Our Favorite Bruce Springsteen B-Sides

Bruce Springsteen B-Sides

Feature Photo: : Adam McCullough / Shutterstock.com

Bruce Springsteen drove his fans crazy in the 1970s simply because he did not release a lot of music. Some of that was not his fault. He was also wrapped up in a big lawsuit with his ex-manager that prevented him from releasing the follow-up to the Born to Run album. Nonetheless, another big reason why Bruce Springsteen did not release a lot of music in the ’70s was his penchant for perfection. Bruce Springsteen had a hard time finishing some of his records because he wanted them to be perfect. Supposedly he was forced to complete Born to Run when his manager said “Listen you’re not supposed to like it just finish it.”

Hardcore Bruce Springsteen fans loved every album he released in the 1970s. We listened to every track on every album hundreds of times. That’s what rock fans did in the 1970s. We were all blown away by The River album in 1980 when we found out it would be a two-record set. That meant twice the amount of music.

We set up some rules for this list. Rule number one was no live tracks. Bruce Springsteen released many live tracks as B-Sides which were fantastic like “Incident on 57th Street,” and “Jersey Girl.” We felt it would be better to do a separate article on the best live B-Sides. We also made sure to not list any B-Sides that were released on other types of albums. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” was released on In Harmony in 1981 before it was released as a single as the B-Side to “My Hometown.” Additionally, that’s actually a live recording so that gets cancelled out twice.

We hope you enjoy this Bruce Springsteen B-Sides list. In order to make it more fun we limited it to 10. Of course, there are plenty more that didn’t make this list, but listing them all would take the fun out of it.

# 10 – Held Up Without a Gun – B-side to Hungry Heart

We open up our Our Favorite Bruce Springsteen B-Sides list with the fast-paced song entitled  “Held Up Without A Gun.” This cranking song was the B-Side that started it all. From that point on, Bruce Springsteen would release many unreleased tracks as B-Sides for the rest of The River album and all his 1980s albums. Springsteen had recorded so much music for each record that there was just an abundance of material to get out. It also helped sales of singles for hardcore Bruce Springsteen fans who otherwise already had the A-Side from the album.

“Held Up Without A Gun” was the first non-album track studio song that Bruce Springsteen had ever released as a B-Side. It was a real Christmas gift for fans like myself. We were blown away by it. “Held Up Without A Gun,” was featured as the B-side to the single “Hungry Heart.” That was the first single released from The River album.  The single was released on October 21, 1980.

# 9 – Two For The Road – B-Side to Tunnel Of Love

The next pick on our Favorite Bruce Springsteen B-Sides list presents a very different feel from our scorching opener “Held Up Without A Gun.” This is one of the most intimate slow-paced folk music ballads that Bruce Springsteen has ever written. This one just makes you feel good. When my first son was born, I heard this song playing on the radio when I drove him away from the hospital for the very first time. We all know what that’s like and so of course, this song holds greater sentiment for me. Nonetheless, it’s such a beautiful heartwarming song. “Two For The Road,” was released as the B-Side to “Tunel Of Love,” which was the second single released from the Tunnel Of Love album. The single was originally released in 1987. “Two For The Road,” would later also appear on the 4 CD Tracks compilation released 10 years later in 1997.

# 8 – Shut Out the Light – B-Side to Born In The U.S.A.

In the number eight spot on our Our Favorite Bruce Springsteen B-Sides list, we present the song entitled “Shut Out The Light.” The song has a similar feel to the last track we presented called “Two For The Road.” However, this song was released a few years earlier. “Shut Out The Light.” was released as the B-Side to the title track of the Born In The U.S.A. album. The “Born In The U.S.A.” song was released as the third single from the album. It’s important to recognize that “Shut Out The Light,” is immeasurably linked to the “Born In The U.S.A.” track.

Both songs were written by Bruce Springsteen as a tribute to Vietnam Veterans. After reading Ron Kovics’s book Born On The Fourth Of July and then having met Ron Kovic, Springsteen was inspired to pay tribute to the plight of the Vietnam Veteran in both songs. Throughout the entire Born In The U.S.A.  tour, he would continue to try and spread the word about the mistreatment of Vietnam Veterans when they came back home.

# 7 –  “Stand On It” – B-Side to Glory Days

In the number seven position on our Our Favorite Bruce Springsteen B-Sides list is the raving song entitled “Stand On It.” Bruce Springsteen was wearing his Jerry Lee Lewis shoes on this one. Songs like this defined just how easy it seemed to be for Bruce to write in any style of music he wanted to. The song was released as the B-Side to “Glory Days,” which had become one of the most successful singles released from the Born In The U.S.A. album in 1984. Like many of the Born In The U.S.A. B-Sides, “Stand On It,” is a short song clocking in at about two and a half minutes. Yet, what a fun two and a half minutes it is.  It was later released on the Tracks Box Set in 1998.

