Thunder Road (song)

Last updated

"Thunder Road"
Song by Bruce Springsteen
from the album Born to Run
ReleasedAugust 25, 1975 (1975-08-25)
RecordedJuly 16, 1975 (completed)
Studio The Record Plant, New York City
Genre Rock
Length4:49
Label
Songwriter(s) Bruce Springsteen
Producer(s)
Born to Run track listing
Music video
"Thunder Road" on YouTube

"Thunder Road" is a 1975 song written and recorded by Bruce Springsteen, that became the opening track on his breakthrough album Born to Run . While never released as a single, "Thunder Road" is ranked as one of Springsteen's greatest songs and one of the top rock songs in history. It is No. 86 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list, [1] and also the 103rd best ranked song on critics' all-time lists according to Acclaimed Music.

Contents

Composition and recording

"Thunder Road" was written by Springsteen while at his living room piano in Long Branch, New Jersey. [2] In October 1974, it existed as a solo recording, "Chrissie's Song", that included the line, "leave what you've lost, leave what's grown cold, Thunder Road". [3] By early 1975, Springsteen had combined lyrics from another composition, "Walking in the Street", forming a new song, "Wings For Wheels", which he debuted on February 5, 1975, at a benefit for a local club, The Main Point, radio broadcast in the Philadelphia area, and featuring four yet-to-be-released Born to Run songs. Still unsatisfied, he finished dismantling "Walking In the Street", by importing its main coda into "Wings for Wheels" as the instrumental ending, now calling it "Thunder Road". Springsteen stated at a 1978 concert that the name of his song had been inspired by seeing a poster of the 1958 Robert Mitchum film Thunder Road , though he did not see it. [4]

On April 13, 1975, music critic and record producer Jon Landau officially joined the album's production team, marking the start of a life-long professional relationship. [5] At Landau's suggestion, production was moved from 914 Sound Studios to Record Plant studios in Manhattan. When sessions began on April 18, Jimmy Iovine, fresh from recording John Lennon's "Walls and Bridges", replaced Louis Lahav (who returned to Israel in March) as engineer. [6] Bruce later describes as a "brilliant imposter" and a "young studio dog with fastest learning curve I've ever seen". [7] After three intensive days (April 18, 19 and 23) working on "Thunder Road", nothing further was noted in studio logs until July 15–16, when final overdubs and mixing were done. [3]

In his autobiography, Bruce Springsteen says he loosely envisioned Born to Run as a series of vignettes, following its character throughout the day, with "Thunder Road" serving as an "invitation" to the album and opening with a harmonica that suggests the beginning of a "new day". [7] [8] [9] Springsteen also describes Landau as an "astute arranger and editor" who "guarded against overplaying and guided our record toward a more streamlined sound". [10] Speaking to author Brian Hiatt about "Thunder Road" in 2005, Landau states it "was fantastic, but it was a little unwieldy, a little unfocused, a little more like a jam piece. […] I remember talking with Bruce about a few ideas about how to just reshuffle the deck a little bit, and keep the song building from the very beginning right through the end." [5]

Lyrics and music

The lyrics to "Thunder Road" describe a young woman named Mary, her boyfriend, and their "one last chance to make it real". Musically, the song opens with a quiet piano (Roy Bittan) and harmonica (Springsteen) introduction, meant, as Springsteen said years later in the Wings for Wheels documentary, as a signifier that something was about to happen.[ citation needed ] The title phrase is not used until the middle section of the song. After the closing line, there is a tenor saxophone and Fender Rhodes duet played by Clarence Clemons and Bittan in the instrumental coda.[ citation needed ]

In this song, Springsteen mentions Roy Orbison "singing for the lonely" on the radio. Orbison, one of whose best-known songs is "Only the Lonely" (1960), was a huge influence on Springsteen. [11]

Acclaim

In 2004, it was ranked No. 1 on the list of the "885 All-Time Greatest Songs" compiled by WXPN (the University of Pennsylvania's public radio station). [12] The song came in at No. 226 in Q magazine's list of the "1001 Greatest Songs Ever" in 2003, in which they described the song as "best for pleading on the porch". Julia Roberts, when asked which song lyric described her most accurately, chose "Thunder Road"'s "You ain't a beauty, but hey, you're alright." The song is featured in the book 31 Songs by British author Nick Hornby.

