Tuesday, August 26, 1975

Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” released on Born to Run

First posted 1/26/2020.

Thunder Road

Bruce Springsteen

Writer(s): Bruce Springsteen (see lyrics here)

Released: August 26, 1975 (album cut from Born to Run)

First Charted: --

Peak: -- (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 5.2 video, -- streaming

Awards (Springsteen):

Awards (Melissa Etheridge, unplugged):


It was never released as a single, but “Thunder Road,” the opening cut on Bruce Springsteen’s third album, Born to Run, has become one of his most loved songs. It started out in 1972 as “Angelina” and re-emerged in October 1974 later as “Chrissie’s Song.” Over the next three months, Springsteen combined that and lyrics from “Walking in the Street” to create a new song. WK The title, “Thunder Road,” was inspired by a poster of the 1958 Robert Mitchum film of the same name, although Springsteen didn’t see the movie. SF

In his autobiography, Springsteen said he envisioned the Born to Run album as a collection of vignettes following its character throughout the day. “Thunder Road” opens the album with a harmonica that suggested the beginning of the new day and invited listeners to the album. WK Vocally, Springsteen was inspired by Roy Orbison, who he references in the line “the radio plays Roy Orbison singing for the lonely.” SF The lyrics discuss Mary and her boyfriend and their “one last chance to make it real.” WK

In 2003, Q magazine ranked the song #226 on its list of the “1001 Greatest Songs Ever.” Rolling Stone magazine ranked it one of the top 100 songs of all time in 2004. That same year, WXPN, the University of Pennyslvania’s public radio station, ranked it #1 on their list of all-time greatest songs. WK

Springsteen wrote “The Promise” as a sequel to “Thunder Road.” It was performed during his 1978 tour, but didn’t see release until 1999 when a re-recorded version appeard on 18 Tracks and then again in 2010 on the album The Promsie, which was a collection of unreleased material from the Darkness on the Edge of Town era (1977-78).

In 1995, Melissa Etheridge brought Bruce Springsteen out as a surprise guest for her Unplugged special after telling the audience a story about how much he inspired her. She has cited her performance with Springsteen as the highlight of her career. RS They had to start the performance a second time because she was so nervous she flubbed the words on the first run-through. RS It was taped February 2, 1995, and aired on MTV on March 21, 1995.

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Monday, August 25, 1975

Bruce Springsteen Released Born to Run: August 25, 1975

Originally posted 8/25/11. Updated 2/22/13.

image from nme.com

Release date: 25 August 1975
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Thunder Road / Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out (1/26/76, #83 US) / Night / Backstreets / Born to Run (9/20/75, #23 US, #16 UK) / She’s the One / Meeting Across the River / Jungleland

Sales (in millions): 6.0 US, 0.3 UK, 10.4 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 3 US, 17 UK


Review: From the onset, Springsteen was billed as a “new Dylan”, but his first two albums were commercial disappointments. This made his third album a “make-or-break” effort WR and he delivered the first album in which he “fully realized the sound that would earn him the title of ‘the Boss.’” NRR His goal, as Springsteen later said, was to sound like “Roy Orbison singing Bob Dylan produced by Phil Spector.” TL

The effect “required months of studio tinkering to perfect” TL as the album is filled with “layers of guitar, layers of echo on the vocals, lots of keyboards, thunderous drums.” WR “Not coincidentally, it was also his first album to feature the revamped lineup of the dynamic E Street Band.” NRR “His two virtuoso players, keyboardist David Sancious and drummer Vini Lopez, [were] replaced by the professional but less flashy Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg.” WR The band also featured “saxophone player Clarence Clemons, second guitarist ‘Miami’ Steve Van Zandt, organist Danny Federici, [and] bassist Garry Tallent.” NRR

Born to Run

Born to Run had a big sound, and Springsteen wrote big songs to match it.” WR “The overall theme of the album was similar to that of The E Street Shuffle; Springsteen was describing, and saying farewell to, a romanticized teenage street life. But where he had been affectionate, even humorous before, he was becoming increasingly bitter. If Springsteen had celebrated his dead-end kids on his first album and viewed them nostalgically on his second, on his third he seemed to despise their failure, perhaps because he was beginning to fear he was trapped himself. Nevertheless, he now felt removed, composing an updated West Side Story with spectacular music that owed more to [Leonard] Bernstein than to [Chuck] Berry.” WR “No one before or since has tried to pack as much of the American experience into 39 minutes, and no one has come as close to succeeding.” TL

Thunder Road

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