Continuing a series recalling the ten most life and literary influencing albums in my collection–in no particular order. Although I’ve gotten to this album at Roman numeral IX … were they prioritized, this album would rightfully be number ONE. I’d further assert, THIS ALBUM should be numero uno on everyone’s list. You there! Get to the store! Buy it! Listen to it! THIS ONE will change your life!
How’s that for a run up?
Post Nine of Ten
Born To Run: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
This album dropped in 1975. But it wasn’t until 1982 that I discovered it. Thanks to a Jersey-girl named Gina Nardone.
Gina was a pizza chef at Don Ciccio’s Big Cheese (sort of like a poor man’s Chuck E. Cheese restaurant) where I was … The Big Cheese. Think I’m kidding? I’ll offer photo proof below. Look how proud Mom was in this picture. Her son had made it to the top!
“You don’t like The Boss?” Gina said, incredulously? “He can’t sing!” I argued. “You don’t listen to The Boss for his singing voice,” she protested. “You listen to Bruce for the story.”
And that, my friends, is probably the best piece of life advice I’ve ever received.
Over the years, Bruce’s gravely voice has grown on me. And that band–“You’ve just witnessed the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, love-making, earth-quaking, Viagra-taking, justifying, death-defying, legendary E STREET BAND!”–is, in my humble opinion, the best live band in the world. But it is Bruce’s storytelling that initially caught my attention and has been a go-to escape ever since.
Gina handed me a copy of Born To Run one day at the pizzeria, “I dare you to really give this a listen and come back here and tell me you’re not a fan.”
The album opens with Thunder Road. I saw the screen door slam. I saw Mary’s dress sway. I was there, from the very first few notes, watching the story unfold. I smirked at the line, “You ain’t a beauty but, eh, you’re alright.” Brutally honest.
I was drawn into the action. I cheered Tenth Avenue Freeze Out’s announcement that they’d “made the change uptown and the Big Man joined the band.” I felt the tension of all the teenage and young adult angst, of trying to find your way in the world. It was real. I was living it, too.
I flipped the album over–and my life would never be the same.
Cars, girls, an (underage) sip of warm beer in the soft summer rain–all of the components of my own coming of age saga–and the illusive promise of a bright future became the soundtrack of my life from the ages of fifteen to … today.
Someday girl I don’t know when we’re going to get to that place where we really want to go and we’ll walk in the sun … But until then tramps like us, baby we were born to run
Gina was right. I was a fan. THEN … I heard Jungleland.
If you haven’t … you must. The story is as heartbreaking a teenage love story as exists anywhere. There are parts of the story, I dare say, we all can relate to. And if the story doesn’t stir you deep, The Big Man’s nearly three-minute long sax solo will. Best three-minutes in rock-n-roll history, I tell you.
I credit three major contributions to my wanting to become a writer: (1) Mom instilled the treasure of stories and storytelling in our family. (2) My sister Diann gave me a copy of Shel Silverstein’s Where The Sidewalk Ends when I was ten years old. And (3), Gina Nardone handed me a copy of Born To Run when I was fifteen.
Springsteen is THE BOSS. Take it from … The Big Cheese.