It is ranked No. 86 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. [13] It is also ranked number 3 on the magazine's list of his best songs. [14] According to Acclaimed Music, it is the 103rd most celebrated song in popular music history. [15]

Live performance history

During the 1974 to 1977 Born to Run tours, "Thunder Road" was always played by Springsteen accompanied only by Roy Bittan's piano and Danny Federici's glockenspiel, an example of which is found on Hammersmith Odeon London '75 . Not until later in the tour did "Thunder Road" make full-band appearances. In the 1978 tour "Thunder Road" usually opened with Springsteen telling a story as to why he wrote the song, and it might segue out of some other more dirge-like song such as "Racing in the Street".[ citation needed ]

In concerts during the 1980s, the coda of the song was stretched out to showcase E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons. Clemons and Springsteen would charge at each other from opposite ends of the stage, with Springsteen sliding into Clemons in an embrace.[ citation needed ]

The early 1990s "Other Band" Tour performed the song on acoustic guitar with an organ in the background; this arrangement is documented on the 1993 concert video and album In Concert/MTV Plugged .[ citation needed ]

The song then disappeared from Springsteen concerts until emerging again in 1999 in the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band Reunion Tour, where it was played at a significantly slower tempo than the studio version while Springsteen pointed to people he knew or to females in the front rows. An example of such a performance can be found in the 2001 release Live in New York City . Although played fairly regularly on The Rising Tour as on Live in Barcelona , the song then rarely appeared on the Devils & Dust Tour, this time on piano. The song was not performed during the Sessions Band Tour; it reappeared on 2007–2008 Magic Tour and continued to be played regularly on the 2009 Working on a Dream Tour.[ citation needed ]

On June 14, 2008, on stage at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Springsteen dedicated a performance of the song to political broadcast analyst Tim Russert, a longtime Springsteen fan who had suddenly died the previous day. On June 18, 2008, Springsteen performed the song, with acoustic guitar, for a Russert memorial event in Washington DC via tape-delayed satellite. [16]

On November 7, 2016, Springsteen performed the song at a Hillary Clinton presidential election rally in Philadelphia. [17]

In 2016 a fan made a video compilation of Springsteen performing "Thunder Road" over 41 years. The video illustrates how Springsteen's performance of the song has changed over the years. [18]

Personnel

Legacy

"Thunder Road" is a classic rock staple and has been covered by artists such as Eric Church, Melissa Etheridge, Cowboy Junkies, Badly Drawn Boy, Brazilian singer Renato Russo, Frank Turner, Tori Amos, Brian Vander Ark (Live at Eddie's Attic), Kevin Rowland, Nate Ruess during his Grand Romantic world tour, Matt Nathanson, Mary Lou Lord and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy with Tortoise. (Tortoise's version is interpreted in minor key.) Adam Duritz of Counting Crows often sings large portions of the lyrics to "Thunder Road" in the middle of their song "Rain King".[ citation needed ]

In a 2010 interview, Stephen Merchant stated that the script for the film Cemetery Junction was loosely based upon the lyrics of "Thunder Road". [19]

In 2011 a limited, signed, letterpressed , handbound chapbook with the lyrics of "Thunder Road" along with Nick Hornby's essay on the song was released. (26 copies were signed by both, Bruce Springsteen and Nick Hornby, 200 copies were signed by Hornby only.) [20]

In 2016 actor, writer and director Jim Cummings released a comedy/drama film called Thunder Road, which includes an extensive scene depicting Cummings dressed as a policeman at his mother's funeral singing along to "Thunder Road", playing on his daughter's pink boombox. It won the Short Film Grand Jury Prize at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. [21]

Sequel

Sometime after the release of Born to Run, Springsteen wrote a follow-up to "Thunder Road" called "The Promise", which explicitly mentions the first song by name but reveals a far more pessimistic outlook on the narrator's life and future. [22] Unreleased for years, "The Promise" gained considerable legend for its 1978 Tour performances; it finally materialized in a re-recorded version on 1999's 18 Tracks , before appearing on its namesake album The Promise , released in 2010.[ citation needed ]

Related Research Articles

Bruce Springsteen American singer, songwriter, and musician

Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen is an American singer, songwriter, and musician who is both a solo artist and the leader of the E Street Band. Originally from the Jersey Shore, he received critical acclaim for his early 1970s albums and attained worldwide fame upon the release of Born to Run in 1975. During a career that has spanned five decades, Springsteen has become known for his poetic, socially conscious lyrics and energetic stage performances, sometimes lasting up to four hours in length. He has been given the nickname "The Boss". He has recorded both rock albums and folk-oriented works, and his lyrics often address the experiences and struggles of working-class Americans.

