The cool thing about having a range of people and opinions on this site is the ability to cobble together just about any pop culture list and find people who are willing to buy in. The list of staffers who contributed to this list of favorite Bruce Springsteen fans runs the gamut from diehards to folks who are on that level above “casual fan” and below “OMG OMG BROOOOOOOOOSE!”-like me.
I must admit to being somewhat surprised that the list ended up so Born To Run and Born In The U.S.A.-heavy, but hey, can you really argue with any of the songs featured on this list? Fact of the matter is-even if you don’t stand up and sing along with every word he says-Bruce Springsteen is one of the best songwriters of all time, a passionate live performer, and one of the best examples of a rock legend who did it (largely) his way–politically outspoken, publicity stunt-free, never pandering to sell records. Even if his music isn’t your cup of tea, you’ve got to give it up for the man. And with this list-we give it up to the man and his music. (Big Money)
10. “I’m On Fire” (1984)
I was 8 when Born In The U.S.A. came out, and I remember there being a huge fuss over the video for “I’m on Fire,” as it was the first video that showcased Bruce’s “acting” skills-his version of “Thriller,” if you will. I’ll leave it up to you to decide how good Bruce is as an actor. On second thought, no I won’t. The video is hilariously bad, but this slow-burner of a song is one of the gems of Bruce’s catalog. Comparing sexual attraction to heat was certainly nothing new-I mean, in 1984, we were coming off of the disco era where the word “fever” was used to describe damn near everything, and Bruce’s own “Fire,” made famous six years prior by the Pointer Sisters, traversed the same lyrical territory, but still, there’s something about Bruce’s Elvis-esque crooning and his wordless falsetto at the end that gives this song’s sensuality a spine-tingling quality. No one talks about Bruce’s horndog-gy material too much, but “I’m on Fire” is (to me) an underappreciated gem of his catalog-Hollywood video or no. Big Money
9. “Growin’ Up” (1973)
“Growin’ Up” comes from the “new Dylan” period of Springsteen’s career, a wistful gem from his debut record that, like many of its counterparts on Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ, manages to elicit specific feelings and make a thematic point even as its lyrics are occasionally a lot more abstract. It’s not that the lyrics are nonsense, mind you; it’s just that this was a young Bruce in love with wordplay, and his youthful bellow, coupled with his wistful, reluctant vocal on simple hook “oooh, growin’ up”, convey more than his lyrics actually do. It works precisely because of that, and because the instantly-familiar chord structure is so immediately evocative that you can’t help but to get sucked in. (Drew)
8. “Thunder Road” (1975)
Remember album sequencing? Wait a second-let me take my cranky old man pants off and approach this from a different direction. Some of us-many of us-still listen to albums as albums and not just a random collection of songs. In the ’70s (and ’80s and ’90s,) many of the best albums followed a thread-it could be a narrative thread, where a story of sorts unfolds through the collection of songs, but more commonly, the thread was based on feel. You wanted your album opener to set a particular mood-to suck people in. “Thunder Road,” the song that kicked off Bruce’s breakthrough album, Born To Run, was the perfect mood-setter and might be the best opening track out of Bruce’s extensive catalog. It starts off quietly and builds to a crescendo, establishing the passion and the joy that would define most of Born To Run. Hey, Rob Fleming in the book and film High Fidelity names it as one of the five best Side One tracks ever, and you know you can’t argue with a Nick Hornby character.
The song’s endurance and influence is legendary. Hell, without “Thunder Road,” it’s doubtful we’d have ever gotten Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” one of the most beloved (and justifiably so, no snark at all) anthems of the Eighties. (Big Money)
7. “Glory Days” (1984)
The second reason why I think this song is so well-remembered and well-liked is because of the theme. Whenever I think about this song, I think about being introduced to Bruce by my dad. Now, I know that not everyone was introduced to this song by one of their parents but there’s something about themes of reminiscing that put us in happy places. Whenever I hear this song, I smile, no matter what.
Now, I also love it for the cheese-ball baseball lyrics like his usage of speedball rather than fastball. Come on Bruce, no one outside of a 5-year old calls it a speedball. And of course, also because of Bruce’s horrendous pitching delivery in the video. My man couldn’t strike out your mom and mine. Now that I’m older than when my dad was when he introduced this song to me, I think this one’s going on my kids’ iPhone and iPad. Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye, glory days, glory days … (GG)
6. “Downbound Train” (1984)
For some it might be surprising that “Downbound Train” appears here. For others its exclusion would be unthinkable—I’m in the second camp. It’s been called both ‘the best’ and also ‘the most sloppy’ song Bruce has ever written (go to Wikipedia).
It was one of the first songs written that appears on Born in the USA. There was an acoustic demo recorded around the time of theNebraska album and this could be why the song sounds a little more country and a little less synth driven than many of the other BITU songs.
This song holds special meaning for me for a weird reason. I won my first ever Springsteen-knowledge related bet with my cousin, Sean (so that makes it about 739 to 1), thanks to “Downbound Train” and the album on which it appears, Born in the USA. Supposedly, Steve Earle heard “Downbound Train” at a friend’s and immediately set to listening to the whole record. He resolved to write his own BITU and a short while later one of Earle’s classic records, Guitar Town, was born. In case you were wondering, my cousin fought that Guitar Town came out first—thank you interwebs.
