Friday, February 23, 1973

Bruce Springsteen “Blinded by the Light” released

Blinded by the Light

Bruce Springsteen

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


Released: February 23, 1973


First Charted: --


Peak: 15 CL, 7 DF (Click for codes to singles 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, 11 HR, 14 RR, 1 CL, 6 UK, 11 CN, 11 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles 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.”


Resources:


Related Links:


First posted 7/24/2022.

Saturday, February 17, 1973

Lou Reed charted with “Walk on the Wild Side”

Walk on the Wild Side

Lou Reed

Writer(s): Lou Reed (see lyrics here)


Released: November 8, 1972


First Charted: February 17, 1973


Peak: 16 US, 17 CB, 17 HR, 1 CL, 1 CO, 10 UK, 18 CN, 100 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.2 UK, 0.2 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 73.87 video, -- streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Lou Reed, “who never ceased to offend somebody,” UCR references valium, oral sex, hustlers, and whores in what is likely the “the first transvestite rock song that middle America heard.” UCR The song title came from A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren. Reed was tapped to write songs for a musical based on the novel, but it never came about. RS500

On the resulting song, Reed served as the “narrator brilliantly delivering his cool rap-like observations” UCR about real people including Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, Joe Dallesandro, Joe Campbell, and Jackie Curtis. They were all actors and/or transsexuals Reed knew through artist Andy Warhol. WK As Reed said, “I always thought it would be kinda fun to introduce people you see at parties but don’t dare approach.” RS500

He “paints such as vivid picture of deliberate decadence that it can still be shocking…years later.” RY It also serves as “a chillingly stark portrait” RY about the underbelly of New York City, “America’s largest and darkest city.” RY When Reed “invokes the ‘colored girls’ to sing ‘do do-do do-do, do-do-do’ and their voices fade into the lush atmospheric sound of a lazy baritone sax solo, the music suggests the atmosphere of a New York City subway station at three in the morning.” RY

Reed hadn’t found commercial success with his band Velvet Underground or his first solo outing. However, David Bowie idolized Reed and he’d achieved enough clout as “the rising star of British glam-rock” TB to “freely bestow his Midas touch upon other artists who interested him.” RY “The sweet touches in the vocal harmonies, and the quick and deceptively simple arrangements are in large part due to Bowie” TC and his production on the song and Transformer album. It gave Reed his “greatest solo success.” TB


Resources:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Lou Reed
  • TC Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 290.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (2004). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • RY Thomas Ryan (1996). American Hit Radio: A History of Popular Singles From 1955 to the Present. Prima Publishing: Rocklin, CA. Pages 458-9.
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 141.
  • UCR UltimateClassicRock.com (6/20/2013). “Top 100 Classic Rock Songs
  • WK Wikipedia


Related Links:


First posted 4/28/2020; last updated 7/23/2022.