<i>Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.</i> 1973 studio album by Bruce Springsteen

Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. is the debut studio album by American singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen. It was produced by Mike Appel and Jim Cretecos from June through October 1972 at the budget-priced 914 Sound Studios. The album was released January 5, 1973, by Columbia Records to average sales but positive critical reviews.

<i>Darkness on the Edge of Town</i> 1978 studio album by Bruce Springsteen

Darkness on the Edge of Town is the fourth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen, released on June 2, 1978. The album marked the end of a three-year gap between albums brought on by contractual obligations and legal battling with former manager Mike Appel.

<i>Born to Run</i> 1975 studio album by Bruce Springsteen

Born to Run is the third studio album by American singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen. As his effort to break into the mainstream, the album was a commercial success, peaking at number three on the Billboard 200 and eventually selling six million copies in the United States. Two singles were released from the album: "Born to Run" and "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out"; the first helped Springsteen to reach mainstream popularity. The tracks "Thunder Road", "She's the One", and "Jungleland" became staples of album-oriented rock radio and Springsteen concert high points.

Clarence Clemons American musician and actor

Clarence Anicholas Clemons Jr., also known as The Big Man, was an American musician and actor. From 1972 until his death in 2011, he was the saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band.

<i>Tunnel of Love</i> (album) 1987 studio album by Bruce Springsteen

Tunnel of Love is the eighth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen, released on October 9, 1987. Although members of the E Street Band occasionally performed on the album, Springsteen recorded most of the parts himself, often with drum machines and synthesizers. While the album's liner notes list the E Street Band members under that name, Shore Fire Media, Springsteen's public relations firm, does not count it as an E Street Band album and 2002's The Rising was advertised as his first studio album with the E Street Band since Born in the USA. The album won Best Rock Vocal Performance, Solo at the 1988 Grammy Awards.

Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

"Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" is the second song on Bruce Springsteen's breakthrough album Born to Run, released in 1975.

E Street Band Bruce Springsteens backing band

The E Street Band is an American rock band, and has been musician Bruce Springsteen's primary backing band since 1972. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.

"Jungleland" is the closing song on Bruce Springsteen's 1975 album Born to Run. It contains one of E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons' most recognizable solos. It also features short-time E Streeter Suki Lahav, who performs the delicate 23-note violin introduction to the song, accompanied by Roy Bittan on piano in the opening.

Darkness Tour Concert tour of North America

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's Darkness Tour was a concert tour of North America that ran from May 1978 through the rest of the year, in conjunction with the release of Springsteen's album Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Born to Run tours

The 1975 album Born to Run was Bruce Springsteen's last, best hope for fortune and fame. As such it became a torturous recording process, and to make ends meet Springsteen and the E Street Band toured constantly during the first set of recording sessions for it, performing his new songs as he developed them. Before, during, and immediately after the album's commercially successful release, he toured again, sometimes in battle against his now highly promoted image. Financial success was short-lived, however, as he was soon plunged into legal battles with his former manager and enjoined from further recording. Again he toured to make a living, long after the conventional period of playing in connection with an album's release was over; only when his legal issues were finally resolved did he stop. From 1974 through 1977, these outings are collectively the Born to Run tours.

Badlands (Bruce Springsteen song) 1978 single by Bruce Springsteen

"Badlands" is the leadoff track on Bruce Springsteen's fourth studio album Darkness on the Edge of Town, and its second single.

<i>Magic</i> (Bruce Springsteen album) 2007 studio album by Bruce Springsteen

Magic is the fifteenth studio album by Bruce Springsteen. The album was released on September 25, 2007, by Columbia Records. It was his first with the E Street Band since The Rising in 2002. The album ranked number two on Rolling Stone's list of the Top 50 Albums of 2007.

"She's the One" is a song by Bruce Springsteen. Frequently featured in Springsteen and E Street Band concert performances, it first appeared on the Born to Run album in 1975. It was also released as the B-side to Springsteen's "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" single.

"Backstreets" is a song by Bruce Springsteen from the album Born to Run, which was released in 1975. In the original vinyl release, it concludes side one of the record.