# 6 – “Part Man, Part Monkey” –  B-Side to “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)

Landing in the number six spot on our Favorite Bruce Springsteen B-Sides list we present the song “Part Man, Part Monkey.” This reggae-influenced rocker stood as the B-Side to the very interesting track “57 Channels And Nothing One.” The A-Side was released on the Human Touch album. It was a record that Bruce Springsteen once called a very generic work. This was not an album that was extremely loved by Springsteen fans as it sort of stands as an outlier in his work. However, this writer really appreciated the album and enjoyed it very much.

Springsteen was searching for a new voice on this record and after a while pretty much discovered that it was something he didn’t need to do. Still, there’s some pretty interesting music on the record, and the B-side to “57 Channels And Nothing One,” showcases Bruce Springsteen’s attempt at really stretching out musically and exploring what it was like to record with other musicians outside of the E Street Band.

# 5 – 30 Days Out – B-Side to Leap Of Faith

At the halfway point on our Favorite Bruce Springsteen B-Sides list, we make a bit of an exception here. Every other song on this list was released as the B-side to a 7′ 45 record in the United States. However, once we got into the 90s it started to become popular to release CD singles as opposed to vinyl singles. This was more popular in Europe than it was in the United States. It also made it tougher for rock fans in the US to find these singles as not every store carried Imports.

While shopping in Borders one day, I found the import single to “Leap Of Faith” from the Lucky Town album released in 1993 and discovered a song I never heard of as the B-side. Now, with the CD single it’s not really a B-side, it’s just an unreleased track on the same CD, so that’s kind of why this is an exception, but it’s pretty much the same principle. Furthermore, this is just such a fantastic hard driving song.

# 4 – Pink Cadillac – B-Side to Dancing In The Dark

At the number four spot on our Favorite Bruce Springsteen B-Sides list, we present the stunning song entitled “Pink Cadillac.” When so many people first heard this song they were blown away by it, asking how could Bruce Springsteen not release this on the album. That’s a question that we’ve asked so many times about most of his B-Sides.  This one had hit single written all over it. Even though the A-Side “Dancing in the Dark,” which was the first single released from the Born In the U.S.A. album reached all the way to number two.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that most Bruce Springsteen fans liked this song better. The B-side “Pink Cadillac,” did really well on the charts breaking into the top 30 on the Billboard Top Tracks charts. Additionally, the song was recorded by Natalie Cole in 1988 and went all the way to number five on the Billboard Hot 100. The song also became a standard performance on the Born In The U.S.A. tour.  Jerry Lee Lewis who was one of Bruce Springsteen’s musical inspirations also covered the song in 2006. Bruce even sang vocals on the track with Mr. Jerry Lee Lewis.

# 3 –  Janey, Don’t You Lose Heart-  B-Side to I’m Going Down

While we are big fans of all these songs on this Bruce Springsteen B-Sides list, these top three are even extra special. How could you not love this song “Janey Don’t You Lose Your Heart.”  Once again we were like “where did this song come from,” this is amazing. By the time this song was released, many of us were putting together our own Bruce Springsteen albums of B-Sides as there were just so many that were killer. This one grabs you right from the opening notes.  Roy Bitten’s pianos sparkles, the melody moves you, the lyrics bite down hard, and the chord changes are just outstanding. This jubilant song is one of our favorite Bruce Springsteen songs of all time.

# 2 – Be True – B-Side to Fade Away

Bruce Springsteen’s “Be True,” is the first B-side Bruce Springsteen released that stopped us dead in our tracks along the river. It wasn’t the first non-album B-Side we heard, that belonged to “Held Up Without A Gun.”  However, this is the first one that we heard where were crying, thank you Bruce, thank you for giving us another amazing song out of nowhere. What the heck were you thinking not putting this song on the album? In many conversations that writers had with Bruce Springsteen, the Boss did say it was a mistake leaving “Be True,” off The River album. This one had hit single written all over it. The A-Side “Fade Away,” is a fantastic song, but the B-Side is so much stronger.

# 1 – Roulette – B-Side to One Step Up

We close out our Favorite Bruce Springsteen B-Sides list with the phenomenal “Roulette.”This is no outtake, my friends. “Roulette,” is one of the greatest songs Bruce Springsteen has ever written and recorded. It’s one of his most ferocious rockers. The subject matter of the song fits in perfectly with the no-nukes time period the song was written. What’s more remarkable is how long it took them to finally release the song. Seven singles were released from the Born In The U.S.A. album and this was still passed over as a B-side. It wasn’t until the third single from the Tunnel Of Love album entitled “One Step Up,” was released that Bruce Springsteen fans finally got an official release of this great song.

Our Favorite Bruce Springsteen B-Sides article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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