Pick Your Favorite: Springsteen Edition

The Boss

In the Horn household, it’s not out of the norm to have an album spinning on the record player. Whether I’m doing chores, or Christina and I are simply enjoying an easy Saturday morning. I find music playing in the house to be relaxing.

A few weeks back I was listening to side 1 of Bruce Springsteen’s album “The River” while cleaning up a round of dishes. I’ve listened to the “The River” countless times. I can say the same thing about many of Springsteen’s albums. While I rinsed out some glasses at the kitchen sink, “The Ties That Bind” faded out, “Sherry Darling” kicked in, and I had two quick thoughts run through my head.

1) Man! Side 1 of “The River” is *show-stoppin, pants-droppin* awesome.
2) Which side do I like more – Side 1 or 2?

Side 2 has “Out In The Street” (maybe my favorite song off the album), followed by “Crush On You” and “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch). And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that side 2 closes out with “The River”. Which is an all-time classic song from Bruce.

The-River-Album-CoverFor those who aren’t familiar with the album “The River” – it’s a double album. Just think, I didn’t even get to the songs from sides 3 or 4 in this little intro. The album is littered with great songs!

Thinking about all the great material on “The River”, and all his other legendary albums… That is when this blog idea was born.

What if I was forced to choose my favorite sequence of 5 songs from Springsteen – what set of consecutive songs would I choose?

Using only his track lists as they appear on whichever album they were released on. No greatest hits releases, live albums, or any non-album compilations involved. Just studio records.

What a huge task! There are SO MANY options. I know there is no wrong answer per-say. But the seemingly unlimited choices make this selection process extremely hard.

Been listening to Bruce and the Big Man for quite some time.

A few of Springsteen’s albums were included on my celebratory 30 albums for my 30th birthday blog almost 2 years ago now. I probably could have included a few more from Bruce. But with only 30 spots on the list, it was tough while attempting to include as many of my favorite artists as well.

Anyways – back to the matter at hand.

When I knew this post was definitely a go. I immediately put the music on and let it do the talking. Having already heard “The River” recently and having an idea on which albums my sequence might come from, I listened to “Nebraska,” “The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle,” “Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J,” “Born In The U.S.A,” “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “The Rising,” and “Born To Run” in that order. No particular reason for that order but that’s how it happened.

Analyzing and breaking down his collection of songs is one way to go about this, but I wanted the way the songs made me feel to be the main reason I chose my sequence. Whether they are classics or b-sides. Using emotional ties is the only viable way I can determine any sort of “tie-breakers”. Because splitting hairs to arrive with my five is crazy hard.

When I actually sat down and started my selection process, I realized songs that happen to be track 1 or the final track on an album have it a bit tougher in regards to being chosen for this project. For example, let’s say I wanted to include “Badlands,” which is the first track off of “Darkness.” There is only one set of 5 songs that includes track 1. That would be first 5 tracks off of “Darkness.” Just a fun little quirk I guess…

Plus, songs like “Pink Cadillac,” “Secret Garden,” and “Streets of Philadelphia” weren’t released on albums… So they’re ineligible out of the gate.

bruce-springsteen-Clarence-ClemonsBefore I go any further I must introduce Jon Hershey and Lauren Brown. Both work with me at Blue Ridge and are fellow Springsteen enthusiasts. And according to Lauren, it’s still to be determined whether she is to be future Mrs. Hershey, or Mrs. Springsteen. 😛 Lol!! They caught wind of my idea and they couldn’t resist the intrigue of this exercise. So, naturally, contributing on this post was their only real option. And I’m glad they’re along for this ride.

Each have their own Bruce experiences that shaped and molded their opinions and favorites. I’m just as excited to see their picks as I am to reveal my own selections. A possible 10 extra songs will get to see the light and be recognized. And now – it’s time, before the Rat’s own dream guns him down, to give you all what you came for.