"Out in the Street" is a song written and performed by Bruce Springsteen from the 1980 album The River. It was recorded at The Power Station in New York between March and May 1980, as one of the last songs recorded for the album. Originally Springsteen was going to keep the song off the album because it was so idealistic.

"Racing in the Street" is a song by Bruce Springsteen from his 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town. In the original vinyl format, it was the last song of side one of the album. The song has been called Springsteen's best song by several commentators, including the authors of The New Rolling Stone Album Guide.

<i>Greatest Hits</i> (Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band album) 2009 greatest hits album by Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Greatest Hits is Bruce Springsteen's fifth compilation album, released as a limited edition first in the United States, Canada and Australia on January 13, 2009, exclusively through Wal-Mart retailers.

<i>The Agora, Cleveland 1978</i> 2014 live album by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

The Agora, Cleveland 1978 is a live album by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, released in December 2014 and was the second official release through the Bruce Springsteen Archives. The concert is available on CD-R and digital download at http://live.brucespringsteen.net.

<i>Palace Theatre, Albany 1977</i> 2017 live album by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Palace Theatre, Albany 1977 is a live album by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, released in August 2017. It is the fifteenth such release by the Bruce Springsteen Archives. The show was recorded on February 7, 1977 at the Palace Theatre in Albany, NY and is the first-ever soundboard recording to surface from the 1977 tour which features early renditions of “Something In The Night,” “Rendezvous” and “The Promise” along with the unreleased original “Action In The Streets” featuring the Miami Horns.

References

  1. "Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs". rollingstone.com. Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 3, 2020.
  2. Sheffield, Brian; Hiatt, David; Browne, David; Fricke, Jon; Dolan, Thomas; Walsh, Simon; Vozick-Levinson, Patrick; Doyle, Andy; Greene, Will; Hermes, Rob (December 11, 2018). "100 Greatest Bruce Springsteen Songs". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  3. 1 2 Heylin, Clinton (2012). E STREET SHUFFLE The Glory Days of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd. p. 240. Retrieved October 3, 2020.
  4. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - Thunder Road , retrieved January 13, 2020
  5. 1 2 Hiatt, Brian (March 31, 2019). "Exclusive: How Bruce Springsteen Created 'Thunder Road'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  6. Heylin, Clinton (2012). E STREET SHUFFLE The Glory Days of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd. p. 80. Retrieved October 3, 2020.
  7. 1 2 Springsteen, Bruce (September 27, 2016). Born to run (First Simon & Schuster hardcover ed.). New York. pp.  220. ISBN   978-1-5011-4151-5. OCLC   939532140.
  8. Kirkpatrick, Rob (2007). The Words and Music of Bruce Springsteen. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 41. ISBN   978-0-275-98938-5.
  9. "Behind The Song: Bruce Springsteen, "Thunder Road" « American Songwriter". American Songwriter. October 21, 2019. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  10. Springsteen, Bruce (September 27, 2016). Born to run (First Simon & Schuster hardcover ed.). New York. pp.  215–216. ISBN   978-1-5011-4151-5. OCLC   939532140.
  11. Springsteen, Bruce. South By Southwest Keynote Address. Austin, TX. March 15. 2012.
  12. "885 All Time Greatest Songs" . Retrieved November 12, 2006.
  13. "Thunder Road ranked #86 on Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs List". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 21, 2020.
  14. "Thunder Road ranked #3 on 100 Best Bruce Springsteen Songs List". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 21, 2020.
  15. "Thunder Road 103rd most acclaimed song". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  16. "Russert tribute: Family, friends and the Boss". Associated Press. June 19, 2008. Retrieved January 12, 2020 via nbcnews.com.
  17. Kreps, Daniel (November 8, 2016). "See Bruce Springsteen Play Solo, Rip Trump at Clinton Rally". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
  18. "Watch Bruce Springsteen Perform 'Thunder Road' Over 41 Years of Performances". Billboard. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  19. "BBC Radio 2 – Dermot O'Leary: 09/01/10" . BBC . January 9, 2010. Retrieved December 4, 2010.
  20. "The book I just published for Bruce Springsteen and Nick Hornby". May 31, 2011.
  21. https://variety.com/2018/film/reviews/thunder-road-review-sxsw-jim-cummings-1202725654/. Retrieved March 27, 2018.
  22. "The Promise". Brucespringsteen.net. Archived from the original on June 30, 2009. Retrieved June 4, 2009.