2021 Song Draft- Round 1/ Pick 1: Music City Mike selects- ‘Born To Run’- Bruce Springsteen.
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Just like it was no surprise that I drafted Born to Run as my fave all-time LP, there was never any doubt that its title track would be my pick for all-time favorite song. In fact, I believe that along with Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” they are tied for the greatest rock anthems ever to blast the airwaves.
Bruce once said something along the lines of that when writing the song, he wanted to have music like Phil Spector, words like Dylan, and vocals like Roy Orbison. Well, he did just that and outdid himself with a song that to me is just perfect in every way.
The song couldn’t have come at a better time for his then fledgling young career. After two excellent records that went nowhere, Columbia Records were likely let to drop him if this one didn’t make it. And although he did score, oddly, while the LP reached #3 on the charts, the title track and obvious choice as first single, only made it to #23. But, still today, some 45 years later, I’m not the only super-Springsteen fan who considers it their favorite song from the Boss.
Living through this process with Springsteen is a fond memory that started with its early release to a few key radio stations that included my lock-on-the-dial at 102.7 of WNEW-FM in New York City. For a good while you could only hear it that way, and I’d didn’t even own a cassette deck to record it. Those moments of hearing it were the start of a magical summer that would culminate for me with the eventual release of the album shortly after seeing Bruce perform live for the first time at the legendary 1975 Bottom Line shows.
Over the course of the 60 Springsteen live shows I’ve seen, he’s played it every night except for the two solo acoustic Tom Joad tour shows I attended. I’ve even seen it solo acoustic, both on Broadway and on the Tunnel of Love tour. While I give Bruce a pass on Broadway, not seeing him blast it away during the encore with the full E Street Band was however a disappointment.
Hearing this song live has always been an amazing moment for me. Here’s what I had previously written about those experiences for the album draft:
I was a hopeful optimist like the Boss. These lines from that song just clobbered my emotions back then and for the next 40 years made me cry every time I heard Bruce sing them live.
“Oh, 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 ‘til then, tramps like us Baby we were born to run.”
Those tears reflected the joy of seeing my lifelong dreams fulfilled. I found the girl I loved and together we took that walk and somehow got there.
About the song, it’s no secret that I’m a sucker for rock anthems which “Born to Run” clearly qualifies. Its music is just so powerful, from the opening drum burst to the crescendo of guitars and saxophone blasts. This is a song meant to hear while driving down the highway with the top down (or at least the windows open).
The words? Poetic for sure. And aside for the optimism I’ve already discussed, let’s not forget that I’m from Jersey and the references to “Highway 9” and “The Palace” (in Asbury Park) added a special personal touch.
In reflecting on my history with this song, I remembered a moment on some long-forgotten MTV game show whose name I can’t even recall. There was a question about what the greatest Rock song of all time and the contestant chose “Born to Run.” My “attaboy” was however soon shot down by guest host Alice Cooper who mocked his selection without any explanation. To this day, I’ve often wondered what bothered Alice about the song. Maybe someday I will get to ask him why he doesn’t agree with me that “Born to Run” is the greatest song of all time. Could be that he prefers “Like a Rolling Stone?”
Great pick and certainly one of my all-time favorite Bruce Springsteen tunes. In fact, had you asked me a few years ago, I would have picked that song as well.
Another track from “Born to Run” I’ve come to love is “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”. Of course, there are many other great songs on that album.
Still, nowadays, I would probably go with “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” as my no. 1 Springsteen pick. I really dig the “rock & horns thing”, as I remember Little Steven called it once when referring to his music with the Disciples of Soul.
No question it’s a good one! Funny isn’t it, now looking back, how for all the publicity and magazine covers, and how iconic that song is now considered, that it really wasn’t a hit at all when it came out. I don’t think I even heard it until after Darkness on the Edge of Town came out, and radio where I was picked up on it a little after they played “Prove it all Night”
Epic song Mike. The music matches the lyrics in complexity and together is a powerful punch. Bruce sounds desperate and it’s him and Wendy against the world. Great song great pick.
a great song to start the draft with- one of the greatest rock songs of all time. As soon as I saw you had the #1 pick- I knew this was your pick Mike!
I was in a “Jeans Store” looking for a new pair of Levis back when this song was released. While I was deciding on my choice with the help of a salesperson, ‘this song came on and my sales person stopped in mid conversation and said “I hate this song”. We didnt agree on the tune but she did help get a new pair of ‘Boot-cuts’.
Fantastic choice Mike and nice to meet you here through the draft. I’m also a huge Bruce fan, having seen him 20+ times at this point. Always jealous of those like you who saw him in the 70s – I didn’t get into him til early 80s with the River and saw him first on the BUSA tour. You’re right, whenever he plays this is in concert its a special moment, like an affirmation of the bond of rock and roll between him and the band and the audience of the shared experience that we have all gone through at that particular concert – nothing like seeing all the lights come up and everyone dancing and singing along with all they got, even if it has been 3 hours + since the concert started.
Looking forward to seeing the rest of yours and everyone else’s picks as the draft moves forward. 🙂
Very good opener to the song draft, Mike. I love this one also. I like that sound almost like chimes or bells in the intro. Nice write-up!
This song was released five days before my ninth birthday. I remember hearing it on the radio as a kid. It’s the kind of song that a teenager blasts, full volume, while cruisin’ in the car he/she just got.
Great song! Great pick! Bucket list item for me to actually see Bruce perform live.
Great one to start out the song draft! I remember buying the album almost on faith, after hearing the song once on the radio, and hearing all of the praise for Bruce Springsteen. As a kid with no income, that was a big deal. It turned out I loved the entire album. in hindsight, well worth the investment. Fun story: A few years ago, I was enjoying this song on the car radio, when it was abruptly interrupted by the screech of a ‘test of the emergency broadcast system.’ I took my annoyance to social media, where I proposed a rule that Born to Run should never be interrupted by a test. Not surprisingly, I had many agree with me. 🙂
Did you see Blinded by the Light, the film? Pardon if you’ve mentioned it before and I missed it.