Look what Lauren found at a touring Springsteen exhibit. 🙂

LB: For the past two weeks, I’ve listened to so many Bruce albums to try to figure out my favorite five consecutive songs (I took this very seriously!) I listened to a little bit of everything, but time and time again I kept going back to the same album. I entered this world in 1988 to a family that adored Bruce Springsteen. While I was growing up, the soundtrack to the early years of my life was Bruce Springsteen’s album from 1984, “Born in the U.S.A.” Whenever I listen to that album, I am instantly brought back to my childhood and begin thinking of all the good times with my family. It will always be my favorite Bruce album because it not only contains some of my first memories with my family, but also, my first memories with Bruce. I chose my five not based on which five songs are his greatest or most memorable for Rolling Stone readers, but rather – what five songs had the most resounding impact on me as a person. My five are…

Born In The USA Album Cover1. Bobby Jean
2. I’m Goin’ Down
3. Glory Days
4. Dancing in the Dark
5. My Hometown

This set of five songs just takes me back and instantly makes me smile.

When I was little, all I wanted to do was dance. I mean, every moment of my day I wanted to dance to Bruce Springsteen (Thank you Mom and Dad for putting up with me!) I can imagine my mom and I dancing in our living room to “Glory Days” when I was just 4 years old (Matt has seen and can attest to these home videos existing!) “Dancing in the Dark” reminds me of special moments spent in our backyard in the summer heat with grandparents that have since passed. “My Hometown” brings me back to moments spent with my Uncle Jim. These songs have a direct tie to my heart that cannot be cut. I will admit that this was a tough decision because there are just so many worthwhile choices when it comes to Bruce’s discography. Every Bruce song and album can correlate with a different time period of my life, but this album is extra special to me.

image(1)Hersh: As a man who knows who’s the boss, this challenge of searching through a vast discography of excellent musicianship and songwriting became a constant back and forth battle of great songs vs. great songs. So in the end I said, one must make a decision on the principles of style, timing, feel, and influence. These attributes lend themselves well to the flow of the particular 5 consecutively played Bruce songs which I have selected. Here it is… from “Darkness on the Edge of Town”:

Darkness On The Edge Of Town Album Cover-Something in the Night
-Candy’s Room
-Racing in the Street
-The Promised Land

At the end of the day, I felt like this record has really resonated with me because of the timing that it was released, the stories it made me imagine, and ultimately, the emotions it has drawn from me.

Bruce had unleashed his momentous Born to Run, which speaks for itself, but Darkness was just as powerful of a follow-up. It’s title is even on point. It is dark, moody, beautiful, and truly blue-collar in definition. Released during a professionally turbulent period in his career, Darkness was the incredible result of an artist essentially pouring his heart and soul into an album that’s release was uncertain. Might I also add that the b sides are just as stellar!

The flow of these 5 tracks have been played in my car over and over and over… providing a journey into an abyss of uncertainty and growth as a person. I’ll be the first to admit that I have teared up during “Racing in the Street” and “Something in the Night”. Those two songs feel like siblings. They feel like family members leaving everything behind and risking anything to become something more than an expendable pawn in this life. “Candy’s Room” is the odd man out in the sequence, but it adds a nice coming of age feel with rocking sensibility. The song is short, but unpredictable in a fun way. “The Promise Land” feels like what I imagine growing up in a struggling midsized city would be like. It’s an uplifting song that provides a common Bruce backdrop about rising above what is expected of you in a plain, poor society. Which brings me to “Factory” feeling like a brother or sister song to “The Promised Land”. “Factory” feels more somber in a “domestic responsibility” sort of way. When I hear it, it’s a beautiful ballad for the father or mother in all of us, wanting to provide. I love a majority of Bruce’s music and this was very difficult to choose, but I felt these songs flow in that perfectly poignant fashion. They represent his seemingly straightforward storytelling, which gives way to much more depth than people give credit.

