Springsteen Archives launches ‘Artifact of the Month’ series

springsteen hand-written lyrics

One of two pages with lyrics for the song, “All Man the Guns (for America).”

The Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music at Monmouth University in West Long Branch has launched a new online series, “Artifact of the Month,” in which it will share items from its nearly 35,000 item collection. The first item is two pages of handwritten lyrics for a song, “All Man the Guns (for America),” that Springsteen never recorded. I’ve included one of the pages to the right.

This comes from the late ’60s and represents the oldest handwritten lyrics in the Archives’ collection. According to the website, the song was performed by Springsteen’s band Steel Mill in Richmond, Va., in August 1970, “and perhaps at a few other locations during that time.”

The song is written from the point of view of a scared soldier (“sometimes I wake up screaming”) who just wants to go home again. Springsteen writes:

When the rooster crows
And the train whistle blows
That’s when I’ll be gone
You see I got a job to do
My country is at war
But I’d fight the fiercest battle
And I’d cross the roughest land
If only I could be sure
I’d have my Mary’s hand

“They may be the oldest written lyrics, going back into my songwriting, that we have,” Springsteen says in a short video posted along with the artifact on the Archives’ web site. ” ‘Cause I don’t think we have anything before this. And basically it was … I was writing in notebooks at the time … I was writing politically at the time. My recollection was it was an anti-war song I wrote at probably 18 or 19 years old. I can’t believe they found some remaining lyrics … it’s really pretty amazing.”

To see it — and future installments in the series — visit springsteenarchives.org


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