity and the chance to live a life with some decency and a chance for some self-respect.”
The album became a major breakthrough for Springsteen, going to number thirty-one in Canada; twenty-eight in New Zealand; twenty-six in Norway; twenty in Ireland; seventeen in the UK; seven in Australia, the Netherlands, and Sweden; and number three in the US. Springsteen recalls: "Born To Run had the feeling of that one, endless summer night. The whole record feels like it could all be taking place in the course of one evening, in all these different locations. Everything is filled with that tension of somebody struggling, trying to find some other place."
"Born To Run"
In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages on Highway 9
And steppin' out over the line
Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we're young
'Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run
Wendy let me in, I wanna be your friend
I want to guard your dreams and visions
Just wrap your legs 'round these velvet rims
and strap your hands across my engines
Together we could break this trap
We'll run till we drop, baby we'll never go back
Will you walk with me out on the wire
'Cause baby I'm just a scared and lonely rider
But I gotta find out how it feels
I want to know if love is wild
girl I want to know if love is real
Beyond the Palace hemi powered drones scream down the boulevard
The girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors
And the boys try to look so hard
The amusement park rises bold and stark
Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist
I wanna die with you out on the streets tonight
In an everlasting kiss
The highway's jammed with broken heroes
On a last chance power drive
Everybody's out on the run tonight
but there's no place left to hide
Together, Wendy, we can live with the sadness
I'll love you with all the madness in my soul
Someday girl, I don't know when,
we're gonna get to that place
Where we really want to go
and we'll walk in the sun
But till then tramps like us
baby we were born to run
'Born To Run'
All songs written and composed by Bruce Springsteen.
1. "Thunder Road" 4:49
2. "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" 3:11
3. "Night" 3:00
4. "Backstreets" 6:30
1. "Born to Run" 4:31
2. "She's the One" 4:30
3. "Meeting Across the River" 3:18
4. "Jungleland" 9:34
"Linda Let Me Be the One"
"So Young and In Love"
"Walking in the Street (aka Lovers in the Cold)"
"Lonely Night in the Park"
"A Love So Fine"
"A Night Like This"
"Janey Needs a Shooter"
Live in London at Hammersmith Odeon 1975
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Spirit In The Night
Lost In The Flood
She's The One
Born To Run
The E Street Shuffle
It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
Devil With a Blue Dress On
Good Golly Miss Molly
Jenny Take a Ride
Quarter To Three
Springsteen became a household name when he appeared on the covers of Time and Newsweek in the same week on October 27, 1975.