M. Horn
M. Horn

MH: “Thunder Road”, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”, “Night”, “Backstreets”, and “Born To Run” make up the first 5 tracks off the epic 1975 Springsteen release “Born To Run”. Some might say these five songs capture the essence of everything Springsteen. And I wouldn’t disagree if someone said that to me. They feature Bruce on all levels at both his youthful adventurous writing and boundless yet tight musical peak. Just listen to “Thunder Road,” it’s all there. I’m not lying when I say I believe it might be the best song ever written. “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” is the playful classic. I still feel that “Tenth Avenue” to this day gets over shadowed by “Born To Run” and “Thunder Road.” Which is a shame. “Night” is a very underrated, awesome quick hitter. And “Born To Run” speaks for itself.

Me and my wifey, Christina. 🙂

That said, this sequence is not the one I chose. I wanted to. Very much. My love for this album is only matched by a very select few, by any artist. I also desperately wanted to include “She’s The One” (sidenote – I absolutely love the live version @ Hammersmith ’75 with the band shouting “She’s The One” in the background) and/or “Jungleland” in a sequence chosen from “Born To Run.” Now, when I hear the opening piano in “She’s The One” – I have an image flash through my head of Christina. Basking in the sunlight, with a warm glittering glow surrounding her. The glitter subtlety synced to the repeating keys of the intro that makes the still picture move. It’s a great feeling. Love that song.

From the legendary album that is “Born To Run,” to the hit parade that is “Born In The U.S.A.”, and the echoes that form “Nebraska,” the styles are many and the choices are vast. But when all was said and done, I found myself back at the beginning.

If I could only choose one sequence of 5 songs that I believe represent all of Springsteen’s versatility, AND are flat-out great, enjoyable songs, AND tug on my emotional heart-strings – I would have to choose a segment from Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J..

During high school, Ty Keyser and I listened to “Greetings” so many times together. Whether we were shooting pool at his place or at Mongi’s house, “Greetings” was there. When we talked about the best Springsteen albums, “Greetings” was among the first to be mentioned. Then we found out another one of our good friends, Jay Rhoads, loved “Greetings” too. The three of us debated which song was the best, always lobbying for each of our favorite songs. I always pushed for “For You”. Jay, for “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd St” or “Lost In The Flood”. Ty – “Blinded By The Light”/”Growin’ Up”/”Spirit In The Night.” Ty was always amazed by “Blinded By The Light.” He couldn’t grasp a 23 year-old guy having that be the first track on his first album… How does that happen?

When Jay got his driver’s license and bought a manual transmission pick-up truck, we would drive around looking for steep hills throughout any and all back roads for him to practice using the clutch. Stopping, starting, parking… all with “Greetings” as the soundtrack. Driving to and from baseball practice Ty and I would listen Springsteen and talk. To and from football practice, Jay and I would do the same. Springsteen was present, period.

Ty and I saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Lincoln Financial Field on August 11, 2003 (check the set list out here). My first and only venture to see Springsteen to date. Great show. I knew how Bruce varied his set lists from night-to-night, and was completely surprised when I first heard the opening chords to “Hard To Be A Saint In The City”. Loved it! I actually learned years later via the internet that he played “Lost In The Flood,” “For You,” and “Spirit In The Night,” during the two prior shows on August 8th and 9th. Craziness!

Greetings Album CoverAnyway… the sequence I picked are the last 5 tracks off of “Greetings”.

  • Lost In The Flood
  • The Angel
  • For You
  • Spirit In The Night
  • It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City

I would have loved to include “Growin’ Up” too, but track 2 was too far away.

It’s evident on “Greetings” that Bruce’s efforts are amazing, yet only beginning to scratch the surface. All of Springsteen’s modes of attack are present with the 5 songs I chose. Especially the slow and meticulous nature of “Lost In The Flood,” the pointed energy of “For You,” the mini-epic that is “Spirit In The Night” – all great! All Bruce’s songs on “Greetings” have his unique poetic touch. This passage is only the last verse and chorus from “For You”….

