Album of the Week: The American Experience

The 1980’s was a rough time for a lot of legends. Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Paul McCartney not coincidentally all in the top of most people’s lists of legends all had a pretty hard time with the 80’s.
One artist who didn’t have the same bad luck in the 80’s was Bruce Springsteen. Born to Run made Springsteen a legend, Born in the USA made him a god. The Boss released 3 albums between 1982 and 1987 that showcase some of his greatest songwriting and despite the 80’s happening, he manages to still relate to the common man, the rejected man, the lonely man, the 80’s man. Bruce Springsteen is a storyteller who happens to tell his stories in song. If someone were to come up to me and say, “I understand Bruce Springsteen is supposed to be incredible, but I don’t know any of his stuff, where do I start?” I would tell them to go out and buy 5 albums. 3 of the albums would be the albums of the 80’s. Whether Bruce is with the highly produced E-Street band or sitting in a bathroom with a guitar, harmonica and microphone, the sound is there, the lyrics are there. You don’t have to agree with his portrait of America or his politics, but from his live shows to his studio sessions, you’ll have to give him your respect.
So here, whether you are a diehard fan of the Boss, a casual listener, or the person I described, here are 5 albums that need to be in your collection. They embody the American experience over the past 100 years. Bruce may be a pretty normal guy, but he writes for the true common man. In the words of Bono,

“Bruce is a very unusual rock star, really, isn’t he? I mean, he hasn’t done the things most rock stars do. He got rich and famous, but never embarrassed himself with all that success, did he? No drug busts, no blood changes in Switzerland. Even more remarkable, no golfing! No bad hair period, even in the ’80s. No wearing of dresses in videos. No embarrassing movie roles, no pet snakes, no monkeys. No exhibitions of his own paintings. No public brawling or setting himself on fire on the weekend…They call him the Boss. Well that’s a bunch of crap. He’s not the boss. He works FOR us. More than a boss, he’s the owner, because more than anyone else, Bruce Springsteen owns America’s heart.”

1975’s Born to Run This album is responsible for putting Springsteen and New Jersey on the map of rock and roll. The album contains some of the classics and some lesser known gems.
Must haves within the must have: Thunder Road, Born to Run, Jungleland

1982’s NebraskaA stripped down album that consists mostly of noises the Boss could make on his own in his home. The E-Street band joined him in the studio to record it, and they decided to go with the demos Bruce had recorded on his own.
Must haves within the must have: Atlantic City, Used Cars, Nebraska

1984’s Born in the U.S.A. Pretty much the closest thing to pop music Bruce did in the 80’s. You know the words, or at least think you know the words to the title track, but mine the record a little deeper and you’ll find the true gold.
Must haves within the must have: My Hometown, Downbound Train, I’m on Fire, No Surrender

1987’s Tunnel of LoveThe follow-up to Born in the USA, including the E-Street band again, this album is thicker than it first appears. If you only remember the title track, give it another listen.
Must haves within the must have: Brilliant Disguise, Tunnel of Love, One Step Up

1995’s The Ghost of Tom JoadAnother album that featured Springsteen stripped down, he visits the early 20th century piece of the American Experience with immigration and emigration.
Must haves within the must have: Across the Border, The Ghost of Tom Joad, Dry Lightning

And if you’re in a spending mood, I would suggest you go ahead and pick up Devils & Dust, The River, Darkness on the Edge of Town and The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle.

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