The River album is one of Bruce Springsteen’s most scrutinized albums. The reason is that it was his first double album loaded with many tracks that crossed multiple musical genres. Bruce Springsteen fans have been used to Springsteen releasing albums under 12 songs. It had been two years since Bruce Springsteen released Darkness on The Edge Of Town in 1978. Bruce fans were frantic for some new Bruce Springsteen music.
The River album was not expected to be a two-record set. Bruce Springsteen delivered big time for his fans. However, many fans have argued that what was a really good album could have been a truly fantastic record if it had been slimmed down a bit. Not only was it packed with twenty songs, but there were many outtakes that were superior to the songs on the album that would later be released as b-sides. At least in our opinion.
The original intention of the record company was to release a single LP called The Ties That Bind. That was Bruce Sprinbgsteen’s decision and that was what he delivered. The original album went all the way through the recording and mastering process. It was getting ready to be released. At the last second, Bruce Springsteen decided he was unhappy with the lack of unity of the songs on The Ties That Bind album. The result was a nine-month delay in the release of what would become the double LP River album.
We have been listening to the River album for over forty years now. We collected all the b-sides and enjoyed the outtakes from the album released on Trakcs and the River Deluxe reissue with bonus tracks. With all of that history behind us, if we were asked to release our version of the River album, here is how we would have done it…..
- The River
- The Ties That Bind
- Caddilac Ranch
- Drive All Night
- Be True
- Two Hearts
- The Price You Pay
- Where The Bands Are
- Hungry Heart
- Point Blank
We would have released “Be True,” as the first single with “Crush On You,” as the non-album track B-Side
The second single would have been “Hungry Heart” backed with “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” as the non-album track B-Side
Our cover would have been of a nuclear power plant with a river flowing in the foreground. That was what 1979 was all about and it’s the perfect cover for the album’s two opening tracks.
We would have followed that album up a year later with another album called Jackson Cage
- Jackson Cage
- Held Up Without A Gun
- I Wanna Marry You
- Restless Nights
- Sherry Darling
- Independence Day
- Loose Ends
- I’m A Rocker
- Fade Away
- Stolen Car
- Out In The Street
We would have released “Sherry Darling” as the lead single backed by the non-album track b side “Ricky Wants a Man of Her Own.”
I Wanna Marry You would have been the second single release with “Wreck on the Highway” as the non-album B-side.
The third single would have been “Out In The Street,” with “Ramrod” as the non-album B-side
Of course, this is all in good fun, and looking back at the success of The River album it is easy to see that Bruce Springsteen and Columbia Records made the correct decision in releasing the album as a two-record set. Bruce Springsteen recorded fifty songs for The River album. It had to be very difficult to pick only a dozen of them to release.
There was so much variety between the songs, that they really had no choice but to release it as a two record set that defined a sampling of rock and roll styles instead of a very focused sound and story. Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band members had paid their dues as a club band for many years. Club bands perform mostly covers. The River was a representation of their history as a club band fueled by the artistry of a master songwriter having some fun.
The River Album Bruce Springsteen Should Have Released article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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