“We were both hitchhikers but you had your ear tuned to the roar
Of some metal-tempered engine on an alien, distant shore
So you left to find a better reason than the one we were living for
And it’s not that nursery mouth that I came back for
It’s not the way you’re stretched out on the floor
‘Cause I’ve broken all your windows and I’ve rammed through all your doors
And who am I to ask you to lick my sores?
And you should know that’s true”

“I came for you, for you, I came for you
But you did not need my urgency
I came for you, for you, I came for you
But your life was one long emergency
And your cloud line urges me
And my electric surges free”

Man… this song gets my adrenaline up just by reading the lyrics!

Thanks for reading all! And thanks again to Hersh and LB for sharing!! Lauren isn’t lying about the home videos of her dancing. She could dance better at 4 years old than I can at almost 32 years old. Lol!

I’d love to hear other 5 song segment suggestions. Spread The Boss’ word, because the word is good.

4 replies to “Pick Your Favorite: Springsteen Edition

  1. Have to go with the back end of Darkness. I couldn’t get it down to 5 though. Racing in the Street is my favorite Springsteen song of them all, So that had to be included, and Darkness on the edge of town has so much meaning to me that It had to be on the list. So its a hard call. But Here are my thoughts.

    1. Racing in the Street
    2. The Promised Land
    3. Factory
    4. Streets Of Fire
    5. Prove It All Night
    6. (or 5b). Darkness On The Edge Of Town

    Racing in the Streets just epitomizes Bruce’s power as a storyteller and taking a song about simple characters and turning it into metaphor for our lives. Starts off with a song about a guy kind of drifting through life, looking for thrills, and eventually his world changes when he meets a woman (whose doesn’t?) and then the back half of the song has some of the best Springsteen lyrics.

    “She sits on the porch of her daddy’s house
    But all her pretty dreams are torn
    She stares off alone into the night
    With the eyes of one who hates for just being born
    For all the shut down strangers and hot rod angels
    Rumbling through this promised land
    Tonight my baby and me we’re gonna ride to the sea
    And wash these sins off our hands”

    Particularly the two lines about riding to the sea and washing the sins off our hands really hits me. And the piano outro is haunting.

    Moving on to The Promised Land. A truly great Concert song and album song, (There’s a reason its played all the time on tour) Great lyrics and fiery energy, but then again filled with hope of something greater in the midst of despair.

    Factory hits home for another reason. A very simple song about a very complex life. It relates to me because it reminds me of my father and his work ethic in providing for us… One line says it all.
    “Factory takes his hearing, factory gives him life,
    The working, the working, just the working life.”

    Really shows the dichotomy of what a blue collar life does to/for a man.

    If I had to pick the weak(er) song of the group it is Streets of Fire. Not a bad song, but not as strong lyrically as the others. Full of anger and rage, at a time where Bruce was starting to unleash that fire on stage. Keeps this set burning hot, and reinforces the power Bruce can show.

    Prove It All Night is truly a performance song. I’ve heard many versions of it, from Madison Square Garden in 1999 to the 78 tour for its infamous long intro. One of my first ‘favorite Boss songs’. Passion and energy define it. Take a listen to some of the 78 tour recordings for an awesome show stopper.

    Finally I had to put Darkness on the edge of town on here. It says everything it can say about living your life to the fullest in the face of trials and uncertainty. The last paragraph is really poignant and Says what Bruce is all about, going out on the stage and giving everything you got. Whether that’s a music sound-stage, or in life.

    “Some folks are born into a good life
    Other folks get it anyway anyhow
    I lost my money and I lost my wife
    Them things don’t seem to matter much to me now
    Tonight I’ll be on that hill ’cause I can’t stop
    I’ll be on that hill with everything I got
    Lives on the line where dreams are found and lost
    I’ll be there on time and I’ll pay the cost
    For wanting things that can only be found
    In the darkness on the edge of town”

    1. Yeah man, Darkness on the Edge of Town as an album has long been one of my favorites. I’m pumped that it’s getting some love on this post – with you here in the comments, and Hershey’s segment for the blog itself.

