On the River outtake “Living on the Edge of the World” and two later songs, “Open All Night” and “State Trooper” (both from Nebraska), Bruce Springsteen sang similar lyrics about a lost soul yearning to make some connection through listening to the radio.
“Hey, Mr. DJ, won’t ya hear my last prayer/Hey ho, rock ‘n’ roll, deliver me from nowhere,” he sang, for instance, in “Open All Night.”
Some two and a half decades later, he returned to the theme on “Radio Nowhere,” one of the hardest-rocking songs of the second half of his career. It’s three minutes and 18 seconds of blaring guitars, a pounding beat, a brief saxophone solo, a hook that is very reminiscent of the 1981 Tommy Tutone hit “867-5309/Jenny” and a built-in audience participation part (the pause after Springsteen sings, “I want a million different voices speaking in tongues”).
Undoubtedly the stale state of rock radio around the time that “Radio Nowhere” was recorded had something to do with the lyrics. But that yearning-for-connection theme is really the more important one in this song. And Springsteen, in a characteristic move, eventually broadens the lyrics to make them about a troubled personal relationship, too, singing “I was driving through the misty rain/Searchin’ for a mystery train/Boppin’ through the wild blue/Tryin’ to make a connection with you.”
Background facts: Springsteen released “Radio Nowhere” on his 2007 album, Magic. It was also released as a single, rising to No. 102 on Billboard magazine’s pop chart (and making the Top 40 in Ireland and Norway),and won two Grammys, for Rock Song and Rock Vocal Performance.
According to Brucebase, Springsteen performed it 181 times between 2007 and 2017. On the Magic Tour, it was usually played as the first or second song of the show.
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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