Wings For Wheels: The Making Of Born to Run

Born to Run
Bruce Springsteen
Released August 25, 1975
Recorded Record Plant, New York
914 Sound Studios, Blauvelt, New York
January 1974 - July 1975
Genre Heartland rock
Length 39:26
Label Columbia
Producer Bruce Springsteen, Mike Appel, Jon Landau
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band chronology

The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle
(1973)
Born to Run
(1975)
Darkness on the Edge of Town
(1978)
Singles from Born to Run
  1. "Born to Run"
    Released: August 25, 1975
  2. "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out"
    Released: 1976

Born to Run is the third album by the American singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen. It was released on August 25, 1975 through Columbia Records.

Representing Springsteen's effort to break into the mainstream, Born to Run was a critical and commercial success. 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 garnered widespread critical acclaim. Praise centred on its production quality and Springsteen's songwriting, which focuses on the coming of age of average teenagers and young adults in New Jersey and New York City.[1][2] Often regarded as Springsteen's best release, Born to Run is frequently cited as one of the greatest albums of all time and was ranked at number 18 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003.[3]

On November 14, 2005, a "30th Anniversary" remaster of the album was released as a box set including two DVDs: a production diary film and a concert movie.

History

Springsteen began work on the album after touring in support of the band's 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. But, fed by the release of an early mix of "Born to Run" to progressive rock radio, anticipation built toward the album's release.

Springsteen has noted a progression in his songwriting compared to his previous work. Unlike Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, Born to Run includes few specific references to places in New Jersey, in an attempt to make the songs more identifiable to a wider audience. Springsteen has also referred to a maturation in his lyrics, calling Born to Run "the album where I left behind my adolescent definitions of love and freedom-- it was the dividing line."[4] In addition, Springsteen spent more time in the studio refining songs than he had on the previous two albums. All in all, 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. The album was Springsteen's first to feature pianist Roy Bittan and drummer Max Weinberg (although David Sancious and Ernest "Boom" Carter played the piano and drums, respectively, on the title track). Bittan also played the organ in place of Danny Federici on every track except the title track, on which Federici appeared.

The album is noted for its use of introductions to set the tone of each song (all of the record was composed on piano, not guitar), and for the Phil Spector-like "Wall of Sound" arrangements and production. Indeed, Springsteen has said that he wanted "Born to Run" to sound like "Roy Orbison singing Bob Dylan, produced by Spector." Most of the tracks were first recorded with a core rhythm section band comprising Springsteen, Weinberg, Bittan, and bassist Garry Tallent, with other members' contributions then added on.[5]

In terms of the original LP's sequencing, Springsteen eventually adopted a "four corners" approach, as the songs beginning each side ("Thunder Road", "Born to Run") were uplifting odes to escape, while the songs ending each side ("Backstreets", "Jungleland") were sad epics of loss, betrayal, and defeat. (Originally, he had planned to begin and end the album with alternative versions of "Thunder Road".)

Also, original pressings have "Meeting Across the River" billed as "The Heist". The original album cover has the title printed in a graffiti style font. These copies, known as the "script cover," are very rare and considered to be the "holy grail" for Springsteen collectors.

Release and reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[6]
Blender 4/5 stars[7]
Chicago Tribune 3.5/4 stars[8]
Robert Christgau A[9]
Pitchfork (10/10)[10]
Rolling Stone (very positive)[11]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars[12]
Piero Scaruffi (7/10)[13]
Sputnikmusic 5/5[14]

The album's release was accompanied by a $250,000 promotional campaign by Columbia directed at both consumers and the music industry, making good use of Landau's "I saw rock 'n' roll's future—and its name is Bruce Springsteen" quote. With much publicity, Born to Run vaulted into the top 10 in its second week on the charts and soon went Gold. Time and Newsweek magazines put Springsteen on the cover in the same week (October 27, 1975) – in Time, Jay Cocks praised Springsteen, while the Newsweek article took a cynical look at the "next Dylan" hype that haunted Springsteen until his breakthrough. The question of hype became a story in itself as critics began wondering if Springsteen was for real or the product of record company promotion.[15][16]

Upset with Columbia's promotion department, 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." When Springsteen arrived for his first UK concert at the Hammersmith Odeon, he personally tore down the "Finally the world is ready for Bruce Springsteen" posters in the lobby and ordered that the buttons with "I have seen the future of rock 'n' roll at the Hammersmith Odeon" printed on them not be given out. Now fearing the hype might backfire, Columbia suspended all press interviews with Springsteen. When the hype died down, sales tapered off and the album was off the chart after 29 weeks. But the album had established a solid national fan base for Springsteen which he would build on with each subsequent release.

The album debuted on the Billboard album chart on September 13, 1975 at #84. The following week it made an impressive increase entering the top 10 at #8, then spent two weeks at #4, and finally, during the weeks of October 11 and October 18, Born to Run reached its peak position of #3.

Born to Run continued to be a strong catalog seller through the years, re-entering the Billboard chart in late 1980 after The River was released, and again after the blockbuster success of Born in the U.S.A., spending most of 1985 on the chart. It was certified triple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in 1986, the first year in which pre-1976 releases were eligible for platinum and multi-platinum awards.