      I’ve always loved Badlands.. it’s a hard one not to love. Candy’s Room is a great “sleeper”, for lack of a better term. LOL! I was sad to see Hershey say it was kinda the “odd man out”, because I contemplated a sequence that specifically included Candy’s Room. But I understand why he said that with the reasoning for choosing the other songs he listed.

      Streets of Fire, Prove it all Night, and Darkness.. absolutely love them!

      Good call, dude! And thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  2. This was difficult. I wanted to answer this immediately with the first five tracks off Born to Run. I mean, come on…

    1. Thunder Road
    2. Tenth Avenue Freeze Out
    3. Night
    4. Backstreets
    5. Born to Run

    As far as Springsteens music goes, these are 5 boomers of songs, right in a row, that are staples in the lives of the majority of Springsteen fans. Including mine…but,..as powerful as that run of 5 is, my personal 5, my Fab 5, comes from The Wild The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle. My personal favorite album from the Boss. He still retains that youthful whistfulness of singer songwriter that you really only hear on his first 2 albums. The tough part for me is which 2 songs do I leave off this list? As Wild n’ Innocent is only 7 songs…but here it goes…

    1. 4th of July Asbury Park (Sandy)
    2. Kitty’s Back
    3 Wild Billy’s Circus Story
    4. Incident on 57th Street
    5. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)

    …where to begin with these 5? and how to explain leaving off The E Street Shuffle and New York City Serenade? …and after a cigarette break I realize that I can not…so I am changing my 5…to…

    1. The E Street Shuffle
    2. 4th of July Asbury Park (Sandy)
    3. Kitty’s Back
    4 Wild Billy’s Circus Story
    5. Incident on 57th Street

    This entire album is one Bruce Springsteen story broken down into chapters of a life lived before Fame, Glory and the Public spotlight of Born to Run hit Bruce. Songs comprised of life on the Jersey shore mixed with the hustle that is New York City. Everything about this album is perfect. Everything…even with Rosie and NYC Serenade being left off…they are 2 songs that stand alone. Neither one needs validation beyond what they are…NYC Serenade can be heard every time you see a NYC street in the neon glow of store fronts or lamp lights….and as far as Rosalita goes…Rosalita is the greatest rock and roll song ever written. Ever. She speaks for herself. To put Rosie on a list would mean that you need to remind people of something they should never forget…like bringing up Wayne Gretzky is a hockey conversation, you don’t have to, because everyone is already thinking about it…

    … … … No matter where or who you are, when you listen to the music of Bruce Springsteen you are reminded that you are not a loser…you realize you are a character, in an epic poem…about losers…and that is something very special. No matter who you are or where you are from Bruce is always there to remind you that you never have to grow up…From Greetings to High Hopes and everything in between, you learn something new about yourself every time you listen to one of Bruce’s Albums…even if you don’t realize it right away…

    “I have seen the future of Rock and Roll, and his name is Bruce Springsteen”. This is true except that now it rings true to say…”I have seen the future, past, and present of rock and roll, and it is Bruce Springsteen”.

    1. I have to agree with you – this project is much harder than it seems.

      Born To Run is amazing. My first thought was to have a sequence from Born To Run too. After all the Bruce consumption over the years, and then listening to a huge chunk of his discography again to prep for this post… I found there were really only 2 albums I could truly choose from and mean every feeling and description I put on the page – Greetings and Born To Run.

      I’m not surprised to see you choose from The E-Street Shuffle… but to see you actually leave Rosalita off! I did not expect that at all.

      You said something though that caught my eye, only because I made a similar statement in the blog about another legendary Bruce song… that Rosalita is the greatest rock song ever written. I said that Thunder Road might be the best song ever written. Is it possible Springsteen wrote 2 songs that are tied for the greatest song ever written?? And NEITHER of which are Born To Run?? Lol!

      Thanks for sharing man! Good to hear from ya.

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