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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Born To Run. The making of a legend.

Landau's "I saw rock 'n' roll's future—and its name is Bruce Springsteen"

 The years before he became successful, how it all started

 Springsteen said the decision to label him as the "future of rock was a very big mistake and I would like to strangle the guy who thought that up."

"there were always rock stars and there will always be rock stars..I don't mind being that thing ..but I don't want to be just that..I was interested in the eternal role of storyteller and how I was going to perform that role."

-Bruce Springsteen
Young Bruce

"the narrative that gripped me as a young man, I am still very much held in it's sway."

-Bruce Springsteen
Bruce and John Hammond, the man who discovered  Dylan

 It's hard to believe now, but Bruce Springsteen almost didn't reach stardom. He had a nice local following in New Jersey and, for some reason, pockets of fans in Virginia and Texas, but in 1974, when he entered the studio to begin recording his third album, Born To Run, he was widely seen by industry types and disc jockeys as a carbonated prospect who had fizzled. His first two albums had hardly sold, despite positive reviews. He carried the burden of being labeled the next Dylan by none less than John Hammond, the executive who discovered the original. 

-Louis Masur in Slate Magazine.

 Bruce Springsteen was born to create hard driving meaningful rock and roll songs. He was born to do that. But, he wasn't, for the longest time. The talent was there. The drive was there, but the songs were not coming.

"if you're an artist you try to keep an ear to the ground and an ear to your heart."

-Bruce Springsteen

It's hard to be a saint in the city

Mary Queen Of Arkansas, a very Dylanesque song off his first album

 While his previous two albums, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, received good reviews, popular success had been scarce; Born to Run cemented Springsteen's reputation among critics and established his first mainstream fan base. Rosalita, off the second album, became a fan favorite and has received significant airplay over the years.

How he came to get a record deal.

"when I started out I would have signed anything to make a record."
-Bruce Springsteen

One song off his first album, "Blinded By The Light" would go on to be a huge hit for another group, something that would happen to Springsteen over his whole career.

Springsteen knew that the stakes for the third album were high. 

Garry Tallent, the bassist in the E Street Band, recalls,

 ""We were ready to be booted from the label."

Keyboardist Roy Bittan remembers that:

"Bruce "felt everything was on the line."

" Guitarist Steve Van Zandt says that: 

 "  if the third record "didn't make it, it seemed obvious that it was going to be the end of the record career." To make matters more difficult, Bruce's ambition was as towering as the pressure. He would not settle."

Years later, Springsteen recalled,

 "When I did Born To Run, I thought, 'I'm going to make the greatest rock 'n' roll record ever made.' "

"you are seeking that spotlight out, trying to do something that would be noticed"
-Bruce Springsteen

 The idea for the song Born To Run,  just like all great songs, just came to him, just like that, for no reason.

The story of the song, and the album Born To Run

"One day I was playing my guitar on the edge of the bed,  I was working on some song ideas and the words Born To Run came to me ..I liked the phrase because it suggested a cinematic drama that I thought with the music I had been hearing in my head."
-Bruce Springsteen

Young Bruce, composing on his bed. This is how Born To Run started

The first two albums, the songs were as good as anything he has down since, but they still had that coffeehouse,  Dylan feel. They needed "rocking" up, in the same way that All Along The Watchtower did for Dylan. 

 In his 1996 book Songs, Springsteen relates that while the beginning of the song was written on guitar around the opening riff, the song's writing was finished on piano, the instrument that most of the Born to Run album was composed on.

 Written at Long Branch, New Jersey in early 1974, the lyrics to the song are appropriately epic for his last-ditch, all-or-nothing shot at the stars, yet they remain rooted in the universal desperation of adolescence: 

Bruce and his first car. Part of the inspiration for Born To Run.

Will you walk with me out on the wire, cause baby I'm just a scared and lonely rider...We gotta get out while we're young, 'cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run.'

