Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#745 in the Series) is Bruce Springsteen, Born in the USA
At the start of 1984, with a new album imminent, Bruce Springsteen’s longtime fans must have been curious, maybe even anxious, about which direction he was going to take. His last effort, 1982’s superb “Nebraska” had been a bit of a departure, consisting as it did of a fairly sombre, and stark, suite of mainly downbeat songs. Bruce had been given artistic freedom to do his own thing on that release and he delivered a majestic masterpiece which has stood the test of time and remains, for many (myself included), his best album to date.
This time around though both fans and record company surely expected something a bit more accessible, something they could really get their teeth into and, in CBS’ case, something they could really get behind and give the hard sell. And, oh boy, did their man deliver!
From the first crashing bars of the anthemic, fist-pumping title track to the haunted thought provoking finale of “My Hometown,” Springsteen came up with the goods big time, offering a critical, artistic AND commercial triumph.
Like much of his best work though, there’s a real dichotomy at the heart of this album.
Musically and vocally, it’s mainly upbeat stuff, tracks that strut along in a joyous rush, sounding positive and confident. “Cover Me” is downright jaunty, rumored to have been written as a track for Disco Queen Donna Summer.
“Working On a Highway” is close to a real old fashioned Rockabilly groover. “Glory Days,” “Bobby Jean,” “No Surrender,” they all seem to go by in a headlong excitable race to their conclusion. Even the guy who tells us “I’m Goin’ Down” sounds happy about it!
And that’s before even mentioning the quite wonderful “Dancing In The Dark”, the lead single from the album, which won Bruce a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance.
This is maybe a good time to mention the E Street Band who plays a blinder on this one , none more so than Max Weinberg whose mighty drum sound powers the whole thing. Roy Bittan also earned his corn on these sessions that’s for sure, he’s superb here.
Lyrically though it’s a whole different story .For these are tales of men at the end of their tether , angry at the world. Men who come back from the war and can’t catch a break , men who’ve ended up in dead-end jobs, men who spend their time looking back to better times. If you sat down and read the lyrics without ever having heard a note you’d get a completely different picture of what the album’s really like.
It all came together though and gelled in spectacular fashion and this mighty rock/pop beast spawned a total of seven Top Ten singles (US) between May’84 and Dec ’85 then went on to sell over 30 million copies worldwide. It was an awesome achievement which made Springsteen the star he remains to this day. After this it was stadiums all the way, except by choice of course.
As an illustration of just how hot Bruce was at this time let’s take a look at a song called “Pink Cadillac.” Released as the B Side to “Dancing In The Dark” it was quickly picked up by radio and became a #27 hit on Billboards Top Tracks chart, staying on there for 14 weeks. Not bad for a song not considered good enough for the album eh? It’s a rocking’ little minor classic and many artists would have been proud to include it on their latest release, for The Boss ?, a mere throwaway!
So, for certain, “Born In The USA” was Springsteen’s biggest selling release until that point and it remains so ’til this day and it stands as an artistic triumph also, a perfect example of how to combine songs of substance with commercial appeal. Listen to what Bruce is singing about in these songs and you’ll find real depth and humanity, two of his career long trademarks which he would never compromise on.
It has to be mentioned however that many long term admirers of the man simply do not love this album. Maybe they were put off by the MTV- friendly videos which came with some of the singles, maybe by the fact that these songs were seemingly NEVER off the radio in the mid-80’s, the title track being a particular offender (even I’m sick hearing that one if I’m honest !). Perhaps it all just sounded too nice and happy and upbeat compared to what they’d heard from him before.
Very few devoted Bruce fans would claim this as their favourite of his albums, I’m fairly sure of that, but over the years it’s more than earned its place in my collection. I’ve bought the bloody thing on cassette, vinyl AND CD after all. I reckon it’s a much under-rated entry in the great man’s body of work and overdue a re-evaluation without doubt………………
— Stephen Dalrymple, Glasgow, Scotland
All songs written and composed by Bruce Springsteen.
- “Born in the U.S.A.” 4:39
- “Cover Me” 3:27
- “Darlington County” 4:48
- “Working on the Highway” 3:11
- “Downbound Train” 3:35
- “I’m on Fire” 2:37
- “No Surrender” 4:00
- “Bobby Jean” 3:46
- “I’m Goin’ Down” 3:29
- “Glory Days” 4:15
- “Dancing in the Dark” 4:00
- “My Hometown” 4:34
The E Street Band
- Bruce Springsteen – lead vocals, lead guitar, acoustic guitar
- Roy Bittan – piano, synthesizer
- Clarence Clemons – saxophone, percussion
- Danny Federici – organ, glockenspiel, piano
- Garry Tallent – bass
- Steven Van Zandt – acoustic guitar, mandolin, harmony vocals
- Max Weinberg – drums
- Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg – background vocals
- Ruth Davis – background vocals
- Official Bruce Springsteen Website
- See our piece on Wrecking Ball
- See our piece on Born to Run
- Bruce finished European leg of 2012 tour. Here’s the story, set list and some videos.
- Bruce Rocks The Apollo. Here’s the set list and highlights.
Here’s the album in its entirety
Hear the album “Live”