Looking back at Bruce Springsteen’s 1973 debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. it’s amazing to think that forty six years later Bruce Springsteen is still releasing albums. There are not many artists who are releasing albums since the early 1970s that are still releasing new material in 2019. Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen both released their debut albums in 1973. For 20 years both artists were compared to each other. Of course, being on the same record label Columbia records might have had something to do with it. Nonetheless, both were artists from the New York, New Jersey Metropolitan area. Both were artist releasing outstanding albums filled with brilliantly written songs depicting the American heartland and the trials and tribulations of teenage angst through the challenges of adulthood. At times, both artists dived into the political arena even risking losing some fans because of it. Although, Springsteen went far deeper into the political arena than Billy Joel did. However, in 1993 that friendly competition ended because Billy Joel stopped being an artist producing new music.
Now here we are in June of 2019 and Bruce Springsteen has just released his nineteenth studio album entitled Western Stars. An amazing album that sounds like nothing Bruce Springsteen has released before, which is incredible. There are artists that continue to release albums year after year, decade after decade without ever really expanding their artistic styles. Pretty much every Rolling Stones album since Tattoo You sounds the same. We still love The Rolling Stones but it’s been pretty much the same stuff. Not many artists change their styles. Yes, there are some. Sting always releases brilliant stuff. Robert Plant continues to try and separate himself from Led Zeppelin releasing great records that for the most part nobody wants to hear. Yet, every time Bruce Springsteen releases a new record it sounds nothing like the previous album. That started with his first record Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and the follow-up The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle. They were two completely different sounding albums that sounded like almost two completely different artists.
When Bruce Springsteen first released the album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., most people argued that he was just an artist trying to sound like Bob Dylan. Of course, if you did not listen to deeply to the record and just heard the long lyrical compositions on the surface, it was easy to compare him to Bob Dylan. Nonetheless, if you listened closer to not just the lyrics, but the passion behind the pen, it was easy to hear that this was a special artist.
The album’s opening song “Blinded By The light,” was a great album opener. However, the lyrics did sound a little forced; a comment that even Springsteen himself agreed on. Yes, Springsteen was trying to be heard and sometimes in that fight to make it, one might just overdo it a bit. But from that point on every song just revealed deeper layers to Bruce Springsteen’s talent and the possibilities that lay ahead for the artist.
There are two songs on the Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. album that became concert staples for Bruce Springsteen . The great track “Growing Up,” and of course the crowd pleasing “Spirit In The Night.”
The song “Growing Up,” would eventually center around a story that Bruce would tell every night usually focusing on his father or sometimes the town grew up in or both. It became one of the highlights of every Bruce Springsteen concert in the 1970s and 1980s. Bruce Springsteen concerts were fueled by certain songs the hit audiences on a certain emotional level that not many other artists could ever come close to. “Growing Up,” was one of those songs that worked so well in that manner.
If there was a track on that album that defined in some sort of musical fashion where he might be headed on his next record, it was the song “Spirit in The Night.” The track “Spirit in The Night,” was played in just about every show on the 1978 Darkness On the Edge of Town tour. It was usually played as the second or third song of the show every night. Most of the time Bruce Springsteen would jump into the audience in the middle of the song without fear in an almost reckless fashion. Night after night the fans made sure he was never hurt.
The audiences that went to Bruce Springsteen shows in the 1970s and early 80s were very dedicated to Bruce Springsteen . It was a completely different audience from those who began following him after the success of Born In The U.S.A. During that mid 1980s period most of his fans continued to follow him from the 1970s, but there was a frustration among many of the 1970s fans with the bandwagon fans of the Born In The U.S.A album.
If we look back at Bruce Springsteen’s debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and try to locate the one song, the one moment on the record that shouts out and says “Hey drop everything and listen to this man,” it would be the moment when Springsteen stands in that alley and sings “he was still breathing when I walked away.” That moment in the gut wrenching cinematic song “Lost in the flood,” is the point where many of us realized this guy was something special.
There were many great songs on the debut album, but it was the tracks “Growing Up, Spirit in the Night and Lost in the Flood,” that began to define the incredible artist Bruce Springsteen would become.
It was not the type of debut album that blew everybody out of the water.Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.did not have the commercial impact like many other debut albums did such as Boston’s debut album, Heart’s debut album The Beatles, The Stones, and so on. Yes, there was a buzz, but the buzz was mostly about the comparisons to Bob Dylan. It’s what happened quickly after the release of Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.that started to fuel Bruce Springsteen fever. For those who had seen Bruce Springsteen for years on the Jersey club scene they already knew he was something special, but the rest of the world had not. Only two years later with the release of Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen would become the biggest name in rock and roll. It all started with Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.