Written in the first person, the song is a love letter to a girl named Wendy 

Wendy let me in I wanna be your friend I wanna guard your dreams and visions...; I wanna die with you Wendy on the streets tonight/in an everlasting kiss!

 However, Springsteen has noted that the song has a much simpler core: getting out of Freehold.

The first recording of the song was made by Allan Clarke of the British group The Hollies, although its release was delayed, only appearing after Springsteen's own now-famous version. 

Bruce, hard at work in the studio recording the album that would cement his future

In recording the song Springsteen first earned his noted reputation for perfectionism, laying down as many as eleven guitar tracks to get the sound just right.

Greil Marcus famously said that Born to Run was a ’57 Chevy that ran on melted Crystals records. And obviously Springsteen had sixties hot rod muscle on his mind, as he brilliantly conflated the Phil Spector-inspired Wall of Sound with James Dean-mumbled sensitivity and a Dylanesque scope of Americana, making "Born to Run" a sonically intense epic reading of a mythic and lost American youth. 

Bruce, on state for the tour to promote the album.

Both lyrically and sonically, "Born to Run" is a masterpiece; it is the most economical four and a half minutes of rock and roll that I will ever hear. Like any great writer, Bruce Springsteen created an alternate universe — in this case an almost futuristic past that is narrowly drawn and beautifully rendered. 

-Bryan Price 

 Springsteen began work on the album after touring in support of its previous album, The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, released in 1973. Given an enormous budget in a last-ditch effort at a commercially viable record, Springsteen became bogged down in the recording process while striving for a wall of sound production

Bruce at the Mic, recording the album, which took 14 months.

The album took more than 14 months to record, with six months alone spent on the song "Born to Run" itself. During this time Springsteen battled with anger and frustration over the album, saying he heard "sounds in [his] head" that he could not explain to the others in the studio. During the process, Springsteen brought in Jon Landau to help with production. This was the beginning of the breakup of Springsteen's relationship with producer and manager Mike Appel, after which Landau assumed both roles.

With "Born to Run," Bruce Springsteen achieved the perfect balance between working-class reality and rock & roll mythology. A blue-collar fairy tale evoking Phil Spector in its romanticized grandeur and Bob Dylan in its street-corner poetic grit, critic Greil Marcus once described it as "a '57 Chevy running on melted-down Crystals records," a superb metaphor which mirrors not only the song's sonic ambitions, but its thematic aims as well. "Born to Run" is teen melodrama in excelsis, overblown and histrionic in ways Spector never imagined;

Springsteen has said that he wanted "Born to Run" to sound like "Roy Orbison singing Bob Dylan, produced by Spector." 

Time and Newsweek magazines put Springsteen on the cover in the same week (October 27, 1975)

Rolling Stone in its  "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" ranked Born to Run at number 18. 

Born to Run was a critical and commercial success and became Springsteen's breakthrough album. It peaked at number three on the Billboard 200, eventually selling six million copies in the US by the year 2000. Two singles were released from the album: "Born to Run" and "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out"; the first helped Springsteen to reach mainstream popularity. The tracks "Thunder Road" and "Jungleland" became staples of album-oriented rock radio and Springsteen concert high points.

Born To Run marked a change in Springsteen's writing style. Whereas previously it seemed as if he had a rhyming dictionary open beside him, now his lyrics became simultaneously more compact and explosive. What mattered to him was to sound spontaneous, not to be spontaneous.

 "Spontaneity," he said, in 1981, "is not made by fastness. Elvis, I believe, did like 30 takes of 'Hound Dog,' and you put that thing on," and it just explodes.

"the interesting thing about Bruce is he always had a clear idea of what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it. In one way or another that is all he has ever been about"
-David Sancious 

Ultimately, Bruce Springsteen found a way to put his thoughts, his dreams,  his vision and his passion into Born To Run and the masses responded. He never looked back.

'you write as well as you can, you play as well as you can, find your voice. It's not rocket science."
-Bruce Springsteen

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