‘Fade Away’ to make a comeback on River Tour

The cover of Bruce Springsteen's single, "Fade Away."

The cover of Bruce Springsteen’s 1981 single, “Fade Away.”

Bruce Springsteen had just two Top 40 singles from his 1980 double album The River: “Hungry Heart” and “Fade Away.” The Boss has performed the catchy “Hungry Heart” hundreds of times since then, and the heartbreaking “Fade Away” very rarely. He has, in fact, sung “Fade Away” just 26 times over the years, making it the most rarely performed Top 40 hit from any of his studio albums.

Fans who have never heard this atmospheric ballad live before will have plenty of chances on Springsteen’s upcoming River Tour. The entire River album will be performed every night.

One E Street Band member who should be happy about is Steven Van Zandt. In a 2013 interview with the San Jose Mercury News, he said that if he could pick just one Springsteen song for his iPod, it just might be “Fade Away.”

The River will always be special to me,” he said. “It gave us our first hit — ‘Hungry Heart’ — and it led to a lot of other great things. I was a producer on that album and that was the first time we were able to capture what the band really sounded like. As for ‘Fade Away’ specifically, I loved the way Bruce sang it. It was a real traditional ’60s rock ballad — the kind that the Rolling Stones did so well without being corny and maudlin, and have some edge to it. That song was in that tradition.”

Just how much of a rarity is “Fade Away” among Springsteen hits? Well, I came up with a way to quantify it, devising a statistic that I’ll call the HIC (Hit in Concert) Rate. I looked at all of Springsteen’s Top 40 hits, and multiplied their highest chart position by the number of times they have been played live by him. You rise high on this list by only making the lower regions of the Top 40 but still being played a lot live. You sink lower by being bigger hit and being played less.

“Born to Run,” whose highest Top 40 ranking (No. 23) is relatively low, and is Springsteen’s most frequently played song, ranks highest on the list. “Secret Garden,” which rose to No. 19 and has been played only four times, ranks last. But “Secret Garden” doesn’t really count, because it was first released not on a regular studio album, but on Springsteen’s Greatest Hits album, which came out in early 1995, when he wasn’t touring (and so the song never got the attention that a studio-album single would).

Here are all of Springsteen’s Top 40 hits, ranked by HIC rate. The first number in parentheses is the song’s highest Billboard ranking, the second the number of times it has been played live. Statistics by Wikipedia.com and brucebase.wikidot.com.

“Born to Run” — 31,832 (23 x 1,384)
“Prove It All Night” — 21,450 (33 x 650)
“Born in the USA” — 6,480 (9 x 720)
“Hungry Heart” — 3,225 (5 x 645)
“Glory Days” — 2,640 (5 x 528)
“Cover Me” — 2,352 (7 x 336)
“Better Days” — 1,920 (16 x 120)
“Human Touch” — 1,904 (16 x 119)
“My Hometown” — 1,728 (6 x 288)
“I’m on Fire” — 1,626 (6 x 271)
“Dancing in the Dark — 1,368 (2 x 684)
“Brilliant Disguise” — 1,055 (5 x 211)
“Tunnel of Love” — 801 (9 x 89)
“Streets of Philadelphia” — 783 (9 x 87)
“War” — 768 (8 x 96)
“One Step Up” — 767 (13 x 59)
“I’m Goin’ Down” — 684 (9 x 76)
“Fade Away” — 520 (20 x 26)
“Secret Garden” — 76 (19 x 4)

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Mike Sammy January 9, 2016 - 10:40 am

Brilliant Disguise actually peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart…not #16.

njartsdaily@gmail.com January 9, 2016 - 12:54 pm

Thanks, have corrected.

Mike Sammy January 9, 2016 - 10:42 am

I think you have Better Days and Brilliant Disguise mixed up.

Better Days was a double A side single with Human Touch — this reached #16 (although Better Days didn’t receive much airplay nationally). Better Days was a hit thanks to the airplay that Human Touch received.

So…swap the chart positions for Better Days and Brilliant Disguise and we’re good to go.

njartsdaily@gmail.com January 9, 2016 - 12:55 pm

Thanks, have corrected. I abbreviated both as BD while doing my calculations and inadvertently mixed them up!

Mark West January 9, 2016 - 6:27 pm

Sabermetrics and Bruce…..Who coulda known?


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