Top 10 Bruce Springsteen Album Covers

Bruce Springsteen Album Covers

Feature Photo: Ralf Liebhold / Shutterstock.com

I think I speak for many Bruce Springsteen fans like myself when I say that, for the most part, Bruce Springsteen’s album covers were never really that important to us when we originally bought his albums. Especially during the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, we were just happy to get a new Bruce Springsteen album. They didn’t come around too often. Of course, much thought went into Bruce Springsteen’s album covers from the boss man himself. This was a man who took a lot of time between albums trying to find just the right mix of songs that fit the voice he was aiming for on the record. When someone is that focused on delivering great stuff, they’re not going to neglect their album cover; they are going to have a powerful voice in the presentation of the album to the public.

Whenever I write an album cover list, I focus mostly on the studio albums, but I will include compilations and live albums. It’s an article focusing on cover art, so I think it’s “game on” for all the albums in an artist’s catalog.

# 10 – Only the Strong Survive

We open up our Bruce Springsteen Album Covers list with his most recent studio album entitled Only the Strong Survive. The record would become Springsteen’s first full-length album of cover songs. What we loved about this cover is how it depicted the time period of the music that Springsteen presented on the album. The black cover art and the big yellow gold type fonts echoed some of the Stax and Motown releases in the 1960s and 70s. Additionally, Springsteen’s muscular pose on the cover seemed to cement the album’s cover title.

# 9 – Live  1975-1985

It’s funny how looking back at this cover almost 40 years later, the album only contained music from a ten-year period. The man had done so much with his band over that ten year period. We picked this cover because of the pose. Standing with his guitar at his side in front of the lights depicted a man looking more ahead than in the past. It displayed an artist standing proud on that stage like he owned it. If you ever saw Springsteen during that time period, you most certainly would agree that the Boss owned the stage every time he walked upon it.

# 8 – The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts

As a teenager attending high school in the late 1970s, I will never forget all the protests against the use of nuclear power plants. They were trying to build one on Long Island. This is a place where the average 50-mile drive can take up to three hours on any typical day. There was no escape if there was a nuclear accident, which was happening frequently in the 1970s. Bruce Springsteen joined a contingent of other artists in 1979, putting on concerts in New York City to protest the building of nuclear power plants. A two-record set featuring songs from all the artists was released. In 2021, Columbia Records released the complete Springsteen set from that show, with a gorgeous cover displaying the band on stage. This is one of our favorites.

# 7 – Born In The U.S.A.

I was never a huge fan of this album cover. However, based on how popular this album became and the mind-blowing sheer amount of promotion Columbia Records did in promoting this album and its cover, there is no way that I could leave this cover off the list. I don’t think anyone thought Bruce would get as big as he did in 1984. The cover made a lot of sense if you understood what Bruce was really singing about in “Born In The U.S.A.” The problem was most people misunderstood the message in the song, which in turn also resulted in the cover also being misunderstood. In the end, that’s what makes this cover so important. I also wonder how many people realize that the baseball cap in his pocket is the same one he wore in the “Glory Days” video.

# 6 – The Rising

I am a New Yorker, born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx. I also used to work in the World Trade Center as a musician, playing weddings on the 107th floor. 9/11 was devasting in so many ways. The Rising was Bruce Springsteen’s way of paying respect to those who were lost that day. It was a thoughtful, very spiritual album written to help those who had lost friends and family that day. The cover is haunting and yet incredibly respectful for all of those connected to that sad day. There is not much more I can say about any of it.

# 5 – Darkness on the Edge of Town

At the halfway point on our Top 10 Bruce Springsteen Album Covers list is the iconic cover for Darkness On The Edge Of Town. I wouldn’t say I liked the cover when this album was first released. This was not the same guy who looked so cool on the Born To Run album cover. Who was this guy? The beard was gone, the leather jacket was gone. He looked like one of my friend’s fathers.  Over time, as I listened to the album, it all began to make sense. Darkness was a completely different album from Born to Run. It was not an album filled with romantic notions of escape. It was an album filled with notions of dealing with reality, broken dreams, and the working life. The type of life that makes a man look like he did on the cover. It would eventually become my favorite Bruce Springsteen album.

# 4 – Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

Bruce Springsteen’s Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. stands as the Boss’s debut album. It was released in 1973. The album cover featured a swing-out postcard showcasing the fun of the Jersey Shore in Asbury Park. The cover did not feature Bruce Springsteen, an unknown at the time. Most of us bought this album after discovering Bruce in 1975 when Born To Run came out. While most album covers that utilized a gimmick like the zipper on the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers album would only use the gimmick in the album’s initial run,  two years after Greetings had been released Columbia Records was still selling his debut album with the swing out postcard.

# 3 – Nebraska

It’s not always just about the photo that makes for a unique album cover. It’s about the fonts, the colors, and the art designs that make album covers pop out. Nebraska is a dark album. It’s filled with songs of despair, tragedy, and sadness. There is not much hope for the characters in Nebraska. The dreary black-and-white photo exposes that hopelessness. The big red fonts displaying the album title and Springsteen’s name stand out like a red light or stop sign, preparing the listener for a rough ride ahead. There are similarities between the album cover and Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. Both covers have large black bars at the bottom and top of the album covers. Both album titles are also based on a specific location in the United States.

# 2 – Tunnel of Love

Just off the top spot on our Top 10 Bruce Springsteen Album Covers list, we present the extraordinary album cover for Tunnel Of Love. Bruce Springsteen was the biggest star in the world in 1984 because of the success of the Born In The U.S.A. album. The man had become someone that he really wasn’t in the eyes of many people who jumped on the Springsteen bandwagon for the first time. Part of that was his own fault walking out on stage wearing a bandana around his head with those sleeveless shirts on.

All pumped up, he presented an image that didn’t seem real to Springsteen fans who had been with him since the seventies. He probably realized that it was time to put that image away. He was so huge at the time. He could have made so much more money if he had put out Born In The U.S.A. II, but a brilliant once-in-a-lifetime artist never repeats themselves. The Tunnel Of Love album cover displayed a completely different image of Bruce Springsteen from the Born in USA tour. It perfectly defined the sound of the music and lyrical content of the Tunnel of Love album.

# 1 – Born to Run

As a huge Bruce Springsteen fan and someone who first discovered his music in 1975 when this album first came out, there’s no other album I could put besides Born To Run in the number one spot. Part of it is sentimental. However, it is such an iconic cover that defines the relationship between Clarence and Bruce so well. If you have ever been to a Bruce Springsteen concert, especially one of the shows during the Darkness on the Edge of Town Tour or The River Tour, you could easily see that the bond between those two men was inseparable. The sound of Clarence Clemens’ saxophone was such a huge part of the Bruce Springsteen E Street Band sound. However, it wasn’t just about the sound of the music. It was about the stories. It was about the bond between these two men that showed that relationship every night on stage. That album cover was perfect.

Professional Sources, research, experience, and citations

The Story Of Classic Rock

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Springsteen

Brucespringsteen.net

Further analysis and original thoughts are provided by the writer Brian Kachejian’s experience as a professional musician and music collector for over 50 years and his experience as a New York State certified music and history educator and professional music journalist with the New York Press.

Top 10 Bruce Springsteen Album Covers article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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