“Downbound Train” will not be remembered when thinking about Bruce radio hits or classic even live tracks . But, it will live on as one of his most unique tracks. It combines classic Bruce story-telling and the sparse and deliberate arrangement with the BITU vibe layered on top. This song would not sound completely out of place on almost any Bruce album, including contemporary releases. (Tom)
5. “Brilliant Disguise” (1987)
My relationship history is sketchy, at best, but I’ve certainly experienced feelings of confusion and doubt within the ones I’ve been in. It’s why I’m single now. Along with albums like Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear and Meshell N’degeocello’s Bitter, Tunnel of Love is one of those albums that explicitly details the breakdown of a relationship and does it perfectly. While every song on that album (just about) hits me in the heart, “Brilliant Disguise” packs one of the more powerful punches. It’s all in the lyrics–The Boss details emotions that many people must feel at some point in their relationship-a man trying to make things work by putting up a facade, and beating the shit out of himself in the process. There’s a detail and honesty to these lyrics that makes me think that, as much as Bruce is known for being a songwriter who wears his heart on his sleeve, “Brilliant Disguise” has to be one of his most emotionally revealing compositions. Even the little lyrical switch at the end where he switches the wearer of the titular disguise from himself to his partner is pure songwriting magic.
Plus, how many non-concert music videos do you see where the artist isn’t lip-synching? (Big Money)
4. “Cover Me” (1984)
Born in the USA is quite explicitly Bruce’s pop album, the merits of which continue to be debated amongst fans. And while it is not devoid of pop elements, “Cover Me” stands out as the album’s most blatant rocker. Yet despite its open embrace of straightforward, testosterone-driven rock urgency, “Cover Me” is about vulnerability. The song can be read as coming of age tune, the narrator suddenly discovering that the world can be a threatening, unpredictable place. Plagued by insecurity, our protagonist seeks security, stability, comfort – “cover” via a lover. Yet the lack of such a relationship only heightens his sense of fear, insecurity and inability to “shut the door” on the dangers and stresses of adult life. (Dr. Gonzo)
3. 10th Avenue Freeze-Out (1975)
“10th Avenue Freeze Out” is the fan-favorite good times anthem Bruce opened his Super Bowl half time performance with. The second song on Born To Run loosely describes the formation of the E Street band–Bruce being, ‘Bad Scooter’ and the recently deceased, Clarence Clemons, as the song’s ‘Big Man’. When asked what the song is about Bruce’s go to line has been, “I’m not sure. But its really important.”
The song’s unique horn introduction alerts fans that the raucously joyful song is about to start. The introduction is distinct and almost entirely unrelated to the melody that follows it. The intro signals to revelers that the party is about to start in a similar way the beat dropping out of a hip-hop song.
For this reason it makes a great wedding party introductory song – as my cousin and countless others have experienced. The band is named for a street –E– in Belmar, New Jersey and recently an ice cream shop opened in town (yes on 10th) called, ‘10th Avenue Freeze Out”.
Live in concert Bruce often stretches :10th Avenue” out to introduce all of the players in the band with the climatic finish introducing the song’s ‘Big Man’ sometimes described live as ‘Master of the Universe’, Clarence Clemons. The band plans to substitute a ‘chorus of horns’ in Clemons’ absence. Despite the horn section and the fact that E Street has experienced death before how and if he’ll continue this grand introductory tradition in “10th Avenue” without the big man is a question yet to be addressed. (Tom)
2. “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” (1973)
The Wild, the Innocent, & the E Street Shuffle is stuffed to the brim with youthful energy, and it crescendos with penultimate track “Rosalita”: a raucous rock n’ roll rave-up about whisking Bruce’s own personal Juliet away from her overbearing parents, it boasts the length of an epic, but none of the pretense. Rather, it ebbs and flows through its movements with exuberance and fluidity, Bruce’s limber backup band barreling gamely along. “Rosalita” accomplishes more pure, r&b-tinged rock and roll than singles half its length, and the energy level doesn’t flag for a second, picking up speed into an exciting musical break and a breathless, double-time coda. The Big Man’s sax is star here, wrapping around instrumental sections like a hungry python, driving the song to a relentless climax. (Drew)
1. “Born to Run” (1975)
Springsteen has a disproportionate amount of anthems in his catalog, but there is none as anthemic, or quite as epic as the title track to his 1975 masterpiece. Musically the song pounds away, a rhythmic approximation of Wendy and the narrator fleeing the confines of their hometown, and their youth. While many of Springsteen’s songs directly address with despair, hardship, and perseverance, “Born to Run” is about youthful energy, and the promise of the open “road” as we enter adulthood. Rather than approaching that future with trepidation and fear (as in “Cover Me”), “Born to Run” approaches the future as unlimited opportunity via the pursuit of that “runaway American Dream.” (Dr. Gonzo)
Incoming search terms:
- bruce springsteen wedding songs