Blinded by the Light
Writer(s): Bruce Springsteen (see lyrics here)
Released: February 23, 1973
First Charted: --
Peak: 15 CL, 7 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2.8 video, -- streaming
Blinded by the Light
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
Released: August 6, 1976
First Charted: August 28, 1976
Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 13 GR, 11 HR, 14 RR, 1 CL, 6 UK, 11 CN, 11 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): 1.0 US
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 38.6 video, 149.42 streaming
Awards (Manfred Mann):
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
When Bruce Springsteen first emerged as an artist, many hailed him as the next Bob Dylan. While both were poetic rockers, they carved out distinctly different paths – although there were some commonalities. Neither had a #1 song as an artist although both appeared on the #1 star-studded “We Are the World” in 1985. They also each came close to the top – Dylan with “Like a Rolling Stone” (#2) and “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” (#2), Springsteen with “Dancing in the Dark” (#2). Finally, they both had songs they wrote reach the pinnacle when the artists were at their peak. In Dylan’s case, it was the Byrds with “Mr. Tambourine” in 1965. For Springsteen, his song “Blinded by the Light” reached the top in 1976 in the hands of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.
Springsteen signed to Columbia Records – the same label as Dylan – in 1972. His debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ, followed in January 1973 after some prompting by the label’s Clive Davis to write a hit single. Springsteen responded with “Blinded by the Light” and “Spirit in the Night” (also covered by Manfred Mann) “in a rush, later saying that he gave his rhyming dictionary a real workout that night.” SG Since most of the band wasn’t available on short notice, Springsteen played guitar, bass, and keyboards. Springsteen said the song was a “young musician’s tale, kind of a litany of adventures. It was rather on the autobiographical side.” UCR “Along the way, we hit church dances, meet campus radicals, FBI agents and several loose women.” UCR “Blinded by the Light” was released as a single, but went nowhere.
“You can hear plenty of the strengths that would eventually turn Springsteen into a star: The monster chorus, the finely observed everyday-life lyrical details, the life-affirming Clarence Clemons saxophone-bleats, the ‘whooooaa’” SG but it “is a messy scrawl of a song, played with a muddy immediacy that sounds just slightly out of sync. Springsteen was 23 when he recorded it, but he sang it in a garbled old-man mutter. And they lyrics are a sort of impressionistic pastiche of a teenage night out on the Asbury Park boardwalk. At the time, Springsteen’s lyrics were Dylan-esque poetic excursions, not the concrete storytelling he’d adapt later.” SG
“Manfred Mann was probably an unlikely candidate to take Springsteen’s music to the American masses.” SG He was a South African-born keyboardist who moved to London in 1961 and formed a jazz-blues band. Three years later, his band hit #1 in the U.S. with a cover of the Exciters’ “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.” They also hit the top 10 with a cover of Dylan’s “The Mighty Quinn.” By 1971, the band had reformed as Manfred Mann’s Earth Band “replacing the original’s garage rock with a more progressive sound that incorporated classical themes.” UCR
They recorded “Blinded by the Light” and “Spirit in the Night” for their 1976 album The Roaring Silence. Mann’s recording of “Light” is “much cleaner and heavier on showy musicianship than Springsteen’s original had been.” SG It “took the loose, folksy vibe of the original and gave it a harder edge, adding a lengthy guitar solo, Moog synthesizer and, for some reason, a snippet of the children’s piano lesson, ‘Chopsticks.’ Singer Chris Thompson skipped some verses entirely.” UCR “It sounds big and sharp and dramatic – Grand Funk-style Midwest-friendly arena-rock, but transformed into something clean and cinematic enough to compete with disco on the pop charts.” SG
Mann’s version famously confused Springsteen’s original line “cut loose like a deuce,” which alludes to a two-seater hot rod, as “wrapped up like a douche,” although Thompson is actually singing “revved up like a deuce.”
First posted 7/24/2022; last updated 12/26/2022.