In 1987, Born to Run was ranked #8 by Rolling Stone in its "100 Best Albums of the Last Twenty Years"[17] and in 2003, in its "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" ranked Born to Run at number 18.[18] In 2001, the TV network VH1 named it the 27th-greatest album of all time,[19] and in 2003, it was ranked as the most popular album in the first Zagat Survey Music Guide.[20]

Born to Run is listed in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry of historic recordings.[21]

In December 2005, U.S. Representative Frank Pallone (who represents Asbury Park) and 21 co-sponsors sponsored H.Res. 628, "Congratulating Bruce Springsteen of New Jersey on the 30th anniversary of his masterpiece record album 'Born to Run', and commending him on a career that has touched the lives of millions of Americans." In general, resolutions honoring native sons are passed with a simple voice vote. This bill, however, was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and died there.[22]

Live performance

Songs from Born to Run were performed live as early as mid-1974, and by 1975, all had made their way into Springsteen's shows and (with the rare exception of "Meeting Across the River") continued to be a regular staple of his concerts on subsequent tours through 2009. Springsteen and the E Street Band performed Born to Run in its entirety and in order for the first time at a benefit performance at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey, on May 7, 2008. It was again performed during their September 20, 2009, show at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois,[23] as well as several other shows on the fall 2009 leg of the Working on a Dream Tour. During the 2013 spring-summer run of his Wrecking Ball Tour, Springsteen again began to perform the album in its entirety although a few times its performance was not included in the actual set lists and it was performed as either a surprise or request.

On June 20, 2013, the full album was performed in England and dedicated to the memory of actor James Gandolfini, who died of a heart attack the previous day.[24]

Album cover

The cover art of Born to Run is one of rock music's most popular and iconic images.[25] It was taken by Eric Meola, who shot 900 frames in his three-hour session.[25] These photos have been compiled in Born to Run: The Unseen Photos.[25]

The photo shows Springsteen holding a Fender Esquire while leaning against saxophonist Clarence Clemons.[25] That image became famous as the cover art. "Other things happened," says Meola, "but when we saw the contact sheets, that one just sort of popped.[25] Instantly, we knew that was the shot." Ultra-thin lettering graced the mass-produced version: an unusual touch then; a design classic since.[25]

During the Born to Run tours, Springsteen and Clemons would occasionally duplicate the pose onstage for several seconds after a song while the stage lights were dim. As soon as the audience would recognize and respond to what they were doing, they immediately broke the pose.

The Springsteen and Clemons cover pose has been imitated often, from Cheap Trick on the album Next Position Please, to Tom and Ray Magliozzi on the cover of the Car Talk compilation Born Not to Run: More Disrespectful Car Songs, to Kevin & Kell on a Sunday strip entitled "Born to Migrate" featuring Kevin Dewclaw as Bruce with a carrot and Kell Dewclaw as Clarence with a pile of bones, to Bert and the Cookie Monster on the cover of the Sesame Street album Born to Add.[25] It has also been used as the cover art for Frank Turner's cover of Thunder Road.

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Bruce Springsteen
Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Thunder Road"   4:49
2. "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out"   3:11
3. "Night"   3:00
4. "Backstreets"   6:30
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "Born to Run"   4:31
2. "She's the One"   4:30
3. "Meeting Across the River"   3:18
4. "Jungleland"   9:34

30th Anniversary Edition

On November 14, 2005, Columbia Records released Born to Run 30th Anniversary Edition in box set form. The package included:

  • a remastered CD version of the original album – the CD is all black (including playback side) with the label side replicating the original vinyl disc having four bands (the original LP had four tracks per side) and including a modified red Columbia label listing all 8 tracks
  • the DVD Wings For Wheels, a lengthy documentary on the making of the album, which later won the 2007 Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video
    • with bonus film of three songs recorded live on May 1, 1973 at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles
  • the DVD Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Hammersmith Odeon, London '75, a full-length concert film recorded on November 18, 1975 at the Hammersmith Odeon in London during the brief European portion of their Born to Run tours.

Packages from retailer Best Buy also included:

  • a CD single replica of the original "Born to Run" 45 single.

The box set debuted on the Billboard 200 album chart on December 3, 2005 at number 18 with sales of 53,206 copies.[26] It spent 6 weeks on the chart.

Personnel

The E Street Band

Additional musicians

Production

  • John Berg – album design
  • Greg Calbi – mastering
  • Charles Calelloconductor, string arrangements
  • Andy Engel – album design
  • Bob Ludwig – remastering
  • Eric Meola – photography
  • Steven Van Zandt – horn arrangements on "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out"

Engineers

Chart positions

Album

Year Chart Position Notes
1975 US Record World 1
1975 US Billboard 200 3
1975 UK Album Chart 36
1980 US Billboard 200 66 re-entry
1985 US Billboard 200 101 re-entry
1985 UK Album Chart 17 re-entry
2005 US Billboard 200 18 Born to Run 30th Anniversary Edition

Singles

Year Single Chart Position
1975 "Born to Run" US Billboard Hot 100 23
1975 "Born to Run" US Cash Box Top 100 Singles 17
1976 "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" US Billboard Hot 100 83
1976 "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" US Cash Box Top 100 Singles 63

References

External links

  • Radio3Net (streamed copy where licensed)
  • Album lyrics and audio samples
  • Collection of album reviews
  • Born To Run Photographs
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