In 1995, Bruce Springsteen released his first greatest hits album, rather unimaginatively titled Greatest Hits. In standard music-industry procedure, he included some new material on it. How else would you get fans who already own everything you previously released to buy it?
There were four previously unavailable songs on it. One was “Murder Incorporated,” represented by a recording that was made during the Born in the USA sessions. The song “This Hard Land” also was first recorded during the Born in the USA sessions, though this was a new version, made with the E Street Band (dormant at the time, but reassembled for the Greatest Hits sessions). The song “Secret Garden” dated back to the Human Touch sessions though this, too, was a new recording made with the E Street Band.
The fourth song was “Blood Brothers,” and it was inspired directly by the band’s reunion.
“I wrote it the night before I went in the studio with the band, and I was trying to sort out what I was doing and what those relationships meant to me now and what they mean to you as you move through your life,” Springsteen said in a 1995 interview with Guitar World magazine.
The song is an intense and pensive but musically gentle folk-rock number, evoking a bond that remained unbroken through the passage of time — and even after the band’s temporary dissolution. It immediately became a sentimental favorite among Springsteen fans.
“We stood side by side, each one fighting for the other/And we said until we died we’d always be blood brothers,” sang Springsteen, summing up the ties that bind, within the band, as well as he ever has.
Background facts: “Blood Brothers” was first released on Springsteen’s 1995 Greatest Hits album. An alternate version of the song, with a louder, harder-driving rock arrangement and some lyrical changes (see below), came out as one of five tracks on Springsteen’s Blood Brothers EP, released in 1996.
Since then, Springsteen has performed it mainly on special occasions: in July 2000 at Madison Square Garden, as the last song of the E Street Band reunion tour; in October 2003 at Shea Stadium, as the last song of the Rising Tour; and in April 2008 at the Amway Arena in Orlando, as the opening number of the second show the band performed after the death of Danny Federici.
At the Madison Square Garden concert, he altered the song again, adding these lines, among others:
Now I’m out here on this road, alone on this road tonight
Close my eyes and feel so many friends around me in the early evening light
And the miles we have come and the battles won and lost
Are just so many roads traveled, so many rivers crossed
He also performed a solo acoustic version at the Perth Arena in Perth, Australia, in January 2017, in response to a sign request.
On each of the 70 days leading up to Bruce Springsteen’s 70th birthday (on Sept. 23, 2019), NJArts.net will do a post on one of The Boss’ best songs of the last 30 years. We’re starting with No. 70 and working our way up. For more on the project, click here.
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