‘Racing in the Street,’ Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Bruce Springsteen sings "Racing in the Street" in Houston in 1978,

Bruce Springsteen sings “Racing in the Street” in Houston in 1978,

Bruce Springsteen sang about a drag racer in his explosive 1978 song “Racing in the Street.” But he didn’t necessarily have a lot of first-hand experience with the subject.

“When you pick a song title like ‘Racing in the Street,’ that’s a hard song to write,” he told Rolling Stone in 2010. “But that was sort of the local culture of Asbury in the ’70s, which was still deeply enmeshed in car culture. If you went to the Stone Pony, it was a constant circle of souped-up muscle cars on Saturday and Sunday. Once again, I sort of stood outside of it, I was hitchhiking, I didn’t have a car! But I wanted one real bad.”

It’s a majestic song, about a guy who sees drag-racing as a way to escape the dead end of his life: “Some guys, they just give up living/And start dying little by little, piece by piece/Some guys come home from work and wash up/And go racing in the street.”

He met his girlfriend (or wife) through racing, winning her like a trophy. But now, just a few years later, there isn’t much magic left: “Now there’s wrinkles around my baby’s eyes/And she cries herself to sleep at night/When I come home the house is dark/She sighs, ‘Baby, did you make it all right?’ ”

Is there a more chilling line in rock than “She stares off alone into the night/With the eyes of one who hates for just being born”?

He remains defiant, though, and confident that some form of redemption is waiting for him — and her. “Tonight my baby and me, we’re gonna ride to the sea/And wash these sins off our hands.”

The song was included on Springsteen’s 1978 album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, and performed often at E Street concerts through the Born in the USA Tour of 1984 and 1985. Since then, it has become something of a rarity on tour, though it’s still stunningly intense, every time it does surface.

Below is a clip from a Houston stop on the Darkness on the Edge of Town Tour, in ’78.

New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.

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