Features Editor Sometimes, it still comes as a surprise to me that my favorite album is “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band. After all, it’s been my favorite album since I was at least 15, probably even longer. But despite all of the changes to my taste and all of the new bands that I’ve fallen in love with, my love for the album has remained consistent.
First impressions are important and few songs make a first impression like “Thunder Road.” Piano and harmonica later joined by Bruce’s voice, which sounds something like Van Morrison raised on Harleys and domestic beer, perfectly selling all of the emotions contained in the song. Springsteen manages to sell lines that would otherwise be ridiculous by other artists, such as “You ain’t a beauty but hey, you’re alright.”
From there it segues into the triumphant horns of “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” the meaning of which I still debate, because in all seriousness, what exactly is a tenth avenue freeze-out? I have no idea what that entails but something about it seems so enthralling.
“Backstreets” is the next standout to me, a six and a half minute portrait of the disintegration of a male friendship with raw emotion that gives way to wailing guitars. For the longest time, I figured that it was a forlorn love song until it dawned on me one day that it was about two men. Even later in life, I realized that it still qualified as love song.
Of course, the next track is known by everyone and their mother, “Born to Run.” Epic gets thrown around a lot, and is usually misused when it’s said. But that opening drum that kicks it all off before being joined by the underrated guitar playing of Springsteen, all of which ultimately gives way to the best Wall of Sound production this side of Phil Spector certainly fits the criteria for that word.
All of this then comes to a culmination in “Jungleland,” the song which is still my immediate answer for my favorite song in the world (sorry “All my Friends,” you’re a close second.) Nine and half minutes and a story more intricate than modern blockbusters, I honestly think it stands alone as an American cultural achievement. I still wish I could sound as good at Springsteen when he just shouts incoherently for the last 30 seconds of the song, a moment my roommate loves to imitate endlessly. And the saxophone solo that dominates the song could very well serve as a testament to the beauty of human creativity, at least in my own twisted view of beauty. Plus, how amazing is the concept of roving gangs of musicians, dueling each other with guitar solos? (Though the feasibility of replacing a switchblade with a Fender Telecaster has always perplexed me).
I love this album with my whole heart and it means something to me, which seems like a weird thing to say. It is just an album after all; a 40-minute sensation of sound but then, it has somehow become something more than that for me over the years. It’s become something I cherish, and based on its staying power so far, it will be something I cherish for a long time to come.