Paulelmo's Blog

My ten favorite Springsteen songs that you’ve probably never heard (Part one)

Bruce Springsteen performing at the Roskilde Festival in 2012

Having been a Bruce Springsteen since I was a boy, I have met plenty of people who dislike the man’s music. This doesn’t come as any surprise; every musical act has its detractors and haters, and the bigger they are, the larger this group is. As Bruce is one of our biggest artists, its reasonable that the group of those who don’t fancy his music is equally big.

I’m cool with that; I’ve matured to the point that I know that we don’t have to like the same things. It does bother me, however, when folks just write off the music simply because they’ve heard “Born to Run” too many times, and it’s the only song they can think of when asked what Bruce songs they can name.

I, too, was once a person who didn’t care if I ever heard “Born to Run,” or Led Zep’s “Stairway to Heaven,” or Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” Having rock radio as my only source of music–outside of what I owned–I had also grown tired of these FM staples.

And when I hear someone denounce Bruce solely of those merits, I wonder if they’d have the same opinion if they heard some of his stronger album cuts. Hence this list.

It is not my desire to change anyone’s opinion about the music of Bruce Springsteen; rather, I just thought I’d create a list of songs that I think might alter someone’s opinion if they were to care to listen to some of them. If they are applicable to anyone, other than myself, it is probably those people who have a fair appreciation of Bruce’s music but haven’t delved much deeper than the stuff they hear on the radio.

These are not my ten favorite Bruce songs. Were I to create that list, it would definitely include “Born to Run,” be it overplayed or not, and “Thunder Road,” and “Jungleland.” I expect a lot of cursory admirers of the man’s music to be familiar with those songs, however.

This list is just what the titles say, ten songs that are among my favorites, which I don’t imagine most folks have heard. There are some real gems here, and for those who have found that they have a fondness for Bruce’s music, but haven’t gone too far into the deep cuts, there might be some nice finds.

“Lost in the Flood” (1973)

I’m a sucker for songs about the degradation of society, and drugs, and whether we, society, see religion as a saving grace from all the maladies that befall us. This song, my favorite from Bruce’s debut album, has it all. You can read all over the Internet about what these lyrics mean, and, while some of those people might not be wrong, I find that I don’t really need to know what all he was trying to say to enjoy this song. “Gunner” comes back from Nam, and New York City gives him a good idea of just have far our society has fallen; that’s pretty evident. Beyond that, I’ll leave the rest to dudes who have more time one their hands than I do. I’d rather just listen to the song.

“Downbound Train” (1984)

This song, my favorite from 1984’s Born in the USA, is another depressing number. (Like many songwriters, Bruce is at his best when he’s dealing with darker themes.) That’s not why this song’s one of my favorites, however; rather, I just dig the flow and vibe of this one. It’s a soft march that isn’t as depressing as the lyrics, and it fits the train theme well. Hope you dig it as much as I do.

“Spare Parts” (1987)

With so many great Springsteen albums, it’s hard for me to say that Tunnel of Love is my favorite; still, some days it is. Likewise, with so many great songs, it’s hard for me to say this is my favorite off Tunnel, yet, most days it is. If Bruce has made his bones telling the darker side of slice of life tales, this is about as strong as those bones get. Janey has a baby and Bobby abandons them. Janey is forced to move in with her mother and watch her young life pass her by. That’s how it goes until the day Janey changes her fortunes. It’s a rage from opening to closing, and the story is as strong as the song. It’s so good and strong that if this one doesn’t do it for you, I don’t know if any of the rest of them will.

“Lucky Town” (1992)

I can’t say that the title cut from one of Bruce’s simultaneously released 1992 albums (Human Touch was the other) is my favorite Springsteen track. I can say, however, that if I were stranded on a desert island and I only had one song to listen to, I wouldn’t hate it if it was this one. This might be my favorite Bruce song to sing, probably is, and if I were to be stranded on a desert island I’d be singing a lot. This is just a strong piece of rock and roll, Bruce doing what he does best.

“Further On (Up the Road)” 2002

In 2002, Bruce released The Rising, his response to 9/11. As you can imagine, it was quite an emotional album. There were songs of hurt, loss, and incomprehension, but there were also songs of hope. This is one of those last. He doesn’t make a definitive declaration of belief that there is going to be a place further on up the road where we will be united with those we lost that day, but he at least tells us that we can hope that we don’t have to rule that out. It’s an excellent message, especially for those Springsteen fans who did lose loved ones to the tragedies of that day. Plus, it’s another excellent straight ahead rocker, and I always love those. Guess you could tell that by now.

And I think that’s enough for one blog post, my friends. I originally planned to put all ten of these songs in one post, but that seems to be enough information and media for one sitting. I hope you listened to the songs, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

I’ll be back with the other five songs in a couple of days. I’ll meet you here then. Until then, be well and kind to one another.

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