‘Born to Run’ in context: A look at popular music in the summer of ’75

The cover of Bruce Springsteen's 'Born to Run' album, released on Aug. 25, 1975.

The cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’ album, released on Aug. 25, 1975.

Tuesday will mark the 40th anniversary of the release of Bruce Springsteen’s classic Born to Run album. As a result, you will be seeing — and have probably seen already — a lot of articles exploring how it was made, and why it is so great, and what an incredible impact it had.

But something that few if any of those articles will offer — and that is absolutely essential if you want to understand why Born to Run is so important — is a close look at the other music that was popular in the summer of 1975.

I’ve taken a look back. And it isn’t pretty.

Oh sure, there were lots of great albums in 1975. Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks and Led Zepellin’s Physical Graffiti came out early that year. Other albums released that summer, or earlier in the year, included Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie’s Young Americans, Dylan & The Band’s The Basement Tapes, Earth, Wind & Fire’s That’s the Way of the World, Steely Dan’s Katy Lied, Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic, The Eagles’ One of These Nights, Smokey Robinson’s A Quiet Storm, The Doobie Brothers’ Stampede and Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger.

The Ramones and Patti Smith were laying the groundwork for the punk revolution in New York that year, while in England, Brian Eno was experimenting with sound, and The Sex Pistols were finding each other. Though to a 13-year-old in the New Jersey suburbs, like me, it would be years before I was aware of any of that stuff.

No, to someone like me, the summer of 1975 was about disco, which was starting to become ubiquitous, and the cheesy pop songs that still had a stranglehold on Top 40 radio. The time was just right, in other words, for a gritty rock album like Born to Run to have maximum impact.

Here’s a look at some of the most popular songs of the summer of ’75. I’m not saying that all of these songs are bad; I’m actually quite fond of a few of them. But taken together, they’ll give you a taste of the musical world into which Born to Run was … born.

“Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” John Denver. (No. 1, Billboard issue of June 7, 1975)

“Love Will Keep Us Together,” Captain and Tennille (No. 1, June 21 and 28 and July 5 and 12, 1975)

“Listen to What the Man Said,” Wings (No. 1, July 19, 1975)

“The Hustle,” Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony (No. 1, July 26, 1975)

“One of These Nights,” The Eagles (No. 1, Aug. 2, 1975)

“Jive Talkin’,” The Bee Gees (No. Aug. 9 and 16, 1975)

“Get Down Tonight,” KC & the Sunshine Band (No. 1, Aug. 30, 1975)

“Rhinestone Cowboy,” Glen Campbell (No. 1, Sept. 6 and 13, 1975)


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