“Here’s a song about blowing a good thing,” said Bruce Springsteen before performing “Back in Your Arms” for the first time in concert, at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford in 1999.
This ballad — which has a retro-soul feel and expresses longing for a soured relationship to return to a prior, better state — was one of the standout tracks of Springsteen’s 1998 from-the-vaults compilation, Tracks. And it has come across even better when Springsteen has performed it live, though he hasn’t done so very often. (You can watch a fine 2014 performance, below.)
The song was recorded with the E Street Band during their brief 1995 reunion (to record a few tracks for Springsteen’s Greatest Hits album) that preceded their full-blown reunion a few years later, and includes a distinctive Clarence Clemons sax solo as well as prominently featuring Danny Federici’s distinctive organ playing. One has to wonder if there was a double meaning: Springsteen may be wishing for the band to get back together again in a more permanent way.
In his 2019 book “Bruce Springsteen: The Stories Behind the Songs,” Brian Hiatt brings up a third possibility: Springsteen was feeling he was losing his connection with his fans. Hiatt quotes Springsteen co-producer Chuck Plotkin as saying, “It sounds and feels to me like this was written to his audience,” and Springsteen himself as saying, in a 2007 Rolling Stone interview, that he had felt, at some unspecified point in the past, “the absence of that dialogue” with his fans and that “it was a terrible emptiness.”
Background facts: Springsteen recorded “Back in Your Arms” in 1995, apparently considering it for his Greatest Hits album, but didn’t release it until 1998, when it came out on his boxed set, Tracks.
According to Brucebase, he performed it 23 times between 1999 and 2017.
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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