On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975)
Farewell Italy and hello once again to the US of A. Our artist today is someone we can confidently say was “born in the USA”, actually in New Jersey and he first began playing the guitar in 1964 after seeing The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. Also known as The Boss, Bruce Springsteen’s first two albums were well-received by critics but did not translate into commercial success. We join him in 1975 with his third album Born to Run, Springsteen’s last-ditch attempt to make it big. 1001 Songs have gone with the title track that Springsteen pinned so many of his hopes on.
Born to Run was written by Bruce Springsteen and is both a message to a lover named Wendy but also a strong desire of escape. It seems to be from the viewpoint of an adolescent narrator who longs to leave town, to be out on the open road and away from the confines of home. Leaving while one is young seems to be the only chance. To stay is to fall under the unrelenting grasp of the town, of a job, of commitment and of the ordinary, mundane routine of life. While expressing a need to be free, the narrator also speaks to a young woman named Wendy and through some less than subtle metaphors he expresses his powerful feelings for her, that he wants her with him, but this love doesn’t seem strong enough to stop running. We hear of life out on the road, where young people are gathered, away from the pursuing assailant that is maturity and responsibility. The narrator is content in this moment with Wendy but knows it cannot last. In the end he tells her that he realises one day he’ll have to stop, they both will, but for now he wants them to continue on down the road and to be free as long as they can.
I do love Bruce Springsteen and Born to Run is arguably my favourite of his songs. The Boss went all out to write the ultimate rock song and you can safely see he achieved it. The song has everything: great vocals, heavily driven by guitar and piano melodies, a sax solo and rising and falling emotional intensity. It remains a stunning rock song, 45 years after its first release. Springsteen gambled on this song and the album to make his career and his hopes were realised. The album was a great success and the song remains a celebrated track to this day, placing in the Top 30 of Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 greatest ever songs. Not bad, Boss, not bad.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
David Bowie – Life on Mars? (1971)
Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)
Sparks – This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us (1974)
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975)