10 things we learn about Bruce Springsteen’s music in his ‘Born to Run’ autobiography

The cover of Bruce Springsteen's autobiography, "Born to Run."

The cover of Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, “Born to Run.”

Understandably, much of what has been written about Bruce Springsteen’s new book “Born to Run” has focused on what he says about his life.

But he also spends much of the book writing about songs, albums and the unexpected twists and turns his musical career has taken. Here are 10 most notable things he has to say about his music.

(Note: I realize Springsteen probably touched on at least some of these thing in various interviews, throughout the years, but they were all things I had never heard before, or were old stories with new details, so I figured they were worth sharing.)

• Van Morrison was not only a huge influence on Springsteen’s early songs (“Without Van, there is no ‘New York City Serenade’ or jazz soul of ‘Kitty’s Back’,” he writes), but also led indirectly to the 1999 reunion of the E Street Band. Springsteen attended a 1998 Bob Dylan/Van Morrison/Joni Mitchell concert at the San Jose Arena. “The floor was a mass of smiles and swaying bodies, and as I watched, I thought, ‘I can do this. I can bring this, this happiness, these smiles.’ I went home and called the E Street Band.”

• Steven Van Zandt was going to be on the Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. album “but we opted out of electric guitar in my concession to the singer/songwriter I was signed to be,” Springsteen writes.

• “Rosalita” is quite autobiographical. Or, at least the “I know your mama, she don’t like me, ’cause I play in a rock and roll band” part. “As a teenager,” Springsteen writes, “I’d had a girlfriend whose mother had threatened to get a court injunction against me to keep me away from her daughter due to my low-rent beginnings and defiant (for my little town) appearance. The daughter was a sweet blonde who I believe was the first gal I had successful intercourse with …”

In “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” though, Sandy was “a composite of some of the girls I’d known along the Shore.”

 About “The E Street Shuffle,” Springsteen writes: “Musically,  I based the song on Major Lance’s sixties hit ‘The Monkey Time,’ a dance song. … I wanted … to invent a dance with no exact steps. It was just the dance you did every day and every night to get by.”

• “She’s the One” was “written just so I could hear C (Clarence Clemons) blow that sax solo over the top of it.”

• While describing his efforts to get a more “live band” sound in the studio for The River, he writes, “the snare sound on Elvis’s ‘Hound Dog’ was my Holy Grail.”

 The song “The River” has a country foundation: Springsteen writes that “one night in my hotel room I started singing Hank Williams’s ‘My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It, ‘ and ‘Well, I went upon the mountain, I looked down in the sea’ somehow led to ‘I’m going down to the river …’ ”

As Springsteen also mentioned in recent shows in which he played The River in its entirety, that album’s “Stolen Car” led to Tunnel of Love: “That song’s character, drifting through the night, is the first to face the angels and devils that will drive him toward his love and keep him from ever reaching her. This was the voice that embodied my own conflicts.”

• We finally have a definitive answer regarding whether or not “Bobby Jean” was written about Van Zandt. Springsteen writes, in his chapter about Born in the USA, ” ‘Bobby Jean’ and ‘No Surrender’ were great tributes to the bonding power of rock and my friendship with Steve.”

• “Streets of Philadelphia” almost led to an entire album “in that vein,” but it was shelved (though two songs from it, “Nothing Man” and “Secret Garden,” came out on later albums): “I spend the better part of the year in Los Angeles trying to come up with an album in that vein. It was an album centering on men and women and it was dark. … this would’ve been my fourth record in a row about relationships. If I could’ve felt its fullness, I wouldn’t have hesitated to put it out. But a not fully-realized record around the same topic felt like one too many.”

Two Wrecking Ball tracks, “Shackled and Drawn” and “Rocky Ground,” came from “a gospel film project I’d been working on …”

Leave a Review or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *