Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Why I've Never Heard Born to Run

Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run turned forty years old yesterday. As you'd expect, this milestone prompted a flurry of tweets and articles from all corners of the musical universe:

And lists, obviously.

Sadly, though, I was unable to join in with this storm of appreciation for one simple reason: I have never listened to Born to Run

Now, just to clarify, this isn't a Ruth and Martin's Album Club situation; it's not like I've never bothered with Springsteen at all. I own six* of his eighteen studio albums, and not one of those records disappointed me in the slightest. From his earliest work (Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.) to his post-millennium output (Magic), I've never met a Springsteen LP that I didn't love.

So why have I never gotten 'round to Born to Run, the album that's almost universally hailed as Bruce's finest hour? Well, a couple of reasons:
  • I already know the hits. I've had Springsteen's Greatest Hits on my CD rack for years, and so I'm already familiar with a quarter of Born to Run's tracklist. I've listened to a couple of the other songs on YouTube, so I'm well aware that Thunder Road and the title track aren't the only reasons to bother with Born to Run, but...well, I guess I'd rather spend my money on a Boss album that's completely new to me, y'know? That's why I just bought The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, and that's why Born to Run is still below Darkness on the Edge of Town on my Brucie 'to-buy' list.

  • It feels like I already know the whole album. I may not have actually heard Backstreets or Meeting Across the River, but I know the story of Born to Run, and in many ways, it kind of feels like that's the important thing here. Springsteen's first two albums were praised by critics but didn't sell all that well, and album #3 was to be his final shot at the big time. If he didn't shift some serious units this time around, he would be canned by his label and shipped back to blue-collar New Jersey to live out his days in chilly anonymity. So, desperate to make this one count, Springsteen and his E Street Band shook the dice hard and recorded Born to Run, a heart-on-sleeve barnstormer to end all barnstormers. It transformed Springsteen from a fringe beat poet type to a stadium-filling national treasure, and the rest is history. And again, as keen as I am to hear the music behind that story, I'd prefer to investigate an era of Springsteen's career that I don't already feel I know inside out.
So, to answer my own question: the reason I've never bought Born to Run is basically the same reason I'd never watched Raiders of the Lost Ark until my dad all but Ludovicoed me into it. I know everything I need to already, so why bother?

*In case you're wondering, the Bruce Springsteen albums that I do own are as follows:
  • Born in the U.S.A.
  • Nebraska
  • The River
  • Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.
  • Magic
  • The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle
As mentioned above, I also have his Greatest Hits CD.

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