It’s time to shine the Vinyl Spotlight! Every now and then on Paloozapalooza, I like to focus on a random LP from my collection. This week, we have:
Bruce Springsteen – Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. (1973)
When Bruce Springsteen released Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. in 1973, it didn’t sell and both singles—“Blinded by the Light” and “Spirit in the Night”—flopped like a 12-year-old jumping off a diving board. The critics liked it, though, and Springsteen’s huge talent was obvious. Listening now, I can sympathize with listeners at the time who didn’t know what to make of Springsteen. He wrote like Bob Dylan circa 1964, but was about a thousand times easier to relate to on an emotional level. People must have wondered, just who is this guy?
I’ve always been a huge fan of this record, though. The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, released later that same year, is probably technically “better,” but there’s something about Greetings that remains both exuberant and endearing, even all these years later.
Perhaps the best song here is opening track “Blinded by the Light,” best known as “that song Manfred Mann covered where it sounds like he says ‘douche’ a lot.” Springsteen’s original is a ton of fun, setting the tone for not only this album but for the man’s entire career.
Madman drummers bummers and Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat, Springsteen sings. In the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps his way into his hat / With a boulder on my shoulder, feelin’ kinda older, I tripped the merry-go-round / With this very unpleasing sneezing and wheezing, the calliope crashed to the ground. Wow! I’m working up a sweat already.
The very next tune, “Growin’ Up,” is another highlight. Springsteen follows up an energetic opener with another song jam-packed with lyrics and ideas. If “Blinded by the Light” hadn’t been around, “Growin’ Up” would have made a nice opening track itself.
Two other songs stand out when I listen back to Greetings: “Angel” and “For You.”
“Angel” is a slow ballad, with Springsteen sounding as he sings line after line of poetic car imagery. The Baseball cards poked in his spokes, his boots in oil he’s patiently soaked / The roadside attendant nervously jokes as the angel’s tires stroke his precious pavement lyric has always stood out to me for some reason; he got a lot of Dylan comparisons early on, and this song might be where I truly hear the similarities the most.
“For You,” meanwhile, speeds things back up, following in the tradition of “Blinded by the Light” and “Growin’ Up.” While part of me wishes the arrangement took a few more risks or was a little flashier, there’s no denying that this is a fantastic song. Maybe it should have been the album’s second single instead of “Spirit in the Night”?
Listening to this album again, it struck me just how much of an influence Springsteen’s early material had on the next generation of songwriters. Listen to “Lost in the Flood,” for example, and tell me it doesn’t sound like an early Counting Crows album.
I should also note that Greetings isn’t quite a five-star classic like, say, Born to Run or Nebraska. “Mary Queen of Arkansas” goes on at least a minute too long, and there are moments when I wish the arrangements were a little flashier and maybe took an extra risk or two. But, still, this is an incredible listen from start to finish, and I highly recommended it.
Listen below …